Friday, February 17, 2012
Neighborhood leaders must stand up for neighborhoods.
The problem is, that this once useful ordinance, has been perverted and abused by the city of Cincinnati under the direction of Mr. Cervey, Sean Minihan and Ed Cunningham, to become nothing more that a tool for their department to demonstrate “need’ for federal funding so a bloated agency that does more harm, than good for neighborhoods, can continue to exist.
A number of things have occurred since the original inception of the VBML program. We had a significant run up in real estate values. Home mortgages were passed out to people without financial means to afford them and under less than honest credit applications. Investors had almost endless line of credit to play ‘monopoly’ in neighborhoods. That enabled them to buy houses, mortgage them to the hilt, thanks to mortgage bundlers and fly-by-night lenders, and rent them out until they were no longer habitable without ever maintaining them.
It didn’t take long for the bottom to fall out of that and people simply walked away and left community leaders with a problem. The city approach has been to take the VBML and use it to demonstrate need for federal dollars (because they get a percentage of those funds for administrative cost). Hundreds of properties were bulldozed using federal dollars, (your tax dollars), without the benefit of historic section 106 review and many significant buildings were demolished.
But when the VBML is in place, an ambiguous ordinance that even attorneys have a hard time understanding, it is not hard to see why lenders will not make loans in our community. They view the VBML as a potential legal encumbrance that precludes a homeowner from occupying a property while they fix it up which would mean ‘owner occupant’ loans are not possible and thereby subjecting people to “investor rates’. The vast majority of people who are in restoration in ‘challenged” neighborhoods understand that not living in a house while they restore is foolhardy given the explosion of metal thefts by the addicted and the inability of our resource strapped police department to patrol adequately. However city inspectors want to order people to do repairs, lock the door and come back the next day. Common sense dictates that this is a disaster waiting to happen. But it is the “alternative universe”, city inspections and their bosses live in.
City policies and the abuse of those ordinances by Mr. Cervey’s department have redlined neighborhoods like Knox Hill, Fairmount and others. It is denying housing opportunity and the council must make an effort to stop it.
The council can be proactive or run the risk of those Federal dollars being yanked by HUD or a federal court ruling that the VBML effectively redlines neighborhoods and denies housing opportunity.