Government

Ryan Spearheads Effort to Fight Neighborhood Blight

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13, Ohio, along with U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-1, W. Va., introduced legislation Tuesday that would provide federal funds to raze abandoned houses, clear vacant lots and help with neighborhood revitalization.

The Clean Up Our Neighborhoods Act of 2018 would authorize the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to make grants to states that would use the funds to eliminate blight in hard-hit neighborhoods.

Ryan said in a statement that there are 1.3 million vacant properties in the United States, many thousands of which are in Midwest communities such as Youngstown and Akron.

“Our ultimate goal must be to completely eliminate blighted structures in America and this bill is a step in that direction,” Ryan said in a statement. “The economic and social costs of these abandoned buildings and vacant lots cannot be overstated.”

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Ryan said, $777 million in property loss occurs each year from fires started in vacant structures. Also, studies show that blight increases the risk of criminal activity and violence – especially gun violence, the congressman said.

“Many families and individuals living in these neighborhoods experience lower literacy rates, higher rates of chronic illness, developmental delays and premature mortality,” he said.

McKinley said the bill would help rural and urban communities to tackle the problem of blight. “This bill will provide more resources to empower rural and urban communities alike to mitigate blight, which will improve our neighborhoods and give a boost to revitalization efforts,” he said.

The bill would give the HUD secretary the authority to provide competitive grants that would be directed to states for demolition, clearance and removal of blighted structures, removal of waste, boarding of blighted and abandoned structures, and stabilization work.

The legislation would also assist the work of land banks throughout the country.

“The proposed blight elimination bill could have a great impact on Trumbull County,” which has fought blight issues for years, said Shawn Carvin, Trumbull County Land Bank director.

“We need to build on this momentum to meet Mahoning County’s residential demolition needs and strategically address abandoned commercial properties, especially those that are detrimental to neighborhood vitality,” Debora Flora, executive director of the Mahoning County Land Bank.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.