EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was written in response to a reader-submitted question, through Open Source, a platform where readers can ask Richland Source’s newsroom to investigate a question.
MANSFIELD -- In mid-December, the Richland County Land Bank board approved 21 properties for possible demolition in 2019, pending funding.
The story left one reader asking about a cost analysis.
“How much money does it take to demo a house versus the cost to restore and use as shelter for the needy or a stepping stone for a family?” Vickie Gore Gregory said in a Facebook comment.
Richland Source reporter Tracy Geibel responded based on previous interviews with the Land Bank.
“Vickie, that's a great question. I know that the cost varies and is largely dependent on the condition of the property. I also know that these properties are often offered up at low prices before the land bank even gets a hold of them,” Geibel said.
Later, Gregory’s question made its way into Richland Source’s audience engagement platform, Open Source, and a further exploration of the issue.
While Gregory recognized land bank properties surely take “some money” to be brought back to “ideal living,” she was curious about the possibility of redirecting the money it takes to fund a demolition towards repairing a home instead.
“If the money to demo one home can be put into the home, it would help a family in need of a home, first-time home buyers, property value for homes around that area,” Gregory said.
“I am sure my inquiry is simple in that I don’t know all the workings involved to demo or save a home, and I am sure neglect to a home warrants a lot money. But I have seen homes from the bank sell for $7,000 to $13,000 and within one year a family with nothing has benefited so much.”
A call to Land Bank manager, Amy Hamrick, showed Gregory isn’t alone in her concern.
“I hear this question all the time,” Hamrick said.
By the time properties become land bank-owned, they are often well beyond repair, Hamrick explained.
The average cost of a demolition in Richland County is $12,444.10, a figure Hamrick based on 252 demolitions completed in Richland County. That average also includes the cost of turning the property into green space.
“It’s much less than restoring a property, by the time you factor in replacing the heating, plumbing, electric,” Hamrick said. “The homes we are tearing down, even if it looks good on the outside, doesn’t mean it’s that way on the inside.”
Rewiring a house costs $8,000 to $15,000 for a 1,500- to 3,000-square-foot home, according to Angie’s List. New plumbing in a house might cost somewhere between $1,500 and $15,000, according to Home Advisor.
When asked about the possibility of funneling money towards a restoration project instead of demolitions, Hamrick explained that wouldn’t likely be possible, as a significant portion of the land bank’s funding comes from the Neighborhood Initiative Program (NIP).
“NIP funds can’t be used for anything outside of demolitions,” she said.
Rehabilitation by new owners
Since it was created more than five years ago, the Land Bank has sold 49 properties through its Residential Rehabilitation Program. These properties are sold typically for $1,000 and are restored by the new owner.
In order to acquire a Land Bank property, one must fill out an application at the Land Bank’s office, located at 50 Park Avenue East on Level 1. Then, the applicant must provide a rehab plan and prove they have the funds to make the property livable.
“We don’t want to bury someone in a project they can't afford. We don’t want someone to get stuck,” Hamrick said. “They have to give us a plan, and numbers have to make sense.”
She added that the Land Bank has sold to first-time home buyers and has considered funding that will come from family members to help some applicants.
Recently approved possible demolitions
The 21 properties approved for possible demolitions in December, are still awaiting funding, Hamrick confirmed Wednesday.
No schedule can be designed until the Land Bank knows how much funding is available through the Neighborhood Initiative Program (NIP) in 2019.
At this point, they are only “in a pipeline,” Hamrick explained.
"We're told the NIP funds will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis, but we don’t know,” she said.
The deadline for all Land Banks to become eligible for the funds was Tuesday, Dec. 18. By that time, Land Banks had to have spent 75 percent of their own funds and own 100 percent of the houses they intend to demolish.
Twenty-two properties were reviewed in December by the board, and 21 were approved for possible demolition. Board members asked that Hamrick prioritize those with end-users -- someone interested in buying the vacant lot once the structure is taken down. Richland County Commissioner Tony Vero also suggested two properties on West 4th Street in Mansfield be addressed quickly.
The only property not approved for demolition was 22 Summit St. in Shelby, as it wouldn't be eligible for demolition with NIP funds.
The properties approved include:
324 Chester Ave.
233 Sheridan Ave.
572, 582 & 600 Dewey Ave. (collectively)
223 Bowman St.
492 Bowman St.
871 Bowman St.
614 Burns St.
308 Wayne St.
231 Schmitt Crt.
105 through 109 Pleasant Ave. (collectively)
363 Harding Rd.
374 Harding Rd.
296 W. Fourth Ave.
271 W. Fourth Ave.
46 Douglas Ave.
696 Burns St.
170 Harker St.
22 N. Glenn Ave.
144 Wood St.
143 Washington Ave.
53 Blanche St.