Ohio Attorney General tours blighted Cleveland neighborhood, pledges improvements

7,438 structures on Cleveland's demolition list

CLEVELAND - Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine spent Friday morning touring East 144th Street in Cleveland. 

It's a neighborhood that has been hit hard by the housing crisis aftermath in recent years. There are more than a dozen vacant/condemned houses along a half-mile stretch of the street.

DeWine took the tour with Cleveland Councilman Zach Reed, a councilman who knows first hand how residents who are still living on East 144th have been struggling.

Marion Anita Gardner lives in the neighborhood, and is excited relief from vacant homes is on the way.

"I'm here for the duration, I raised my children here," said Gardner. "I retired here, this is my home, you have to protect where you live."

Thursday in Columbus, DeWine pledged $75 million from Ohio's portion of the massive mortgage settlement to put toward demolition condemned homes across Ohio.

DeWine admitted Cleveland may be the hardest hit area in the state when it comes to vacant homes, and dropping property values.

DeWine's office reported there are currently 7,438 structures on Cleveland's blighted list, Columbus reported 6,300.

Cleveland property values have tumbled so dramatically that housing experts report it now takes an average of 954 days to sell a Cleveland home.

DeWine said he believes cities will be able to apply for the demolition funds by this Spring, with the money flowing by the Summer. The money will be issued as matching funds, with each city having to put up and equal amount of the money it has requested.

"Abandoned vacant homes right next to them, and people are trying to raise their kids," said DeWine. "They're trying to live a good life, and they have to put up with this."

Ohio's mortgage settlement money will also be used to help families who have been foreclosed on, or families who have mortgages that are upside down.

There will be $102 million available to Ohio borrowers who are seeking loan term modifications, or principal balance reductions.

There has been $90 million set aside to help Ohio residents refinance loans that may be underwater.

Another $40 million is available to Ohio homeowners who may have suffered from loan servicing abuse, and faced foreclosure between January 1, 2008 and December 11, 2011.

DeWine acknowledged that assistance may not be available for homeowners who have loans with Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac, since the agency argued loan modifications may ultimately hurt the taxpayers who fund them.

For information on how to apply for assistance from the national mortgage settlement, the Ohio Attorney General has set up a Web page .

A separate page has also been set up as part of the settlement to help homeowners through the application process.

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