Mahoning County Land Bank Shifts to Rehab, Greening

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The Mahoning County Land Reutilization Corp., commonly known as the Mahoning County Land Bank, is shifting its efforts from demolition work to revitalization projects through residential rehabilitation, greening strategies and more.

It has worked with local governments, community partners and neighbors to complete hundreds of demolitions between 2012 and 2019, officials say. This has occurred through the Moving Ohio Forward demolition grant program funded by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Neighborhood Initiative Program demolition grant funded by the Ohio Housing Financing Agency. 

NIP has supported 1,100 demolitions in Mahoning County and tens of thousands across the state in recent years, but is expected to end this year.

In Campbell alone, the Land Bank leveraged $1.2 million over three years to complete targeted improvements. These comprised acquiring more than 100 properties, completing 97 demolitions, establishing Bright Avenue Park and preserving, renovating and selling six houses previously targeted for demolition, according to Debora Flora, executive director of the land bank.

“The Neighborhood Initiative Program was an opportunity to rejuvenate residential areas after property abandonment had inflicted great damage,” says Flora. “We removed vacant, blighted houses from streets and inserted green spaces as new neighborhood assets. We were happy to work with city leaders and the community to build a strong, healthier community that people are proud to work and live in.”

The land bank expects to renovate more houses in the years ahead as funding for housing demolitions declines, she notes.

The land bank recently completed an exhaustive renovation of a split-level Austintown house once deemed a “nuisance” by the township. 

“We’re glad the township thought of us as a helpful resource in restoring this home,” Flora says. “Years ago, we did a small handful of these rehabilitation projects. But in more recent years, we’ve been focused on demolitions and greening projects. This renovation marked our return to this kind of work.”

The land bank hopes to continue to work with townships by taking vacant houses off their hands and restoring them, then putting them back on the market at a fair price.

“With our market rehab program, we’re able to see the transformation firsthand from start to finish,” says Roger Smith, land bank director of planning, acquisition and disposition. “Typically, we acquire properties and then our qualified owner-occupants or investors rehab them. With this program, we’re the ones doing the renovation and can see it through each step of the way.”

The land bank also relies on its partnerships to bring life back to houses and neighborhoods, including its recent projects with the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. The land bank acquired and demolished structures on several properties, which cleared the space for YNDC to build three new houses. The land bank also acquired and transferred the house that would mark YNDC’s 100th house renovation, Flora notes.

Also  last year, the land bank partnered with three local nonprofit organizations to help solve housing dilemmas through land transfers. It transferred 16 lots to the Rescue Mission of Mahoning Valley for its new building. It worked with the Ursuline Ministries of Youngstown by transferring and restoring a tax-delinquent, single-family house for one of its residential programs. And it transferred another house to Family and Community Services, which will use it for supportive services for veteran families, Flora says.

“We’re finding ways to get creative with our repurposing efforts,” she explains. “We’re optimistic about 2020, but we also realize we need to depend on partnerships and support from a variety of entities to make these changes in our communities.”

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.