Thursday, April 1, 2010

Why Neighborhoods should lobby for a Hamilton County Landbank

Land banking just makes sense and the the Ohio General Assembly passed new legislation, effective in April, 2009, allowing the formation of county land revitalization corporations (LRCs). County Treasurer Jim Rokakis, Senator Tom Patton, former Senator Bob Spada, real estate expert Senator Timothy Grendell, and Representative Matthew Dolan were among the leaders who drafted and sponsored this legislation. It provides for the establishment of nonprofit corporations to promote, develop, manage, and facilitate the reclamation, holding, rehabilitation, and revitalization of vacant, abandoned, tax-foreclosed, and other real property.

This property in Cleveland is offered by their landbank. Prior to the landbank this property might have been bought by an out of state investor who would not maintain it or be demoed by the city

In the Cleveland area, Cuyahoga County's LRC (CCLRC) is the first to be established in the state.
They are 'ahead of the game' on this and Cincinnati and Hamilton county needs to get up to speed on this.
In addition to the house demolition, the City of Cincinnati removed trees and historic retaining wall with wrought iron fences which destroys the character of Urban neighborhoods.

Cincinnati's current 'blight abatement' model is to bulldoze property. Properties that are declared "Nuisances' under the current system more often than not have NO structural issues and are being demolished because of lack of compliance with property repair orders such as a broken window or a bad downspout.

Bulldozing properties creates Several new problems for the neighborhoods and the county as well. The city rarely, if ever, takes the owner of the property to court to recover the demolition costs. This means that local and federal tax dollars, our tax dollars are spent to demolish these houses. ultimately resulting in higher taxes for all of us.

Because the city fails to go after the property owner, which would result in a judgement and potential awarding of the remaining vacant lot to the city as a deed in lieu of judgement is that it can take YEARS before the vacant lot changes hand. During that time the city must cut the grass (something that is ONLY done after continual complains by neighbors and must also deal with the issue of illegal dumping. Once again OUR TAX DOLLARS are being spent to maintain the lot.

The effect of demolition is most serious in that it diminishes the county tax base. Many of the properties demolished are not delinquent in taxes meaning that a property that may have been paying thousands of dollars per year with a house on it will pay a few hundred as a vacant lot. Due to demolition the City of Cincinnati has lost millions of dollars in tax base. This loss of tax base means more special assessment and eventually higher property taxes for us all.

The impact of demolitions on neighborhoods is devastating. Wholesale demolitions by the city has resulted in some neighborhoods where only 1 or 2 houses stand per block. property values have plummeted of the remaining property and few builders would even consider construction in and area that is viewed as being in decline.

Historic Landmarks of Indianapolis with its FLIP program, works closely with the City of Indianapolis to stabilize key properties in neighborhoods. These properties are sold with restrictive covenants that protects them and helps stabilize the blocks around it and raise property values

Land banking reverses that failed urban renewal model acquiring foreclosed properties held by banks, by government-sponsored enterprises such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, or by federal and state agencies. It will acquire real estate lost to tax foreclosure and may accept donated properties. This last point could be a valuable enforcement tool as property owners facing criminal prosecution could be given the option of donating property to the landbank to get it into positive hands rather than the expensive proposition of court dates and eventual demolition cost.
Great Oak Commons Park is a thumbnail park in the old Northside neighborhood of Indianapolis created on vacant urban lots.

On those properties that are too far gone, the city can get the property into the hands of adjacent property owners or the city can ask for proposals from developers to build on the lots, or where not practical the lots could be given or leased to neighborhood groups for thumbnail parks or community garden projects.

Properties with structures that have potential to be returned to the real estate market may be rehabilitated through various programs or may be sold to qualified private rehabbers/restorers. Structures being held for rehabilitation will be mothballed responsibly and appropriately maintained. This will help stabilize neighborhoods.
Cincinnati NEEDS a lank bank and neighborhoods need to lobby the city council and the Hamilton county treasurers office to see it happens. Our current path of indiscriminately bulldozing our history is not a path for success for urban neighborhoods.

1 comment:

Kevin LeMaster said...

I wrote about this on Wednesday, I believe. Now that the legislation allowing county land banks is about to be signed by the governor, the biggest obstacle will be convincing our county treasurer that we actually NEED one.

I would suggest that all interested readers get in contact with Mr. Goering ASAP and start advocating for this.