TNP Works to ‘Build a Better Warren’

Editor’s Note: The following story is from Growth Report 2017, published by The Business Journal.

By Matt Martin , Executive Director, Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership

WARREN, Ohio — Since it was established in 2010, Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership has worked to improve Warren’s neighborhoods through innovative programming that empowers residents, remediates blight, and promotes homeownership and job creation.

TNP, a founding member of the strategic partners initiative at the Raymond John Wean Foundation, launched the Building A Better Warren program in 2014 following a three-year planning process. This included a full residential parcel inventory, community forums, and the production of resident-informed strategic plans for every neighborhood in the city.

TNP’s impact through blight remediation in Trumbull County is powerful. Since 2014, the organization has demolished 300 vacant and abandoned homes and created 130 home ownership opportunities through the sale of salvageable vacant houses.

We do this work as the contracted management entity of the Trumbull County Land Bank, a repository for tax-foreclosed properties managed in partnership with the Trumbull County treasurer’s office. TNP has also sold over 700 side lots to neighbors and supported several dozen public-land use projects on post-demolition lots, including community gardens and park spaces.

Warren’s housing stock is plentiful but aging, and most neighborhoods contain vacant homes in need of significant rehabilitation before re-occupation. This presents a challenge in neighborhoods facing depressed housing values, where the purchase price and cost of repair often exceeds the value of the property.

With dwindling public financing available to address rehabilitation, creative solutions are critical for success. TNP piloted the renovation of three houses for owner-occupied purchase using skilled volunteers (including seven members of the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps) and nearly $6,000 in donated tools, materials, and supplies. By reducing overall renovation costs, qualified buyers were able to purchase the houses at fair market value.

Initially, the program was heavily volunteer-driven, with over 300 residents donating more than 1,600 hours to board up vacant homes, pick up trash, install public art, and establish community gardens and pocket parks. This systematically addressed blight and decay by improving the landscape, all while increasing pride and ownership in Warren’s neighborhoods.

Volunteer efforts are highly successful, but TNP realized that the implementation of its neighborhood revitalization strategies presented the opportunity to provide skills-based training and employment for residents. We understood that matching the renovation, deconstruction, landscape installation, and vacant property maintenance work with an able workforce living in these neighborhoods would connect Warren’s human resources with its expanding stabilization efforts. This underscores TNP’s mission to cast city residents in the lead role of revitalizing their neighborhoods.

Last year TNP applied for and received a community economic development grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. These funds will seed the development of seven full-time jobs for Warren residents to implement neighborhood-based blight remediation plans. Two positions have already been filled, with a third expected to be filled in the third quarter.

The work crew has already completed light renovation on four homes, salvaged reusable materials from 30 properties, and completed eight post-demolition greening projects.
TNP was named Ohio’s “Community Development Corporation of the Year” for 2016 by the Ohio CDC Association. By hiring neighborhood residents for quality full-time jobs revitalizing their own neighborhoods, we are truly building a better Warren.

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