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Thursday, May 8, 2014 12:01 am

City gets grant to demo dumps

 A state grant awarded this week should help the City of Springfield deal with abandoned properties.

The city announced on May 5 that it received $75,000 from the state’s Abandoned Property Program, which will help the city accomplish its goal of demolishing 100 abandoned structures this year. The grant is part of a statewide $7.2 million program aimed at clearing blighted areas.

Administered by the Illinois Housing Development Authority, the Abandoned Residential Property Municipality Relief Fund raises money by charging fees for banks and other lenders who foreclose on properties.  The sliding fee scale is based on how many foreclosures an institution files each year. An institution filing more than 175 foreclosures annually pays a fee of $500 per foreclosure, while filing between 50 and 175 foreclosures per year costs $250. Institutions with fewer than 50 foreclosures per year pay $50 per filing.

Springfield city officials attended a seminar on applying for the grant in November 2013, and the city’s application was submitted shortly thereafter.

The program began collecting fees in July 2013 in response to the wave of foreclosures that swept across the nation as a result of the economic recession, leaving many houses and other buildings empty and abandoned.

The program has raised far less than was projected when state lawmakers created the fund. They originally predicted the fund would raise $28 million statewide, but it had raised about $9.2 million as of May 6. That’s good news, however, because it reflects the fact that Illinois’ foreclosure rate has dropped dramatically since the start of the recession. More than 98,000 Illinois homes were in some stage of the foreclosure process during June 2012, but by the same time in 2013, that number had decreased to 64,457, a drop of more than 34 percent.

It’s unclear how far Springfield’s $75,000 grant will go. City spokesman Nathan Mihelich told Illinois Times in November that demolition costs can range from $3,000 to $70,000, depending on a variety of factors like legal costs. However, the money doesn’t have to be used for demolition; it can also be used to pay for mowing grass, trimming trees and bushes, putting up fencing and repairing structures.

“We are having success in changing the face of these neighborhoods by eliminating more and more of these blighted properties,” said Springfield mayor Mike Houston. “These funds will continue to propel this work.”

Contact Patrick Yeagle at pyeagle@illinoistimes.com.

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