Tim Ryan Bill Would Provide Federal Assistance for Blight Removal

Representative Tim Ryan (D-OH) recently introduced legislation, the Clean Up Our Neighborhoods Act (H.R. 6792), that would provide federal funding to support blight elimination and neighborhood redevelopment activities in low-income communities. Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) is an original co-sponsor.

H.R. 6792 directs HUD to provide competitive grants to states for financing blight elimination and neighborhood revitalization activities in low-income communities. The legislation adopts the definition of "low-income community" used for the federal New Markets Tax Credit, meaning any census tract with a poverty rate of 20 percent or higher or a median family income that is 80 percent or below the state or metropolitan median income. Grants may be used to support demolishing blighted structures, boarding up blighted structures, clearing abandoned sites, and stabilization activities needed to make green space ready for public access or redevelopment.

The bill requires states to match at least 15 percent of the grant they receive with their own funds. States may choose to use the grant funding to finance blight elimination activities directly or through local governments. The legislation authorizes Congress to appropriate funding for the grants for fiscal years 2020 through 2025 but does not prescribe a specific amount of funding.

In a press release announcing the introduction of the bill, Ryan cites the efforts of local community land banks in Ohio to restore or remove blighted homes and rebuild struggling neighborhoods. The Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) has supported these efforts using funds it has received through the federal Hardest Hit Fund program (HHF). According to data from the U.S. Treasury Department, through mid-2018 OHFA has utilized HHF funding to support the demolition of 7,272 blighted properties in 29 communities. In total, seven HFAs have used HHF funding to remove nearly 24,000 blighted properties.

H.R. 6792 has been referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. The Committee is not expected to take any further action on the bill before Congress adjourns. Ryan is expected to introduce similar legislation next Congress.

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