YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Those in the local housing sector are anxiously awaiting to see how new funding may help beef up the area’s housing stock.

Part of the recently approved state budget allocated $100 million over the next two fiscal years to the Welcome Home Ohio program.

That includes, for the first time, money for the local land banks for the construction and rehabilitation of new residential properties. Land banks are eligible for up to $30,000 per unit and can also qualify for $90,000 in tax credits for the construction of residential property.

The program will be overseen by the Ohio Department of Development.

State Rep. Lauren McNally, D-Youngstown, said she can see how this program could be beneficial, particularly in the Youngstown area, where the costs of a new build may exceed the home’s value.

“It alleviates that risk for new builds in an area where property values aren’t significantly high, like Youngstown, but if we can get some new housing stock here, boy, would that attract people to want to live here. People always want the new, the nice, the better, as well as rehabbing homes. Some of our homes are very large, very old, you know, and just too costly to rehab in some scenarios,” she said.

Debora Flora, executive director of the Mahoning County Land Bank, agreed.

“We’re really happy that the legislature wanted to fund this particular program because we know that there’s a need for affordable and workforce housing in the area, but it’s costly to build right now, and so the Welcome Home Ohio fund will help with some of that cost by providing a subsidy toward new construction or to acquire a house that needs renovation and to accomplish that,” she said. “It’s been a long time coming for land banks, and we’re really excited that we’re in that moment, and especially that it’s happening right now because the need is pretty, pretty intense.”

The program does have a catch, though. Those who purchase a home that used the funding must commit to living in the home for five years. If they sell before that time period, they face a $90,000 fine. There are also income requirements for purchase, and the home can’t sell for more than $180,000.

Shawn Carvin, executive director of the Ohio Land Bank Association, said while the overall program is positive, he has concerns about the five-year requirement and hopes that the Department of Development considers some of their concerns.

“We’re very hopeful that once it gets to the guideline creation… we’re hoping that they create some level of discretion in that because obviously, people’s lives change — they move, they get new jobs. There has to be some ability for them to get out of that contractual agreement for the five years,” Carvin said.

Still, Carvin said, the program would create new homes that are sorely needed across the state.

“It’s really the first meaningful investment that the state has made in the land banks renovating or building new homes in affordable housing,” Carvin said.

According to Brian Bohnert, senior public information officer with the Department of Development, their team has been working on building out the program guidelines and planning informational webinars for prospective applicants in anticipation of the program’s launch in the coming months. Bohnert said they have also been meeting with various stakeholders such as land banks and community leaders from across the state to get their perspectives.

This is part of a series of stories that WKBN is looking into involving local housing issues in the Valley. Do you have a housing issue that you’d like us to look into? Send us your information here.