This is a companion article to “Cleveland’s Comeback,” a feature article appearing in Issue 26 of NAC, available now. To read the full text of that article, by Marc Lefkowitz, click here.
A bill that would expand Ohio counties’ authority to establish land banks, and reclaim the vacant land threatening the vibrancy of their communities, is moving through the state legislature, and, if all goes well, to the governor’s desk this month.
In late 2008, the state passed legislation to allow Cuyahoga County, home to the foreclosure-ravaged city of Cleveland, to launch a two-year pilot program. The program gave the county the authority to establish a nonprofit land bank with the ability to acquire and rehabilitate vacant land and return that land to good use.
Leading thinkers on land banking helped craft the legislation, and in the last year, Cuyahoga County’s land bank has become a national model. In December, it struck a pioneering agreement with Fannie Mae that would hold the lender accountable for demolition costs associated with its foreclosed properties, and in January, it received $40 million through the second round of the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program to purchase and rehabilitate foreclosed homes.
Given those successes, it is not surprising that stakeholders are working hard to advance pending legislation that would authorize additional counties in Ohio to create land banks using the Cuyahoga County model. After passing the Ohio House in December, the bill was expanded to apply to 41 Ohio counties (the initial version covered 28) and approved by a Senate committee last week. It is expected to go before the full Senate this week.
Advocates are energized about the potential good this legislation can do, especially given Ohio’s growing number of foreclosed homes. (Foreclosure lawsuits hit 89,053 in Ohio last year, a record high). “This bill will provide another tool in the toolbox for communities plagued by vacant and abandoned properties”, said Dawn Larzelere, Associate Director of Greater Ohio Policy Center, “With the ability to form land banks, they will be able to proactively and strategically address the eyesores threatening their neighborhoods”.