I-Team finds taxpayer funded homes in shambles - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

I-Team finds taxpayer funded homes in shambles

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Toledo, OH -

Boarded up homes are an all too common site these days in some place.  But what if your money helped pay for one of these?

That's exactly what the I-Team found in Central Toledo.  Now we're digging to find out how this happened and what's being done to make sure your money is not wasted.

One of the hardest hit places is Hildebrand Avenue in Central Toledo, where several properties were owned by a group called ONYX  It's almost easier to find a boarded up home than one with people actually living inside. 

"When our houses went into foreclosure, a lot of people stopped paying their rent instead of going into escrow and doing it the right way," said Lashonda Gaston, who lived in an ONYX property.

Gaston did it the right way and today she still calls Hildebrand home.  She's on her way to home ownership. 

"I'd love to own my own home.  No more paying rent," said Gaston. 

He property like so many here were part of a project called ONYX, Organized Neighbors Yielding Excellence.  It was a community development corporation.  The idea was to build and rehab homes in Central Toledo.  Tenants would get tax credits with the hope that the tenants would turn into owners.   

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"The premise was absolutely remarkable. It was laudable at the time. And I think that principal is still good," said Linnie Willis, the LMHA Executive Director.  "That's why we're involved and try to move that forward it some respect bring home ownership to central city."   

All of the ONYX properties, 86 of them, went into foreclosure.  Willis and LMHA purchased 53.  Many of them looked like this and it turns out some were worse inside.

"We didn't get a chance to inspect all the units, had we done that we probably would not have taken the 53," said Willis.    

The Lucas County Land Bank took the others and they'll be demolished.  Some are already a pile of rubble.

"At the onset of the project and the building I don't think anyone projected or could have forecasted that this is how this was going to turn out," said Willis.    

As the I-Team found, in some cases all that's left is a vacant lot.  All of that paid for in part by you the tax payers.  Here are the numbers the I-Team found:   

Investors did put some money into the project, but so did the city of Toledo in the form of a HUD grant.  From old Toledo City Council ordinances, the city spent about $628,000.  But that's not the end of the tax payers dollars. 

It cost LMHA $16,000 to buy its 53 properties and they estimate it will cost about $1.5 million to rehab some and demo others.  That will come from a couple of grants, grants that are comprised of your money. 

It will cost the land bank about $195,000 to demo its homes.  Part of that, grant money as well. 

Williann Moore, the former president of the board of ONYX didn't want to talk with the I-team about the project.   A project some say did not work.

"I don't think so because look at what we went through," said Gaston.     

"To say it's waste?  It's a waste only to the extent that the goal or the dream was not fulfilled," said Willis. 

The dream now is to figure out what to do with these places.  It's too expensive to rehab them all, so LMHA will need to demo some. 

"That's tough.  We have sort of gone back and forth here with that discussion.  Certainly it is something we hate to see done," said Willis.  "A unit that was built 15-16 years ago, you expect it to last way into the future and that was the goal."

"It makes the neighborhood look bad, real bad," said Gaston. 

LMHA will not refurbish all the houses at once.  Right now they have 5 people targeted to be home owners, so those places will be rehabbed first. 

 

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