Side Lot Incentive Program Gets $10K from Huntington

WARREN, Ohio – Donald Vanhorn has been a Warren resident for as long as he can remember, and within the last three years, he’s purchased five vacant side lots to add to the revitalization of his community.

On Friday morning, Huntington Bank awarded $10,000 to the Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership to support its Side Lot Incentive program. The donation will allow residents like Vanhorn who have purchased a side lot from the Trumbull County Land Bank to receive a $250 gift card to make improvements to the lots.

“We’re a bank that wants to give back,” said William Shivers, regional president of Huntington Bank. “Having the opportunity to see what they’ve done with the property after they’ve acquired it is inspiring. It helps to renovate the neighborhoods.”

Vanhorn has gotten positive responses from other residents about how he and his wife keep up the side lots he’s purchased, he said. He now has more space for his dogs to play and he’s installed a shed and a fence on one of his properties, he said.

“It gives you more room to expand or to do whatever you want to do,” Vanhorn said.

Donald Vanhorn has purchased five side lots.

The $10,000 donation to TNP falls within the bank’s mission, according to Barata Bey, vice president of community development. It’s a prime example of the bank’s slogan, “Local Matters,” he said.

“It’s helping residents reach a level of sustainability and helping the communities coming back,” Bey said.

Whether the property is vacant land or a vacant house, they usually come in through tax foreclosures, said Mikenna McClurg, Land Bank program coordinator. Most of the time, eligible people who are purchasing the lots have been dealing with overgrown grass or a vacant house that needs to be demolished, she said.

When people receive the $250 gift card, they are surprised because they are happy with just being able to purchase the property, McClurg said. It’s a bonus to use on something they’ve wanted to do for a while and the turnout is always positive, she said.

“The properties look amazing when they’re done,” McClurg said. “Some people do as little as fencing, but other people will use [the gift card] as a starting point and invest more into the lot afterward.”

The Side Lot Incentives program is in its seventh year and the $10,000 is stretched to the maximum, said Matt Martin, executive director of the Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership, which manages the Trumbull County Land Bank.

It’s a thrill to be able to do more than just tear down a house, Martin said. When an inventory of structural and residential vacancy was compiled in 2015, there were 1,500 properties. There are still at least 1,000 vacant houses in the city, according to Martin.

“It’s not blight to the same scale as Detroit or Cleveland, but the percentages are very similar,” Martin said. “We have a big, little problem and we’ve been trying to tackle it since 2011.”

As many as 40 gift cards have been passed out every year since the program started, Martin said. In most cases, people propose garden plans to beautify the vacant lots or they buy the tools they need to keep o[the lot, he said.

“We’re grateful for the financial support of the program and the relationship directly with Huntington,” Martin said. “For us to be able to not only sell the land for $200 but put a little money in their pocket for use toward the land is a really good feeling.”

Pictured above: Barata Bey, vice president of community development, Huntington Bank; Sandy Upperman, regional marketing manager, Huntington Bank; Matt Martin, executive director, Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership; William Shivers, regional president for Canton and Mahoning Valley, Huntington Bank; Mikenna McClurg, program coordinator, Trumbull County Land Bank.

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