- Ed Richter Staff Writer
A proposed land transfer to a Butler County non-profit could result in a win-win for the city of Middletown in returning a property back to the tax rolls with a higher property value.
Middletown City Council is expected to approve the land transfer of 912 Lafayette Ave. to the non-profit Supports to Encourage Low-Income Families for a new program called “Neighbors Who Care: Renovations” that provides job training for people looking to get into a construction trade by rehabbing or flipping property.
Community Revitalization Director Kyle Fuchs said the city was approached by SELF for help in finding and acquiring a property to rehabilitate.
“We were able to acquire the property at 912 Lafayette Ave. through the Butler County Land Bank,” Fuchs said. “… The intent is to use volunteers to rehab the property. It provides on the job training and experience for individuals to help them establish a career in the construction field.”
“This is a trial run for the city, which is why we are starting with this one property,” Fuchs said.
Except for the costs to record the property, City Manager Doug Adkins said Middletown took title of the property without cost from the county land bank. According to the Butler County Auditor’s Office, the property is valued at $31,270.
“The land bank seized the property in tax foreclosure,” Adkins said. “For the city, there’s no money to be recouped on this property. Theoretically, the renovated house has more value and the final user of the house will be paying property taxes and income taxes moving forward. It should be a win/win.”
Fuchs said the program does several things for the city.
“It is taking an unproductive vacant and blighted property and bringing it up to code and putting a family in it. It is training people a trade so they can get a job,” he said. “And it cleans up the overall neighborhood and keep the city from having to maintain another lot.”
Adkins recently won the support of the Butler County officials and the county Land Bank board in its effort to flip the large number of vacant and functionally obsolete housing. He would like the city to be able to use tools that the land bank can use but are not utilizing them now. One of those tools involves rehabbing rather than demolishing properties.
Councilman Steve Bohannon, who is also the chairman of the Middletown Real Estate Investors Group, said the proposal would not affect local landlords. He believes they are supportive of programs to get these houses updated and occupied with owners, which is much better than vacant lots.
“I think it’s a good thing,” Bohannon said. “If an organization like SELF can rehab a house to make it owner-occupied, it’s a good deal all around for the city and residents.”
John Post, SELF’s housing coordinator, said the program is a natural outgrowth of the nonprofit’s other activities and programs, which include various volunteer work camps in the summer, and community blitzes throughout the year helping low-income people with home repairs and other maintenance issues.
SELF uses the proceeds from the sale of the house toward financing new and other projects, Post said. He said he would like to grow the program so that they rehab four houses a year, which would cover the costs of SELF’s housing programs.
Middletown City Council will consider the land transfer at its meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. Other options for council could be to sell the property at a price to be determined or not sell the land.