A local blighted home program received a big boost to further bolster area neighborhoods.
Representatives from the Neighborhood Initiative Program on Wednesday announced Erie County secured $500,000 in public funds to demolish at least 20 area homes.
The Neighborhood Initiative Program, a state-run organization, empowers homeowners by supporting programs helping to increase property values and improve neighborhoods.
These new funds piggyback off $473,000 in state money Erie County obtained in 2012, covering demolitions for 39 blighted houses.
All funds funnel into the Erie County land bank, the local program overseeing area home demolitions funded with public dollars.
"We're excited that the housing finance agency has given us this money, and we are looking forward to getting started," Erie County land bank director Scott Schell said.
In the grant application, local officials pinpointed several homes qualifying for demolition — neighborhoods in Sandusky, Vermilion and the townships of Margaretta and Perkins — and will soon determine which structures come down.
Most homes qualifying for demolition, however, are located in Sandusky, Schell said.
The land bank's main purpose revolves around putting vacant, abandoned and tax-delinquent homes back into productive use somehow, Schell said.
Once demolition occurs, the empty land can entice:
• Entrepreneurs who want to create or expand a brick-and-mortar business.
• Community members or neighbors seeking to build a garage, shed or home.
• Residents who simply want more green space for yard expansion, which would add to their acreage.
Just by absorbing more land, no matter what's done upon it, will create new tax money for area schools and local governments via additional property taxes.
"Putting these properties in the hands of people that will properly maintain them, potentially redevelop them and pay their property taxes gets these properties back onto the tax roll, which helps increase the amount of money raised through property taxes," Schell said. "It's definitely making an impact, and this new money will allow us to continue doing that."
It's unknown exactly how many abandoned or vacant homes exist in Erie County today.
But consider this: A major chunk of the 2,300 area properties that are currently tax delinquent — or at least two years late on paying taxes — could qualify for the program. In total, these properties in 2013 owed Erie County about $10.7 million in late tax payments.
Officials equate an abandoned home to a bad apple rotting in a bushel: One blighted home can ruin the entire neighborhood.
Nearby home values can plunge, and the perception of a community nosedives.
The land bank works to counter this epidemic and indirectly pay down how much is owed through back taxes.
So far, the program is deemed a success, officials said.
"The land bank's purpose in Erie County is to stabilize property values by eliminating decaying and abandoned properties," Erie County commissioner Pat Shenigo said.
Erie County officials pinpointed several areas where they'd like to leverage $500,000 in state money for potential demolitions:
• The east end
• The Firelands and Garden districts
• Homestead neighborhood
• Kilbourne Plat
• Southside neighborhood
• Crystal Rock
• The west end