Monday, March 22, 2010

State Representative Denise Driehaus Tours Knox Hill Neighborhood

Rep Denise Driehaus on walking tour led by the Association President.

Ohio State Representative Denise Driehaus toured and met with representatives of the Knox Hill Neighborhood Association on Saturday.

Representative Driehaus asked for the meeting to gain knowledge about how the foreclosure crisis is impacting Urban neighborhoods in Cincinnati like Knox Hill. She is co author of House Bill 3 which deals with foreclosure prevention.

Forum meeting to discuss community issues

In a forum with some of Knox Hill Board members discussions were held regarding the foreclosure bill, and the impact on foreclosures on the neighborhood. Knox Hill has a high level of foreclosures, mostly investment property where the out of state LLC has effectively abandoned the property because they are "upside down' on their mortgage.

Another area of discussion was "land banking" in which property that otherwise might be demolished could be land banked and then redeveloped or stabilized by community groups. This was very well received since Knox Hill has already embarked on their own "Save not Raze" project. The board offered their support of her efforts to see Hamilton County Land Bank.

Representative Driehaus asked what areas of concern neighborhood representatives had and what tools were needed to insure neighborhood turnaround and success.

Board members related that there was serious need to pass State level legislation to require that delinquent property taxes be paid in order to record deeds in the State of Ohio. This would accomplish two things. One, a better funded county auditor office, as cash flow would be improved, and two (most importantly) it would eliminate the "slumlord shuffle" in which out of state LLC's and local property owners, transfer ownership back and forth in zero dollar transactions, to avoid city enforcement orders. Often problem properties have thousands of dollars in delinquent taxes owned. Under current Ohio law, properly can be transferred without paying delinquent property taxes. This 'loophole' in the law makes Ohio more attractive to Out of State LLC' slumlord/investor types who rent out substandard property and milk it dry without ever making improvements and proper maintenance OR paying delinquent property taxes.

Another area in which the neighborhood asked for her support was to help lobby city officials to revamp or repeal the VBML ordinance the city has in light of the foreclosure crisis. The VBML when applied to a property renders it virtually unsaleable and banks will not make loans against property with a VBML orders. Knox Hill has over 40 properties with either a VBML or Condemn order against it. The neighborhood is currently working on a National Historic Registry Nomination and is concerned that continued Demolitions by the city will destroy key properties essential to that nomination. property often goes from simple complaints like an open door or window to VBML or Condemn status while the property is in the foreclosure crisis. Often by the time the property is ready to be resold it is unsaleable because of those VBML or condemn orders .

VBML Orders and delinquent property taxes render properties like these unsalable and impossible to develop

The neighborhood has prepared a draft recommendation of a state level CRZ districts "Community Redevelopment Zone" and is hoping to convince State Legislators to adopt the idea which would create incentives to local city governments to work with Urban neighborhoods and provide assistance on incentives to encourage home ownership and reinvestment in urban neighborhoods like Knox Hill hit hard by the foreclosure crisis.

Rep. Driehaus Speaking with area residents on the issues

Rep Driehaus then went on a walking tour with board members area residents and Margo Warminsky from CPA to view the architectural fabric of the community, see property currently under VBML or condemn orders and get a better perspective on how the foreclosure crisis and the way city government deals with it has impacted Knox Hill and their turnaround efforts.

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