Trumbull County Land Reutilization Corp., better known as the Trumbull County Land Bank, has torn down 15 dilapidated homes in Brookfield Township, the most in any municipality outside of the city of Warren.

“Demolition is definitely something we’re known for because we’ve done around 600 of them over the past five years, said Shawn Carvin, land bank program director.

The land bank received a $13 million grant through the Ohio Housing Finance Agency’s Neighborhood Initiative Program, which runs through 2020. Two more Brookfield demos are under contract and six more structures are being eyed.

Shawn Carvin

Shawn Carvin

But, demolitions are “definitely not the only thing we do,” Carvin said.

The land bank also fixes up homes, sells vacant lots to neighbors, helps those neighbors improve the lots with fencing and gardens, and offers training in the construction trades.

“Vacant lot sales, we’ve done 47 in Brookfield,” Carvin said at the April 2 Brookfield trustees meeting. “We currently have 21 listed for sale. We’ve done 10 renovations in the Brookfield/Masury area, which leveraged $129,000 in private investment into these properties.”

Officials are hoping to expand the land bank’s reach to commercial properties, and it already is pursuing a grant to remove a vacant gas station – tanks, building and all – on South Irvine Avenue.

“We need to clean that area up because it’s an embarrassment coming into the state of Ohio,” Brookfield Trustee Gary Lees said of the gas station, adding that there probably are other former gas station properties in town that need cleaned up.

The land bank is a quasi-governmental, nonprofit corporation. It was created in 2010 and contracted with Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership to operate it in 2013.

“We’re partners with the Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office and the Trumbull County commissioners and the treasurer’s office,” Carvin said. “We acquire property through tax foreclosure and then we return that property to productive use, whether that be through demolition, renovation or vacant lot reuse or resale to neighbors.”

The land bank relies on referrals from residents and code and township officials to learn about properties that might be eligible.

“Currently, we have 22 target areas that we established with the state of Ohio through the Ohio Housing Finance Agency,”Carvin said. “These are concentrated areas that have blighted properties and the land bank has control of some number of them and continues to acquire property that is in these target areas for demolition.”

Two of the target areas are in Brookfield, the first on the West Hill, south of Warren Sharon Road, and the second in Masury on both sides of Route 62.

“About a year and a half ago, our organization created a labor arm (called Building a Better Warren) where we hire low- to moderate-income individuals who are under- or unemployed and give them an opportunity to get on-the-job training with our organization,” Carvin said.

These workers in training deconstruct homes, removing salvageable materials that are offered for sale or made into other items; renovate homes; and install landscaping.

“I want to thank you on behalf of the citizens of Brookfield for the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars that you’ve saved the taxpayers in this township on tearing down dilapidated structures and also rebuilding houses with the guidelines that you have,” said Trustee Ron Haun. “The houses that I’ve seen that you’ve rebuilt are beautiful. I want to thank you for that.”

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