State faces questions after Ohio gets $94M to fight blight

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio is receiving an additional $94 million to help demolish blighted homes and prevent foreclosures, but some say the state missed out on even more funding due to an issue with the state’s application.

The U.S. Treasury Department awarded the Hardest Hit Funds on Wednesday. It had previously awarded Ohio $98 million through the same program earlier this year.

The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio urged the Ohio Housing Finance Agency to apply for additional funding using a balanced approach, said Bill Faith, the group’s executive director.

“Treasury made it crystal clear that for states to be competitive for the maximum resources, they needed to build on their past success — not an approach that puts all of their eggs in a different basket,” Faith said.

The state ignored their advice though, Faith said, and squandered their opportunity to get additional funding by applying for $250 million last month and asking that 90 percent of the money support vacant housing demolitions.

Treasury Department guidelines required that every dollar be spent by 2020. The federal agency apparently reduced the state’s overall award after finding the state’s request unrealistic due to its heavy focus on demolition.

Other awards include Michigan with $188.1 million, California with $169.8 million, Illinois with $151.3 million and North Carolina with $145.7 million.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Cleveland Democrat whose office carried the amendment to open up the additional money, told The Columbus Dispatch he was unhappy that Ohio left “money on the table.”

The state finance agency’s executive director, Doug Garver, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

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