Lawrence County commissioners announced last week that the number of blighted houses and buildings in Lawrence County’s repository not sold at delinquent sales has been reduced to 39 because of recent demolitions.
They added that since the county began its blight removal program, 94 houses have been razed in New Castle, Ellwood City, New Beaver Borough and Mahoning, Perry, Shenango and Wayne townships.
At least one local real estate agent believes many of these homes can be kept from having to be razed, and has created a 20-point plan he says can get them back on the tax rolls.
New Castle Chris Frye, though, isn’t sure how much the city can help.
Darryl Audia Sr. emailed his plan to both the New Castle News and Frye last week, calling it “a template, not perfect, but a start.”
“Before we lose two to three years waiting for tax sale, we intervene and seek properties before full loss of economic value,” Audia said. “I’m hoping to say taxpayers further economic burdens.”
Audia’s proposal is as follows:
•Establish that the building is eligible via visual inspection, code violations or abandonment.
• Architectural Review Board or others such as the Land Bank or another authority contact the legal owner to determine their intentions.
•Perform property investigation to isolate who has any interest in the property.
•Verbally question the property owner about any other liens and encumbrances.
•Determine willingness to give a deed in lieu of foreclosure if there is a lien.
•Verify the accuracy of the verbal reports at the courthouse.
•Contact all others having an interest in the property to gain their permission to remove any liens.
•Perform a code inspection establishing the work necessary to adhere to code.
•Share adverse conditions and, when possible, an estimated cost with a lender.
•Disclose deficiencies a new owner would have to cure if the property were foreclosed upon.
•Petition lenders to remove any liens if the title is transferred to an authority to avoid demolition. (Lenders will do this)
•Create agreements with lien holders and property owners to convey title free and clear.
•Inspect property prior to settlement, noting new conditions that impede curing of deficiencies.
•Perform title search, go to settlement with signed releases by all lien holders on property.
•Transfer property to the land bank, redevelopment authority, government agency.
•Offer via a lottery to transfer properties for repair to anyone who will cure the code violations.
•Mandate a $10,000.00 performance bond insuring the repair of property.
•Review plans and specs of renovations before transfer.
•Include a deed restriction that would mandate the curing of cited code violations.
•Transfer with a right of reversion clause if the bond is forfeited.
In responding to Audia’s plan, Frye wrote that “Code can assist in the inspection portion of this plan. Anything else would need to go before Council, i.e., property transfers, etc.”
The mayor noted that the Redevelopment Authority and Land Bank are run through the county, and suggested that Audia pitch his plan to those agencies.