Registry Aims To Combat Urban Blight (KSEE 24)

 In an effort to combat the blight issues in Fresno, the city is now compiling a registry of vacant properties so it knows who to contact in case problems come up.

The City said the contact information will help address vandalism or repair issues much faster. It’s a new requirement for owners and property managers of buildings vacant for more than 30 days.

Mark Standriff, who is the City’s Director of Communications and Public Affairs said, “Last summer the City Council under the Mayor’s direction passed the ‘Vacant and Blighted Properties Ordinance’ which basically now starts to give us tools that we can build to make sure that we are not only addressing the issue of vacant and blighted homes around the area.”

The registry is located here on the City’s website. It’s free, and if owners/property managers don’t register, they may face a fine of $250 a month.

“It allows us to not only contact property owners immediately that gets us all the contact information to let them know that there are issues to the property or that there have been some complaints filed against it,” stated Standriff.

Fresno City Code Enforcement Supervisor Howard Lacey said the ordinance is meant to maintain the charm of older neighborhoods in Fresno.

Lacey said, “Well the best thing is for property owners to be very proactive with their properties and ultimately we want to get them all occupied. That’s the goal.”

Property owners must submit their information into the city’s vacant/blighted property registry by April.

Read it from the source.

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2015 Cuyahoga Land Bank Property Sales

In 2015, the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s internal renovations reached nearly one million dollars in total Land Bank Staff gross sales. The Deed-in-Escrow Program saw a nine percent increase in sales from the previous year!  Also in 2015, there was a forty-four percent increase in internal renovation sales from the prior year.  The Cuyahoga Land Bank is on pace to reach the record number of sales in 2016.

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Posted in 2016.1.1, Newsletter

2015 Information Technology and Research Department

In 2015, the Cuyahoga Land Bank increased collaboration with other county land banks to license their Property Profile System (PPS).  The web-based property management software system allows for land banks to manage operations, undertake analysis, program development and planning. This past year, the Cuyahoga Land Bank has started work to customize the PPS software for Hamilton County, Mahoning County, Summit County and South Suburban Land Bank and Development Authority, IL (South Chicago Suburbs). The software system will help each land bank increase their capacity and improve their daily functions.  For more information on PPS please visit pps.land.

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Posted in 2016.1.1, Newsletter

2015 Acquisition, Disposition & Development Highlights

The Cuyahoga Land Bank had another productive year in stabilizing communities and removing blight throughout the county.  In order to manage the large number of vacant and abandoned properties the Cuyahoga Land Bank demolition capacity continued to increase. The demolition department has completed over eight hundred blight-elimination demolitions per year since 2013.  Since the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s inception, the primary focus has been on residential property.  This past year, further collaboration with municipalities has led to the acquisition and demolition of several blighted commercial properties.  These demolition projects occurred with several partner communities including Shaker Heights, East Cleveland, Cleveland and Warrensville Heights.  The launch of the Cuyahoga County Demolition Fund Program in 2015 will allow for further targeted demolition of vacant and abandoned properties to improve our communities.

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Posted in 2016.1.1, Newsletter

Allen County making progress on land bank (LimaOhio.com)

LIMA — Work is continuing on getting the Allen County Land Reutilization Corporation, or land bank, up and running, with county commissioners passing two resolutions Thursday to help get the framework in place.

Commissioners approved a motion to place two commissioners on the land bank’s board of directors, as required by Ohio law. Jay Begg and Cory Noonan will serve in that capacity. The Ohio Revised Code also requires that the county treasurer, a representative from the largest municipality in the county as well as one representative for townships with populations over 10,000, which would be American and Shawnee townships, in this case.

“It used to be that just the largest township got to appoint a representative,” county treasurer Rachael Gilroy said. “But now, the law says any township over 10,000 residents gets to be in on the decision, and between the townships, they must appoint a representative between them. So that brought in Shawnee Township to the table.”

Both townships decided on American Township zoning inspector Bill Haidle as their representative,with Lima’s director of community development, Amy Sackman Odum, representing the city.

Commissioners also aproved the designation of 5 percent of all tax delinquent interest and penalty payments to go to the land bank to cover administrative costs.

“That will be our operating expense and possibly demolitions that would not apply under this (Hardest Hit Fund) grant,” she said. “The grant we’re hoping to apply for only applies to residential properties, and it can do apartment buildings, but only if it has one to four units. But there are so many places that have a commercial building that needs to come down, and this money would help us get that funding to bring those down.”

By establishing a land bank, the county hopes to put itself in a position to receive as much as $4 million or $5 million from the Hardest Hit Fund to demolish blighted properties in the county.

Read it from the source.

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Neighborhood Greening Improvement Program Launches

This past year marked the launch of the Cuyahoga Land Bank Neighborhood Initiative Greening Program.  Created in the spirit of ReImagining Cleveland, the program focuses on bring vacant land back to productive use.  The program helps beautify streets, adds value to our homes and improves our environment.  Funding from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency’s Neighborhood Initiative Program allows the Cuyahoga Land Bank to invest up to six thousand dollars per property to green eligible lots after demolition. In 2015, forty-three properties were transformed from vacant lots into vibrant greenspaces. Qualified neighbors can work with the Cuyahoga Land Bank staff to design side yards complete with fencing, trees, native plants and decorative landscaping.  In addition to residents, several non-profits and faith-based organizations participated in the program and transformed nearby vacant lots into beautiful community spaces. In 2016, the Cuyahoga Land Bank will continue to offer the NIP greening program on select lots throughout the county.

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Posted in 2016.1.1, Newsletter

2015 Program and Property Management Highlights

An important aspect of the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s mission is to support community goals and improve the quality of life for county residents.  In 2015, the Cuyahoga Land Bank has actively worked to advance this mission.  Two major initiatives involved our continued efforts to inform the community of our home ownership programs: BRAIN Program for college students or recent graduates, HomeFront Veterans Program and numerous non-profit housing initiatives.  In 2015, we saw the grand opening of a second New Horizon’s home spearheaded by area churches and the City Mission and the first Veteran Affordable Housing Property in partnership with Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries.  The Cuyahoga Land Bank worked hand in hand with Women of Hope to renovate Arya’s House, for homeless female veterans, through a collaboration with the Woodrow Project.  The Cuyahoga Land Bank recently partnered on a contract with ADAMHS Board to renovate and establish a Level One Recovery House for women in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction.  Another success included the acquisition and renovation of ten affordable housing units for veterans that launched in the Collinwood Neighborhood in partnership with NEON Health Services.  Moving into 2016, the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s team looks forward to the completion of several collaborative projects currently underway and to work with existing and new partners to improve the lives of county residents and return vacant properties to productive use.  If your organization would like to engage the Cuyahoga Land Bank regarding a potential collaboration, please contact us.

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Posted in 2016.1.1, Newsletter

Production Numbers 2015

Production Type  2015 Count Total
Total Property Acquisitions 1170 5942
Total Properties Sold 221 1120
Total Disposed Properties 702 4176
Total Demolitions 839 3926
Total Facilitated Renovations 216 1214
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Posted in 2016.1.1, Newsletter

2015 Funding Highlights

Land Bank Staff

In 2015, the Cuyahoga Land Bank conituned to build on its success in administering the Neighborhood Improvement Program (NIP) in Cuyahoga County.  The Ohio Housing Financing Agency (OHFA) established the NIP program in 2014, following the advocacy of the Thriving Communities Institute. The program is funded through OHFA with Hardest Hit Funds it receives from the U.S. Treasury Department.  The program pays for the demolition of vacant and abandoned one to four unit  residential structures, and for landscaping vacant lots.  In 2014, the Cuyahoga Land Bank received approximately $11.25 million in NIP funding and received another $8.75 million in 2015.  These funds are extremely important in our ongoing effort to reestablish property values in our communities.
In addition to HHF funding, Cuyahoga Land Bank received $3 million dollars from the Cuyahoga County Demolition Fund Program, a $1.2 million grant from Citigroup to continue our community development programming, and $126,000 from County Prosecutor Tim McGinty to participate in his targeted demolition program.

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Posted in 2016.1.1, Newsletter

Land bank to speed up foreclosures (Telegraph-Forum)

BUCYRUS – County treasurer Gary Cole uses as an example a vacant lot in Crestline.

“There was a house that was torn down several years ago, and the city charged $10,000 to tear it down and put an assessment on it. Now there’s a vacant lot with the delinquent taxes plus the assessment, so we’re talking about $17,000, $18,000 on a lot. Well, obviously nobody’s going to buy that,” he said.

Any number of things could happen to a property like that. It could go to a county auditor’s sale, where the county gets whatever it can for the property and transfers it to an individual, or the village could assume responsibility for the property, which would wipe away the tax lien. Or the property could just continue sitting there as is.

Very soon, if the county commissioners go through the required motions next month, there will be another option for properties like the vacant lot in Crestline — a county land bank.

The commissioners have chartered a county land re-utilization corporation, or land bank, to act as an agency “for the reclamation, rehabilitation and re-utilization of vacant, abandoned, tax-foreclosed or other real property in the county,” according to a resolution the commissioners approved earlier this month.

This makes the land bank official, immediately, but the matter of initial funding has to be addressed first. Seed money of $75,000 from the county treasurer’s office is available, but first it has to actually be made available, via the commissioners approving a resolution to authorize an additional deduction of funds from the county’s delinquent tax collections, which will in turn be put into a new land bank fund.

“That’s the way we’ll probably go, and that’s one of the first things we’ll have to do. If we don’t get it done early next month we’ll have to wait four or five months because the next settlement isn’t until June,” Cole said.

Many are delinquent

Crawford County’s problem properties certainly aren’t going anywhere. At least the vacant lot in Crestline doesn’t have a dilapidated house on it; most of the county’s 2,000 or so vacant properties do. Most of those are situated in the cities of Bucyrus and Galion. The vast majority are delinquent on property taxes, but there are exceptions.

“Some are abandoned, not being lived in, but the taxes are still being paid on them. There are houses full of holes, the roof’s off, but they’re still paying taxes on them so they’re not delinquent, and the land bank deals only with delinquent properties. So it’s difficult,” Cole said.

Under the current system in the county, settling the disposition of problem properties is even more difficult, or at the very least time-consuming. In Ohio, Cuyahoga County became the first governmental entity to organize a land bank a decade ago because the traditional foreclosure process had simply become overwhelmed by properties on its delinquent tax rolls that numbered in the tens of thousands.

Today there are more than two dozen county land banks in Ohio, including in Richland and Seneca counties. In Crawford County there are fewer than 2,000 delinquent properties so the problem here is a fraction of what the big cities face.

Foreclosure process

But getting a foreclosed property taken care of still takes a long time under the current system — from six months to a year, while the land bank will shorten that process down to six to eight weeks. Here’s how it works now:

A delinquent property has to sit for a year before it becomes eligible for foreclosure. Provided the value of the property is greater than the taxes owed, as is usually the case, the property will eventually go to a sheriff’s sale. If after two of those sales it hasn’t sold, the property then goes to an auditor’s sale. A land bank, however, can step in before much of this slow-moving routine takes place.

“Going through the process, there are certain stages at which the land bank could assume responsibility for it or determine the direction it goes to make it more efficient in terms of resolving it,” Cole said.

“Offices like my office, the commissioners, we do what the government tells us to do, whereas this organization can do anything it wants to if the law doesn’t prevent it. A land bank can form policies and so forth as long as they don’t contradict the law and are reasonable.”

Safeguard in place

Perhaps understandably, however, some people may get nervous about the prospect of a quasi-governmental agency doing what it wants, particularly when its decisions can affect the character of a neighborhood, and by extension its property values.

“A process is in place now to deal with those situations. If a lot is too small and the land bank has to combine lots, the zoning and planning commissions for the city would have to deal with it. They could say no, that they think that’s too much of a change,” county prosecutor Matt Crall said.

“But that’s the safeguard that the other people in the neighborhood have, too. There are hearings and they have to give notification to all the neighbors, and that’s good. I think a land bank is definitely progress, but sometimes where you’re situated shapes your opinion.”

Cole said one of the county land bank’s priorities will be making sure property values don’t deteriorate so that the character of a neighborhood can be maintained, or even improved. That may result in doing some things differently than in the past.

“In the cities some of these homes were built on very small lots, and now you couldn’t rebuild on a lot that’s in between two houses, so you have to split that lot up and make it accessible to the neighbors to expand their properties. So it would actually improve their value. They’re called side lot programs, and that’s something we would look at too,” Cole said.

As things stand now, every foreclosure in the county goes through the prosecutor’s office. That’s why the prosecutor cannot be on the Crawford County land bank’s five-member board, which at least to start will have five members – two county commissioners, the county treasurer, a representative from Bucyrus (the mayor) and another from Galion.

“The county wants to get its tax dollars, so that’s the conflict involved with me and my office,” Crall said.

“The treasurer is involved because statutorily he’s required to be. There are a lot of legal opinions about who can be involved, who can’t be. One opinion is that if the treasurer wasn’t statutorily required to be involved than he wouldn’t be allowed, which is kind of strange.”

Although the land bank may lighten the foreclosure load for the prosecutor’s office, Crall’s office will still remain charged with retrieving the tax money that’s owed the county. And property foreclosures certainly aren’t going away.

“You’re always going to have your set number of situations that just happen to people, that’s never going to change. People who lost their jobs because of the downturn in the economy, a lot of times they’re still working but they went from a $24-an-hour job to a $12-an-hour job and they’re supporting a family, and it gets hard,” the prosecutor said.

“I was asked the other night why we don’t just foreclose on all these properties and get them through, but the problem is that will have a detrimental effect on property values. The other question was about how long we wait to foreclose on a property. Each situation is different. We have payment plans, and sometimes people don’t make any effort. Our determination is based on that.”

Crall said his office has actually made progress in resolving tax delinquencies to the financial benefit of the county in recent years, and credited an improving economy for that to a large degree. Last year, his office reached the amount budgeted by the commissioners for all of 2015 in May.

In a perfect world, of course, there would be no need for a county land bank. Taxes would be collected, and more importantly, residents could remain in their homes, no matter how it happens.

“We’ve even had some cases where the owners bought the house at the sheriff’s sale because they were able to come up with the money at the end,” Crall said. “People don’t want to lose their homes.”

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County land bank to invest in Library Village District (The Blade)

The Lucas County Land Bank is launching a pilot program to invest money in vacant and abandoned homes in the Library Village District in hopes of stabilizing property values in the struggling neighborhood.

Land Bank-owned properties obtained through property tax foreclosures in the West Toledo neighborhood are targeted for the new program, which will be announced Saturday by Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz.

Plans call for the land bank to hire contractors to renovate 16 houses in the district and then list the properties for sale at competitive market rates. Mr. Kapszukiewicz said the pilot program is dubbed RISE, for Rebuild, Invest, Stabilize, and Engage.

“As part of this program we are going to take a leadership role in rehabbing and marketing properties exclusively to homeowners,” he said.

Formally known as the Lucas County Land Reutilization Corp., the land bank, during its five years of existence, has sold nearly 350 homes to neighbors, landlords, investors, and community groups that invested their own funds to fix up those properties.

That formula follows the land bank’s mission of strengthening neighborhoods and increasing housing values while addressing home vacancy and blight in the county, Mr. Kapszukiewicz said.

“The real game changer in this program,” he said, “is that we’re going to be doing the rehabilitation. This is new for us.”

The land bank program for Library Village lies roughly from Sylvania Avenue on the south to Laskey Road on the north and between Jackman Road on the west and Lewis Avenue to the east.

Within the district lies the 32-acre Riviera Maia apartment complex, which was the focus of a nuisance complaint and condemned by the city in 2014 after its owners failed to make improvements to the 504 units.

Greg Lyons, president of Sylvania Avenue Neighbors, a grassroots committee formed to foster district improvements, said the pilot program fits in well with his group’s efforts to grow businesses in the Five Points and Library Village districts through residential improvements. “We are excited about what they are going to do to stabilize home values,” Mr. Lyons said.

Sylvania Avenue Neighbors also wants to create an identity for itself that draws visitors and encourages home ownership.

The land bank is budgeting up to $150,000 in 2016 to pay subcontractors for upgrades and improvements to the 16 homes, all of which were transferred to the land bank because the owners were delinquent in paying property taxes.

Funding for land bank operations comes from several sources, including the county general fund, congressional grants, and late fees on property owners delinquent in paying property taxes.

Mr. Kapszukiewicz will provide details on the pilot program at 10 a.m. Saturday to kick off a community forum sponsored by Sylvania Avenue Neighbors in the West Toledo Branch Library, 1320 W. Sylvania.

“We hope to expand the program and move on to a different neighborhood next year,” he said, noting that the goal is to have all 16 houses rehabbed and the properties sold this year.

Panel discussions about family and walkable neighborhoods will begin at 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., respectively, in the library branch. Other discussions will be held at Glass City Roasters, 1240 W. Sylvania, where a group talk on community gardens is set for 10:30 a.m. and panel discussion on the arts at 11:30 a.m.

The forum will wrap up with a discussion about Move Forward at 12:30 p.m. The programs are free and open to all.

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2015 Year in Reflection

For the Cuyahoga Land Bank, 2015 could be described as a year of sowing and reaping.  The orgaLand Bank Staff nization has deepened its roots in many ways and with many organizations including its Community Development Corporations, faith-based institutions and social service agencies.  While the Cuyahoga Land Bank continues to focus primarily on blight elimination, improving the tax base and facilitating home renovations, the seeds sown are beginning to take root and sprouted in ways that serve people in so many ways.
By meeting the facility needs of many population groups such as veterans, students, new home owners, legally settled refugees, re-entry and other stakeholder groups, the Cuyahoga Land Bank not only promotes its mission to support housing and eliminate blight, but has served many of the agencies whose missions serve the needs of the county’s citizens.
The Cuyahoga Land Bank continues to match distressed properties with economic development partners who acquire, renovate and place these properties back onto the productive tax duplicate.  The Cuyahoga Land Bank has become an important tool in helping to improve the quality of life of Cuyahoga County citizens.  We appreciate all of the collaborations, support and work with our partners, be they government, non-profits and social service stakeholders.

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Posted in 2016.1.1, Newsletter

2015 Year End Review

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Posted in 2016.1.1, Newsletter

State allocates $6.1 million to Cuyahoga County for residential demolition (Freshwater Cleveland)

As part of the state’s effort to eliminate blight, theOhio Housing Finance Agency announced last November that it would distribute $13 million in funding for the demolition of distressed residential properties. This was the fourth such round of the Neighborhood Initiative Program (NIP), which has received $79 million in funding from the U. S. Department of Treasury’s Hardest Hit Fund.

Cuyahoga County received $6,075,000 of the $13 million.

“This program started in summer of 2014,” saysCuyahoga Land Bank’s chief operating officer Bill Whitney of the NIP. “Before this $6 million, we received $14 million and have spent approximately $13 million of that.” In doing so, he adds, the organization has demolished about 1,050 properties with the funds, 850 of which were done in 2015.

“This last award of $6 million brings the total to $20 million since 2014,” says Whitney of the NIP funding. “We expect now be able to continue the program and probably demolish an additional 480 to 500 properties.”

Of the 12 Ohio counties receiving these most recently announced allocations, Cuyahoga was awarded the lion’s share, with Lucas County’s $2.3 million allocation coming in second. The 10 other counties received $500,000 each.

Coming in “first” in a funding round such as this is sobering indeed, but not unexpected considering the state of northeast Ohio’s residential vacancy rate.

A comprehensive property survey conducted last year by Western Reserve Land Conservancy, in collaboration with the City of Cleveland, counted 3,809 vacant residential properties graded D (deteriorated) or F (unsafe or hazardous). When combined with the 1,437 residential properties condemned by the city, the total is 5,246 structures that may be candidates for demolition. While that figure is daunting, it is also 32 percent lower than the city’s 2013 estimate of 7,771 vacant and distressed properties.

The Cuyahoga Land Bank acquires foreclosed properties from HUD and Fannie May as well as tax foreclosures. Demolitions are restricted to vacant and abandoned blighted properties the organization owns. It does not demolish properties that have more than four units, those that might have historical significance or any property that is connected to other residences such as row homes.

Referencing a graphic that categorizes Cleveland neighborhoods and a host of eastside inner ring suburbs as either undergoing “revitalization” or nearing a “tipping point,” Whitney explains that the revitalization sections are experiencing the most severe effects of the foreclosure crisis. They are also in predominately African American neighborhoods.

“In general, the foreclosure crisis here – and maybe in other places – was extremely racist,” says Whitney.

If a property is salvageable, the land bank works with community development corporations and humanitarian organizations to rehabilitate it and put it to constructive use.

“We try to save any property we can,” says Whitney. The organization prioritizes at-risk populations such as refugees, veterans and the disabled. Partner organizations include the Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry and a host of area CDC’s. Whitney tags Slavic Village DevelopmentNortheast Shores Development Corporation, the Famicos Foundation and the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization. In such cases, properties will transfer for as little as one dollar.

“Everybody needs housing,” says Whitney.

“To keep things in perspective,” he continues, “in our six years of operation, we’ve acquired about 5,000 properties. We’ve demolished about 3,500 and have been able to save about 1,000.” Of that number, approximately one third go to humanitarian causes with the balance going to market. Prospective buyers are thoroughly screened and the land bank holds the title until they have brought the property up to municipal code.

To get an idea of the task at hand, Fresh Water invites readers to scroll through the properties owned by Cuyahoga Land Bank.

“There’s still an awful lot of stuff to do,” says Whitney, “but it’s gradually getting better.”

Read it from the source.

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Home Owner Feature

Nissim Mashmoor recently moved into his new home in Euclid after participating in the Cuyahoga Land Bank’Land Bank Staff s Deed-In-Escrow Program. Nissim comments “Because of the Cuyahoga Land Bank, I’m a happy home owner. They have helped me achieve my goal of home ownership.” The Cuyahoga Land Bank would like to congratulate Nissim on his new home!

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Posted in 2016.1.1, Home Owner Feature, Newsletter

Mission Complete Celebration

A second home was sold to a Northeast Ohio veteran through project Mission Complete in December. This Land Bank Staff is the second local project in South Euclid that partnered with the Purple Heart Homes, City of South Euclid and the Cuyahoga Land Bank to rehabilitate a home for a disabled veteran. The celebration brought together more than two hundred volunteers, donors, suppliers and supporters of the project at St. John Lutheran Church.

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Posted in Did you Know?, Media Alert, Newsletter

New Horizon Home: A New Beginning

On a chilly December evening, friends, parishioners and staff of several partner organizations came together toLand Bank Staff welcome Ms. Tauri and her three children into their new home in Slavic Village.  The home renovation was made possible through the partnership between the Cuyahoga Land Bank, The City Mission, Renew Communities, Hope Church and Cuyahoga Valley Church.
Staff and volunteers had thought of every last detail down to pink and purple painted walls for Tauri’s daughters, a playpen in the living room, a fully decorated Christmas tree and stockings draped over the handrail.  Tauri’s son beamed from ear to ear as he warmed a mug of cocoa in the kitchen packed with people there to celebrate with him and his family. “Thank you, thank you to everyone,” Tauri exclaimed to the crowd at the welcoming celebration.  “This home is a blessing!”
Most recently, Tauri and her family had been living at Laura’s Home, a Women’s Crisis Center run by the City Mission.  They came to the City Mission when Tauri and her family became homeless.  At Laura’s Home, Tauri found the opportunity to begin a new chapter in her life and for her family.  Classes and counseling helped Tauri Land Bank Staff gain the skills and confidence needed to find a job at the local library.
Tauri credits her faith in God for the positive change in her life.  “If I do go into another depression, I don’t have to stay there,” says Tauri.  “God will provide for us!  I’m not in it by myself,” she stated.
Almost two years ago, the City Mission and the Cuyahoga Land Bank had a vision to bring their missions together, housing and ministry, to develop a countywide, church-sponsored, permanent affordable housing initiative. Last spring, sponsored by Church on the Rise, the first family to benefit from the program moved into their new home.  Tauri’s home is the second house completed through the partnership.  The third family and house has been identified and is in the planning stage.  “Our goal at the Cuyahoga Land Bank, is to find a new life for vacant properties and it brings a special joy to see both the house and the family that will live in it get an opportunity at a fresh start,” said Cuyahoga Land Bank President, Gus Frangos.  “Seeing this family in their new home – what more could we want for the holidays?”
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Posted in 2016.1.1, Newsletter

Neighborhood Advocates Collaborate to Relocate Discovery Center

Three summers ago, Concerned Citizens, Inc. Director Anita Gardner took Cuyahoga Land Bank President Gus Frangos and staff on a neighborhood tour of Kinsman Avenue.  Many buildings had decayed and were abandoned in the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis post-2008.  One building had housed the small offices of a neighborhood child enrichment center known as the “Discovery Center,” run by Gardner.  “Our children need mentoring, job and citizenship training in order to be productive citizens wheLand Bank Staff n they grow up,” she said.  Gardner partnered with Shirley Ellington (who has since passed away) in serving children from the neighborhood at their small offices near East 138th and Kinsman.
Gardner and Ellington volunteered their time, efforts, and resources to help train and support children with community activities, arts, crafts and computer training. But alas, the offices suffered from a roof leak, building decay and vandalism which the owner would not fix.  As a result, the center closed.
Undaunted, the tour with Cuyahoga Land Bank staff resulted in a pact between Gardner and the Cuyahoga Land Bank that together they would find another suitable, safe and clean building to serve as a permanent home for “Anita’s kids.”
After reviewing vacant and abandoned properties for three years, a property on East 137th Street became available.  This was a large two family home with parking and plenty of space where children could engage in activities both inside and outside.
While the building was structurally sound, it needed significant renovation.  Cleveland Councilman Ken Johnson and Councilman Terrell Pruitt answered the call each by providing support to help in the renovation.  Additionally, the Cuyahoga Land Bank invested funds to complete the work.  The rehabilitation was completed by Beneficial Properties whose principal owner is Marvin Stover.  The property was finally finished in October, 2015.
“I cannot tell you how beautiful Mr. Stover made this building.  He went above and beyond in making this accessible to our kids including handicapped individuals.” said Gardner.  The finished property came equipped with a handicap raLand Bank Staff mp and customized renovations throughout the home.
At a recent tour of the building, Concerned Citizens, Inc. Board Member Jefferson D. Tufts praised the success of this project and the combined work of Anita Gardner, Cuyahoga Land Bank, Councilmen Johnson and Pruitt as well as the contractor Marvin Stover.  “This means a great deal to the children of this community,” said Tufts.
This spring, all of the children’s programming will once again begin but with enhanced activities such as entrepreneurship, community workshops, art festivals, educational tutoring and family support services.  “This is the kind of investment in our children that will help them make wise and healthy choices,” said Gardner. 
For Gardner, this is a dream come true.  It is a dream she refused to let die.  A grand opening for the new center will be announced in the Spring of 2016.
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Posted in 2016.1.1, Newsletter

Discovery Center | New Horizon Home – 2016.1.1

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Posted in 2016.1.1, Newsletter

Did you know? Western Reserve Land Conservancy City Wide Survey

Western Reserve Land Conservancy, in collaboration with the City of Cleveland, recently surveyed every residential, commercial, aLand Bank Staff nd industrial parcel in the city.  The survey captured a snapshot of each property by  ranking the current condition and providing occupancy status.  The survey provides valuable data on the number of vacant and distressed properties in Cleveland.  The information is critical for the city and its partners to remove blight in Cleveland neighborhoods.


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Posted in 2015.12.1, Newsletter

It’s mission complete for second South Euclid Purple Heart Homes dwelling (Sun News)

SOUTH EUCLID, Ohio — Mission complete.

That was the cause for celebration Saturday in the gym at St. John’s Lutheran Church where about 120 people gathered to acknowledge the completion of the latest South Euclid Purple Heart Home.

Purple Heart Homes, based in Statesville, N.C., is an organization formed by two military veterans that gathers volunteers and supplies from donors to rehabilitate homes so that disabled veterans can live in them.

In South Euclid, there are two such homes, making it the only city in the country to have more than one. In fact, a third such home, at 1180 Piermont Road, is already being planned.

“This is an event to mark the completion of our second house, and we’re excited to start our third,” said PHH Director of Real Estate Howard Goldberg.

The man who will live in the second house, at 4121 Harwood Road, is Corp. Leo Robinson, originally from Elyria. While serving overseas as a Marine in Iraq and Afghanistan, Robinson sustained traumatic brain injuries and other physical ailments.

While PHH will modify homes for its occupants’ special needs, Robinson’s home didn’t need such modifications.

Work started on Robinson’s home in spring, 2014, when a crew of Notre Dame College football players help gut the home’s interior. The house, like the first PHH home in South Euclid, 1171 Avondale Road, and the third, were troubled homes donated to the project by the Cuyahoga County Land Bank.

“The house is very special to me because I got to help design it,” Robinson said. “I got to pick out the counter tops, the cabinets, the flooring, so it’s very special to me.”

As for those who turned out for Saturday’s event, which included volunteers, members of trade unions who lent their skills, veterans and residents, Robinson said, “It means a lot to me that everyone came out, especially in this (snowy) weather. They didn’t have to be approached to come, they wanted to.”

Robinson expects to move into the house in a couple of weeks with his girlfriend, Tabatha, and his service dog, Kota.

“He deserves this,” Tabatha said of Robinson’s new home.

Robinson will pay a mortgage equal to 50 percent of the home’s appraised value.

“It warms my heart to see the community supporting a veteran,” said John Gallina, a veteran and Purple Heart recipient who co-founded PHH in 2008 with disabled veteran Dale Beatty. “It’s the people in the community that make the difference.”

PHH Board Chairman Garrett Garland, originally from Rocky River, said the organization is continually growing.

“We started with one wheelchair ramp at a veteran’s home in North Carolina,” Garland said. “In our third year, we set a goal of doing five house builds.”

That goal was accomplished, and the South Euclid home marks PHH’s 99th across the country.

“My goal now is to have 100 chapters started in the next 5-10 years,” Garland said.

One of those chapters already in the works, he said, is being established in Greater Cleveland.

During her remarks, Mayor Georgine Welo told of how former South Euclid service director Ed Gallagher, a Vietnam veteran, read an article four years ago about Purple Heart Homes and came to her with the idea of establishing a home in the city.

“It’s heartwarming to me that we have a city that really cares about people,” Gallagher said. “We’re going to have three homes because of the city of South Euclid and its administration, as well as the Land Bank.”

Goldberg said he is now looking forward to the third house build.

“We need supplies, donors, or people who just can supply food for the volunteers working on the house,” Goldberg said. “Anyone who wants to help can call me.”

Goldberg’s phone number is 216-313-3032.

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Historic Renovation to Launch on Scranton Road

Tremont West Development Corporation (Tremont West) recently succeeded in establishing a new housing development opportunity for a vacant and abandoned property along Scranton Road. The twelve thousand square foot commercial property, the Ohio Bell Building, was built in 1904 and originally owned by the Cleveland Telephone Company.  Over several years, the property fell into disrepair and became a nuisance to the neighborhood.  Thanks to Tremont West’s advocacy the property will soon become an asset for the community.Land Bank Staff
Back in 2011, the property was originally brought to the attention of Tremont West for code enforcement when the property owner faced prosecution in Cleveland Housing Court.  The building had previously been used for piano storage, but after a lack of maintenance and a fire the building owner soon walked away from the property. 
After years of disinvestment the property fell into tax foreclosure.  Due to the large delinquent tax bill the property went unsold at sheriff sale and was forfeited to the state of Ohio.  Tremont West, determined to find a reuse for the property, began to reach out to potential developers. Finally, Mancini Group LLC identified a rehabilitation plan to create fifteen residential market rate apartment units. The Cuyahoga Land Bank used its legislative authority to obtain legal entry to the property for the potential developer, while it was held by the state.  This access gave the developer a clear scope of the building’s current condition’s and offered confidence for redevelopment. Tremont West then reached out to the Cuyahoga Land Bank to acquire the property from state forfeiture.  Once acquired, the Cuyahoga Land Bank conveyed the property to the developer.  Matthew P. Yourkvitch, of the law firm Moore Yourkvitch & Dibo and attorney for the Mancini Group LLC, comments “We are excited to work on this project and contribute to the collaboration within the community development network. We were on board, the moment we learned of the developer’s vision to restore an abandoned historic gem in the Scranton South Side Historic District.” 
Land Bank Staff This project will coincide with the Scranton Road continued redevelopment. Most recently the street was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Ohio Bell Building is one of the thirty four sites listed along Scranton.  Cory Riordan, Executive Director of Tremont West, expressed his excitement “This is a transformative project that will continue the momentum along the street.  Not only does it bring life back to a blighted property, but it increases further investment along Scranton.”  The project already has a commitment letter from Metro Health supporting future housing options for their employees.  The developer hopes to use State and Federal Historic tax credits, with bank financing for the Historic Building.  Mancini Group’s LLC owner, Enio Mancini, stated that, “We hope that this project will serve as a catalyst for additional development in the Scranton South Side Historic District. We want our building to contribute positively to all the redevelopment occurring along Scranton Road and around Metro Health.” The project gives tribute to the successful collaboration between community partners to repurpose another vacant and abandoned property.

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Posted in 2015.12.1, Newsletter

Cuyahoga Land Bank Delivers Sedlak Building for Redevelopment

In February of 2013, the Shaker Area Development Corporation (SHAD) asked the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s Staff Attorney DoLand Bank Staff ug Sawyer, and Chief Operating Officer, Bill Whitney, for assistance to acquire three abandoned commercial properties near East 127th Street and Larchmere Boulevard, formally owned by the Sedlak Furniture Company.  Several years ago, the deteriorating buildings fell into new ownership and stood vacant.  SHAD was supported by Shaker Square Alliance, Larchmere Merchants Association,Organize Ohio, consultant Charles Bromley and area residents, in its request to the Cuyahoga Land Bank to acquire the properties through tax foreclosure.
Before the County could honor the request to begin tax foreclosure the properties had to be freed from a California bankruptcy court, and an existing tax lien certificate had to be addressed.  After several months, Sawyer successfully had the court release the properties and the Cuyahoga Land Bank partnered with SHAD to purchase the tax lien certificate.  With these hurdles out of the way, the county could began the tax foreclosure process.
During these efforts, SHAD solicited proposals from area developers and selected Michael Montlack to develop the properties. Montlack’s, an experienced developer and owns about two thousand residential units.
Unfortunately, the Cuyahoga Land Bank acquisition was delayed further when a lien holder asked for more time to try and sell the properties at sheriff sale. FinLand Bank Staff ally in September, 2015, after there were no bidders at the sheriff sale, the Cuyahoga Land Bank successfully acquired the three properties and conveyed them to Montlack.
The Cuyahoga Land Bank has been entrusted with a number of important redevelopment efforts. As the county continues to recover from the housing crisis, these efforts, along with a professional, experienced, and engaged staff, will allow the Cuyahoga Land Bank to share in many more successes like the Sedlak Redevelopment Project.

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Posted in 2015.12.1, Newsletter

Celebration marks completion of South Euclid home for Marine veteran (Plain Dealer)

CLEVELAND, Ohio – A “Mission Complete Celebration” for a home in South Euclid that was renovated and sold at a discount to a Northeast Ohio veteran will he held Saturday.

This second local project in South Euclid that partnered Purple Heart Homes, a national nonprofit group founded by two disabled veterans of the war in Iraq, with the city of South Euclid and the Cuyahoga Land Bank.

Leo Robinson, of Elyria, a Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, will get the house at 4121 Harwood Road that was provided by the Cuyahoga Land Bank and renovated by a small army of volunteers this year. Robinson will pay 50 percent of the home’s appraised value.

The project for Robinson and his two children involved building a new garage, laundry, second-floor addition and bath, and a basement rec room with a full bathroom.

According to Purple Heart Homes, Robinson has limited use of his hands and legs, and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury as a result of his combat deployments. He uses a therapy dog, “Kota,” for support during seizures and stress attacks.

The celebration honoring more than 200 volunteers, donors, suppliers and supporters of the project will include a lunch at 11 a.m. at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 4386 Mayfield Road, in South Euclid. Keynote speaker for the event is retired Marine Maj. Gen. David Richwine. The public can attend the luncheon by calling in advance, (216) 313-3032.

“This is about the veteran and the community and how they come together,” said Howard Goldberg, Purple Heart Homes chief real estate officer. “No one deserves a safe, well-built home to live in, more than those who volunteered to protect our way of life.”

Goldberg said that some of the major contributors to the project in financial and material support include the Home Depot Foundation, Electrical Contractors Association, the John G. Johnson Construction Co., a local carpenters’ fund, plus the efforts of hundreds of volunteers and donors.

A third Purple Heart Homes project is planned for South Euclid and Goldberg said persons interested in supporting that effort and the group’s stated mission to “improving veterans’ lives one home at a time,” can call the number listed above.

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Sedlack Building Redevelopment | Scranton Road Historic Renovation – 2015.12.1

Nl 12.2

Posted in 2015.12.1, Newsletter

comments Congress will provide even more money to prevent foreclosure and blight, as spending details keep on coming (Cleveland.com)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — It’s Christmastime in Washington, which means two things. First, Congress is waiting until the end of the year, which is now a tradition, to approve must-pass bills that will keep the government functioning.

Second, there are satchels full of goodies.

There’s money from Washington for the Great Lakes, for struggling Ohio homeowners and blighted neighborhoods, for NASA, for security at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Lawmakers are playing Santa. They appear to outnumber the credit-card-watching Grinches who loathe big government spending or are unhappy that their attempts to push back White House rules or Democratic policies — on the environment, worker rights, abortion, financial regulation, refugee restrictions —  got tossed out in negotiations.

So for Ohio and Ohioans, courtesy of Ohio’s congressional delegation and their colleagues in the Capitol, here are some of the dozens of provisions in the year-end, $1.1 trillion spending bill and a related $650 billion tax package, unveiled Tuesday night and Wednesday and awaiting votes over the next week.

HELP TO PREVENT BLIGHTED AND FORECLOSED HOUSING

Congress is giving another $2 billion to the federal Hardest Hit Fund, which used much of its initial $7.6 billion to help homeowners who couldn’t keep up mortgage payments. The program has been used in 18 states, including Ohio and Michigan, hit hardest by the mortgage foreclosure crisis. Lawmakers agreed in principle Wednesday afternoon on providing the additional $2 billion.

The foreclosure crisis may be over, but the remnants —  declining home values and struggling homeowners who in some cases owe more than their homes are worth — remain. About 25,000 Ohio homeowners have benefited already, although delays in getting them help prompted a scathing review in October from a federal inspector general.

Some Hardest Hit Fund money has also gone for demolition of blighted property, much of it abandoned because of debt or foreclosure. The new money can be used for that as well, although details must be worked out, according to U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office. Brown worked on this with Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. Groups including the Thriving Communities Institute of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy have pushed for demolition money, saying that by tearing down eyesore homes and creating green spaces, they and others can make neighborhoods more appealing and prepare them for redevelopment.

GREAT LAKES

In addition to providing $300 million to fund Great Lakes Restoration Initiative environmental cleanups and efforts to fight algal blooms, the spending billincludes language to keep the federal government from dumping sediment from the Cuyahoga River into Lake Erie without the state of Ohio’s approval. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has repeatedly tried to save money by putting the material in the lake instead of an onshore disposal facility, even though the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency says the material contains too many toxins to safely go in the lake.

Rep. Dave Joyce, a Russell Township Republican, says this will “make sure the Great Lakes remain an environmental and economic powerhouse for Northeast Ohio.” (See our separate story.)

NASA’S GLENN RESEARCH CENTER

The Cleveland center specializes in propulsion and aeronautics, and its work on solar-powered propulsion, considered a key technology for future space flight, appeared to be in jeopardy. That’s because powerful members of the Senate Appropriations Committee — members who have their own NASA centers in their states — had other priorities. They wanted to transfer money, potentially tens of millions of dollars, from accounts that pay for work the Glenn center and use it for a Maryland-based project that would extend the usefulness of communications and observational satellites. But by increasing NASA’s overall budget, Congress boosted the amount of money for aeronautics and space technology, taking care of all the competing centers. (See our separate story.)

CONVENTION SECURITY

The spending bill will provide $50 million for Cleveland to offset the city’s cost of providing security for the 2016 Republican National Convention. Philadelphia also will receive $50 million to pay for security for next year’s Democratic National Convention. These amounts are the same as the money provided to other host cities for recent political conventions, including the 2012 RNC in Tampa, Florida and the 2012 DNC in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“Ensuring the safety of convention goers and the Cleveland community is a critical component of the convention planning process,” Portman, a Republican, said. (See our separate story.)

TAX CREDITS FOR DEVELOPERS

A companion tax bill will extend New Markets Tax Credits for five more years. These provide incentives for development in low-income areas and have helped spur millions in development projects in Ohio’s cities. “Efforts like these build up our state and grow our economy,” said Brown, a Democrat.

MILITARY ARMS TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT IN NORTHERN OHIO

The spending bill includes $9.4 million to upgrade the indoor firing range facility at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station. And it has $371 million to support research and development and procurement of 81 Stryker vehicles – tank-like military vehicles — with an upgraded weapon system, with some of the work being done at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima, Ohio.

“At a time when the United States faces increasing dangers, it is critically important that we provide our military with the resources and training necessary to fulfill a range of national security missions, from degrading and destroying Islamic extremism to deterring Russian aggression against our allies in Europe, to supporting the sovereignty of U.S. allies in the South China Sea,” said Portman.

EVEN MORE HOUSING HELP

The tax bill also extends for another year a law shielding homeowners from taxes on the value of debt relief if a lender forgives that debt. Before the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 was passed and extended, homeowners who had trouble paying their mortgages and got lenders to forgive some of their debt had to treat the debt relief as if were extra income. This meant they had to pay taxes on the amount of debt forgiven.

Additionally, the tax package will permanently lock in the minimum value of a tax incentive offered to developers who build housing for low-income families, Brown said. The Low Income Housing Tax Credit will offer a credit worth at least 9 percent of the development costs.

“The permanent fix at 9 percent of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit will allow nonprofit and developers of affordable housing to leverage additional private capital,” said a statement from Hal Keller, president of the Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing. “The additional private sector investment will close funding gaps and keep rents low.”

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Request for Qualifications – Communications

The Cuyahoga Land Bank will be accepting responses to the following RFQ for communications services until January 15, 2016.

Click here to review the RFQ.

Center for Community Progress – The Professionals

2013 Report by Dennis Keating

2011 Report by Dennis Keating

Posted in Uncategorized

Did you know?

This past summer the Cuyahoga Land Bank had the opportunity to host a student intern through the Cleveland Foundation Summer Internship Program.  Staff member Lilah Zautner, Manager of Special Projects and Land Land Bank Staff Reuse, has shared the success of the program in the attached video.  The program offers college and graduate students the opportunity to work for eleven weeks at a Cleveland-area nonprofit organization or governmental agency.  Joyce Pan Huang joined the staff at the Cuyahoga Land Bank and focused on a comprehensive research project of vacant and abandoned industrial and commercial properties in the City of Cleveland. The work that Joyce completed is already contributing to the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s work to improve the City of Cleveland!

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Posted in 2015.11.2, Didja Know?

West Creek Conservancy Helps Protect Donated Property

In the spring of 2014, Deborah (Gries) Zawislan contacted Tinker’s Creek Watershed Partners (TCWP) about a property that her family inherited with a vision of transforming it into a protected greenspace, “Lorry’s Woods,” in honor of their mother. The Gries property consisted of 3.65 acres on Bear Creek, a tributary creek that begins in Highland Hills and meets the mLand Bank Staff ain stream of Tinker’s Creek, which is the largest tributary of the Cuyahoga River, within the Bedford Reservation.
At the time the Gries family inherited the property, it included their family home, a large cinder garage that was used by their father’s construction business, and two rental properties, all built by their father in the fifties and sixties. Unfortunately, the heating, electrical and septic systems were out of date, which posed a major barrier to selling any of the properties. “Donating the land is important to my brothers and me because we all have memories of growing up in the woods on the property,” said Deborah.

Babette Gowda, at TCWP began to work with Deborah to transform the property into a protected greenspace. Since TCWP does not hold land, they reached out to West Creek Conservancy and asked it to partner on the project.  Babette first reviewed the property through participating in an Ohio EPA assessment of Land Bank Staff the health of the stream, which concluded that the stream was in relatively good condition but did not have proper flood plain access because of the buildings on the property.

With the cooperation of the City of Bedford, the Cuyahoga Land Bank was asked to help bring the property back to its natural state. The Gries family donated the property to the Cuyahoga Land Bank which used Cuyahoga County Demolition Program Funds to remove the buildings. “This area does not have a lot of undeveloped water access so it’s really exciting to be a part of a project that brings back the beauty of the creek for everyone to enjoy,” said Gus Frangos, Cuyahoga Land Bank President and General Counsel. With the demolition complete, the Cuyahoga Land Bank has gifted the property to West Creek Conservancy, which will hold it in perpetuity as protected land, actively maintaining the portion visibleLand Bank Staff from the road. The Gries property is now a flourishing green space for the public to enjoy.

“This initiative is a prime example of partnerships at work to protect another great resource, Tinker’s Creek!” said Derek Schafer, Executive Director of West Creek Conservancy. “We are extremely grateful to the Gries Family, TCWP, and the City of Bedford for their support, and for the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s tremendous efforts and contribution to the project. Reclaiming this section of Tinker’s Creek was only possible because of the strong network of support and collaboration.”
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Posted in 2015.11.2, Newsletter

Destination Cleveland!

What do you have when over two hundred and fifty people assemble at the Wyndham Hotel representing county land banks throughout Ohio? It’s the annual Thriving Communities Institute‘s Ohio Land Bank ConferLand Bank Staff ence.
This year’s sessions highlighted many nuts-and-bolts issues and operations for land banks, as well as new topics dealing with the environment, public records, communications strategies, and the role of county land banks in repurposing vacant and abandoned commercial and industrial properties.
Adding to the excitement of this year’s conference was that Ohio now has over twenty five land banks ranging from the fully operational Lucas County Land Bank and Cuyahoga Land Bank, to smaller land banks that only have a few employees. Thriving Communities Institute, Executive Director James Rokakis, opened up the conference with a report on the importance of land banks in stabilizing our communities and highlighted Thriving Communities Institute’s work throughout Ohio.
The keynote speaker was Cuyahoga Land Bank Board Chairman and Ward 12 Cleveland Councilmen Anthony Brancatelli. The Councilman gave both uplifting examples of the progress and extraordinary accomplishments of county land banks as well as examples of very sobering realitiLand Bank Staff es involving safety, crime and community destabilization associated with vacant and abandoned properties.

The Cuyahoga Land Bank this year was again involved in several conferences. Cheryl Stephens, Director of Acquisitions and Development, provided a detailed A to Z clinic on acquisition, demolition and environmental practices. Stephens continues to be a leader in the land banking field.
Dennis Roberts, Director of Programs, spoke on property sales strategies and renovation. His department has facilitated the renovation of over 1,100 homes since 2009.

Sarah Norman, Records Manager and Jacqui Knettel, Executive Assistant, presented on the importance of records retention for land banks.  The discussion provided both an entertaining and in-depth analysis of records management and retention since all land banks are subject to the Sunshine Laws and public records statutes.
Gus Frangos, President and General Counsel, conducted a conference session for the smaller and recently incorporated land banks to give them a perspective on how to start a land bank.Land Bank Staff
According to Rokakis, “These conferences provide a great opportunity for large and small, experienced and less experienced land banks to get together, share notes and assist one another with best practices.”
The statewide conference is an important tool to drive policy to help address the vacant and abandoned properties through out the state.  The Cuyahoga Land Bank has served as a policy leader in addressing these issues. We hope to see everyone at next year’s statewide conference that will be held in Columbus, Ohio.
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Posted in 2015.11.2, Newsletter

Ohio Land Bank Conference | West Creek Land Conservancy – 2015.11.2

NL 11.2.15

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Posted in 2015.11.2, Newsletter

COUNTY DEMOLITION PROGRAM BEGINS FIRST MAJOR COMMERCIAL DEMOLITION PROJECTS

On November 23, 2015, the Cuyahoga Land Bank began the first major commercial demolition utilizing County Demolition Program funds at 3393 Warrensville Center Road in Shaker Heights.  The buildings had been shuttered for many years and are now owned by the City of Shaker Heights.  The cleared land will serve as a site for future commercial development.

 

“In the last several years, demolition funds have been reserved primarily for abandoned and decayed residential structures,” explained Gus Frangos, President of the Cuyahoga Land Bank.  “Because of the large cost generally associated with commercial demolition, abandoned structures like this have often festered for decades. Access to County Demolition Program funds is making it possible to take on more major commercial demolition and pave the way for redevelopment.”

 

In spring of 2015, County Executive Armond Budish and the County Council jump‐started the County Demolition Program by establishing application guidelines and standards for cities throughout the County. Soon after, the County’s $50 million dollar blight elimination program began accepting applications for demolition of vacant and abandoned buildings. Known as the County Demolition Program, it is the first major funding source to authorize demolition of larger commercial buildings.

 

The County Demolition Program authorizes up to $100,000 for commercial demolition projects.  In addition to sheer size as a contributing factor, many large commercial buildings have significant environmental problems that increase demolition costs and make these projects more challenging to take on.

 

“Mayors across the County have been very enthusiastic about the County Council and Administration’s commitment to this program,” said Frangos.  “We are excited to have the opportunity to help cities accomplish their commercial demolition and redevelopment goals by administering the Program.”

 

“This is a huge benefit to communities struggling with a strategy to demolish expensive and blighted commercial buildings,” said James Rokakis, Executive Director of Thriving Communities Institute in Cleveland, Ohio.

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East Cleveland duplex now permanent housing for veterans (Freshwater Cleveland)

While social media bloomed with kind words for veterans last week, a project that truly gives back to those who have sacrificed so much was quietly taking shape in a duplex in East Cleveland.

Previously vacant, the house is now home to three veterans who were experiencing homelessness and utilizing the Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry (LMM) Men’s Shelter, 2100 Lakeside Ave.

This is the pilot project for the Veterans’ Affordable Housing Initiative, a collaboration between the Cuyahoga Land Bank (CLB) and LLM. While another non-veteran shelter client is also living in the duplex, it has six bedrooms. Hence LMM is in the process of placing two more vets.

“We really try to have the application and criteria as open as they can be,” says Michael Sering, LMM’s vice president of housing and shelter. “We didn’t want to create barriers for someone’s housing. There are enough barriers in the community.” Prospective applicants must be able to live independently, get along with roommates and pay 30 percent of their income towards monthly rent, but no less than $325. All utilities are included.

“We have to break even on it financially,” says Sering of the minimum rent payment. “There is no government subsidy or anything.”

The open slots will be filled by eligible veterans that are from the 2100 Shelter population or via a referral from the Cuyahoga County Veterans Service Commission (VSC), but if there is a vacancy and another appropriate applicant waiting, he will be offered residence.

The housing is permanent, which Sering notes as the most impactful point of the initiative.

“Everyone wants people in permanent housing – not in a shelter. Ultimately that’s the goal,” he says. “They pay rent and live here indefinitely. We imagine some people might move on,” he adds, citing an increase in income or other housing opportunities presenting themselves. And if not, “this is definitely permanent housing.”

Located within walking distance of a grocery, pharmacy and two bus lines, the duplex features two separate residences, approximately 1,300 square feet each. Each side has its own front and back doors, kitchen, living and dining rooms, basement and three bedrooms.

The land bank identified the property and prepared it for title transfer to the LMM as a donation. The paperwork was completed in September; and the men, who are in their 50s and 60s, moved in just a few weeks ago.

So far things are going along well.

“Two of the guys had already known each other and were referred together,” says Sering. “They’re good friends. They’re glad to be moving in together. They’re a support network for each other; they had that built in. The other two guys are off to a good start.”

While LMM will be sending along a staffer once a month to check in and make sure the men’s needs are met and that they have access to services, that’s about it.

“This is not a rigorous case load,” says Sering, adding that counseling and monitoring will not be required. “These are people that just need affordable housing.”

As for the house, LMM spent $40,000 refurbishing the interior. King’s Sons 820, an organization that helps young people adopt trade skills, did the work.

“The house was in decent shape,” says Sering. “It’s brick and has a fairly new roof and windows, so most of work was on the interior. They painted everything and sanded the wood floors, which came out beautifully. They pretty much gutted the kitchen,” he adds.

Sering hopes that the East Cleveland house will prove to be a successful pilot for the initiative and an example for many more to come.

“The land bank has thousands of houses that they want to see go to a good use,” says Sering. “We have lots of homeless people and homeless vets that need housing.

“If this works as we think it should, the sky’s the limit on doing it over and over again.”

LMM is accepting household donations for this venture, including linens for six new mattress sets (four queen and two twin) and pillows that were donated byMattress Firm. Cleaning and paper supplies are also appreciated. Any duplicate items will be shared with other veterans moving out of the shelter. Contact Kelly Camlin, associate director of LMM’s Men’s Shelter, at 216-649-7718 ext. 480 for more information.

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NEON Veteran Housing Initiative

Earlier this year the Cuyahoga Land Bank and Northeast Ohio Neighborhood Health Services (NLand Bank Staff EON) collaborated and broke ground on a future home for veterans in Collinwood. The project is part of the NEON Healthy Communities Initiative that will offer safe, affordable and desirable living spaces for veterans and their families, while being located across from NEON’s Collinwood Health Center.  Once complete, the project will offer ten housing units to support veterans.

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Posted in 2015.11.1, Newsletter

HomeFront Veterans Program

The HomeFront Veterans Home Ownership Program is designed to help veterans achieve the dream Land Bank Staff of home ownership.  The Cuyahoga Land Bank is offering affordable options to those who are currently serving in or have served the United States Armed Forces. These homes are fully renovated.  Veterans interested in purchasing can visit our website for further details.

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Posted in 2015.11.1, Newsletter

Building a Home for Women Veterans

How does a person go from working over twenty years in the commercial construction industry to serving veteran women who mLand Bank Staff ay be rebounding from drug addiction, domestic violence, incarceration or homelessness?  Sheila Locatelli, CEO and Founder of Women of Hope, would say she never saw it coming.  But today, Sheila is 
renovating a vacant and abandoned Cuyahoga Land Bank house for four veteran women.  The home “Ariya’s House” is expected to be up and running in early 2016.    
When asked why she began Women of Hope, Sheila stated “It was a story of obedience to God and an openness to follow my heart.”  She simply saw a need and “with the help of God” began to take the necessary steps to proactively work to make a change. “I was floored,” Sheila commented, “by the statics of how many veteran women struggle with homelessness.” 
In 2007, Women of Hope was established.  The organization began fulfilling its mission of providing transitional housing and supportive services for homeless female veterans. They started by running 8-week workshops entitled “Strengthening the Inner Me” for women residing at the Veteran’s Administration (VA) Domiciliary.  Women of Hope recently met with women at the VA Domiciliary and shared the future opening of Ariya’s House.  The new opportunity brought hope to the women’s eyes.  The chance for the women to be a part of a supportive community and have a safe place to call home reminded Sheila of the priceless rewards found in the Women of Hope’s work.
Land Bank Staff Sheila Locatelli has exemplified a remarkable level of tenacity, vision and leadership in keeping Women of Hope active in the veteran community, while on the journey of renovating the organization’s first home.  Along with the help of her board, Sheila has led the charge in securing nearly $16,000 in material, labor and cash donations for Ariya’s House.  Similar to the stories of many starting a new organization, Sheila started the renovation of Ariya’s House while balancing her full-time job separate from Women of Hope.  “Sheila has stood determined to see Ariya House succeed to assist those women who have served our nation,” says Vatiesha Nyemba, Complance and Monitoring Manager at the Cuyahoga Land Bank. Vatiesha has worked with Women of Hope during the renovation process and the organization has exemplified its ability to effectively manage real estate and maintain a sustainable program of impact.
The Cuyahoga Land Bank is frequently collaborating with a variety of individuals and organizations to support community goals and better the lives of county residents.  This ranges from hearing from organizations in their beginning stages to assisting in the implementation of well-capitalized plans backed by local, state and federal agencies. 
Women ofLand Bank Staff  Hope has stood out as a small non-profit which is building its vision as an organization.  The Cuyahoga Land Bank is looking forward to its partnership with Women of Hope and the success of Ariya’s House in serving the needs of the veteran community. All things considered, Sheila believes that the hard work, fund raising, project managing, head (and heart) aches will be well worth it. All who meet and get to know this visionary leader will soon learn that she is willing to do what it takes to make the words “homeless” and “veteran” never be used in the same sentence.

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Posted in 2015.11.1, Newsletter

Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry Partnership to Serve Veterans

Three veterans will soon have a place to call home thanks to a new partnership between the Cuyahoga Land Bank and Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry (LMM). The Veterans’ Affordable Housing Initiative provides permanent affordable housing for homeless veterans living in Cuyahoga County, helping them achieve independence. The Cuyahoga Land Bank is committed to creating and furthering opportunities for veterans and actively seeks partnerships to address veteran’s housing issues. LMM’s Men’s Shelter at 2100 Lakeside serves 4,000 men annually with 600 of those being homeless veterans. The Veteran’s AffordableLand Bank Staff Housing Initiative is a result of these organizations combining their missions to provide assistance to homeless veterans, thousands of whom live in Cuyahoga County.
The first home completed as part of the Initiative is located in East Cleveland and can house up to six veterans. “This project is a win-win,” said East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton. “It provides an affordable permanent home to veterans that have sacrificed to serve our country and takes an old property and breathes new life into it at the same time. We are honored to have these veterans call East Cleveland home.”
After determining needed accommodations with the help of LMM, the Cuyahoga Land Bank identified the East Cleveland property, facilitated the transfer and hired King’s Sons 821, a local youth workforce development training program, as the general contractor who led the renovation construction. Thanks to generous support from several LMM donors, LMM was able to purchase the renovated property with a favorable financing plan from the Cuyahoga Land Bank. LandLand Bank Staff Bank Staff “Everyone deserves a safe, stable place to call home,” said Gus Frangos, President and General Counsel, Cuyahoga County Land Bank. “The Veterans’ Affordable Housing Initiative will get our homeless veterans into homes and help them regain their independence.”
The duplex has six bedrooms, giving each veteran a private space; and features a shared kitchen and living space on each side where the veterans can gather together. LMM’s Men’s Shelter coordinates the tenant screening, selection and placement while LMM’s Social Enterprise program will act as landlord and will coordinate ongoing tenant check-in and support services as-needed.
Land Bank Staff “LMM is committed to addressing long-standing problems with innovative solutions and the veteran’s housing partnership is a good example,” said Andrew Genszler, LMM President and Chief Executive Officer and a Navy chaplain. “Our homeless veterans have sacrificed much in service to our country and this partnership is just onLand Bank Staff e way that we can honor and serve these men; supporting them on a path to self-sufficiency.”
LMM is accepting donations of housewarming gifts, such as bedding, towels and other small household items, so that the veterans can feel at home. Anyone who would like to make a donation should contact Kelly Camlin, Associate Director of the Men’s Shelter, at (216) 649-7718 x480.
Both organizations are hopeful that the success of the East Cleveland home will lead to more homes being renovated and made available to veterans through the Initiative.

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Posted in 2015.11.1, Newsletter

LLM Veterans Housing – Women of Hope – Veterans Day Feature

NL Veterans

Posted in 2015.11.1, Newsletter, Veterans Day Feature

County establishing land bank (Bycarus Telegraph)

BUCYRUS – Depending on the size of the structure, it  takes only a day or two to tear down a house, a lot less time than it took to build it.

But in reality, property demolitions virtually never happen that quickly. For one, a single demolition can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 for just a modest house, and arriving at who’s going to foot the bill often takes some negotiation. Getting to the point where demolition becomes the agreed-upon best option for a vacant or derelict property can require a far lengthier process.

The last full U.S. Census Bureau count, conducted in 2010, found 2,000 vacant properties scattered around Crawford County, although the great majority are languishing in its two largest municipalities, Bucyrus and Galion. Arriving at a specific number in either city is challenging. Galion Mayor Tom O’Leary estimated this week that there are probably anywhere from 500 to 800 abandoned properties in his city.

County auditor Joan Wolfe said there are 1,544 tax-delinquent properties in the county, or 4.5 percent of the total of 33,856 parcels.

“One way to measure the vacancy rate is to look at all the un-mown lawns,” he said.

“Several of our wards, especially Ward 1, have many derelict and decaying properties,” Bucyrus Mayor Jeff Reser said. “Some are being fixed up, but many will have to be town down. We are trying to put additional funds in the 2016 budget to tear down blighted homes, but funds are tight and we still won’t be able to make a huge dent in the problem for years at the current rate of demolition.”

Crawford County, of course, is not alone in confronting this problem, nor is it a new problem. The stepped-up war against illegal drugs is resulting in an increasing number of vacant houses, which often become tax-delinquent the longer they stay empty, but it was the foreclosure crisis triggering the Great Recession of 2008 that really changed the urban landscape.

It didn’t take long, however, for at least one response to the problem of vacant properties to get off the ground. In Ohio, the effort began in Cuyahoga County, which has 22,000 vacant properties on its tax rolls (Detroit, meanwhile, has twice as many). The state legislature passed a county land bank statute in 2009, and since then about two dozen counties have established land banks as a means of getting a handle on this situation.

Land banks are quasi-governmental corporations with the authority to take over vacant properties that have slipped into tax delinquency. Until this past September, Ohio only allowed them in counties with populations of at least 60,000. Now all counties are free to create a land bank, and Crawford County, with a population of 42,480, is early in the process of doing just that.

“There can be economy-of-scale issues. In other words, do we have enough of these properties? One way to overcome that is working with other land banks. I’m looking into that to make this more economical,” county Prosecutor Matt Crall said.

“The biggest obstacle is how fast we want to push forward and look for funding. If we can apply for grants, we will. If we sell a vacant property, that’s money to fund the program,” commissioner Steve Reinhard said.

“We’ll start with Gary’s seed money, and get the resolutions we need. We’re all in agreement to get this started.”

Less grant money

Grants, however, may not be the resource they once were. Commissioner Doug Weisenauer said the federal Community Development Block Grant program brought just $16,000 to the county last year.

“The CDBG solution is a partial one at best. It’s underwhelming with how much you get,” Galion’s O’Leary said. “I worry about knocking down five houses when there are 500 that need to come down. There’s a thimble-full of resources and a huge need.”

“An odd number is good because that way you won’t have a tie vote,” observed Crall, who added that finding community leaders with real estate and probably banking experience, too, will also be necessary.

“Whoever is selected as the director and board of this new entity will be the key. It has to be someone with vision, experience and dedication to the local area. If it is someone who is just satisfied with tearing down 10 houses a year, it will never reach its full potential and never be self-sustaining,” Bucyrus Law Director Rob Ratliff said.

Choosing which properties to take over and which structures to demolish isn’t likely to present too great a challenge; residents of every municipality in the county have no trouble identifying eyesores they’d like to see removed. But after the land bank takes control of a parcel, it could be confronted by a whole host of thorny issues that go to the heart of what constitutes a community.

“Selling the vacant residential properties won’t result in much profit; usually it will be done at a loss. But homeowners should begin to see an immediate escalation in their property values. That will in turn make the cleared lots worth more, and it becomes a happy, upward spiral on housing,” Ratliff said.

“Sometimes the financial equation may not make sense for the community. I hope this process helps communities take properties and make them economically feasible. I know that’s the overall goal,” Crall said.

O’Leary said he’s glad the county is taking the lead on creating a land bank, but added that “philosophical issues” will be a given once the derelict buildings start coming down.

“If you do it as inexpensively as possible, you get low-end results. If you lower the cost of building a home in a community, there are some nice houses down there on Rogers Street (in Bucyrus) that are probably going to be plagued by this. And different generations look at this differently. Thirtysomethings who want to add vibrancy to a community may look at this differently from someone who is just looking to preserve the community,” he said.

He also said his city of Galion may be interested in keeping rather than selling some of these properties once the land bank takes them over.

“You sit there with a lot from 1857 and it’s too small to build anything on,” he said. But mixing and matching parcels has its own problems.

“You could put more work into administration to split lots rather than just sell them,” county Auditor Wolfe said.

“We have a lot of lots that are built on top of one another. Separation is good for neighborhood stabilization, there are fewer fights and squabbles,” John Rostash, code enforcement officer for the city of Bucyrus, said.

“But our neighborhoods are very dynamic and each one is different. If you’re going to do this, you need to do it right for our communities. It needs to be taken on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

“It’s not normally designed to be fast and there are good reasons for that. Someone’s right to property is in the U.S. Constitution. It shouldn’t be easy for the government to take away your property,” he said.

If Crawford County’s land bank allows homeowners to retain the value in their homes, however, it will be worth it, the prosecutor said.

“The key to success and sustainability of the land bank will be packaging land for future development,” Ratliff said.

“Whether as developer, partner in the development, or just as a facilitator, this is where the land bank can generate ongoing income and sustain itself. This is also where we can see economic growth for the entire county.”

“We can start with the blighted properties and then work from there, start small,” county Treasurer Cole said. “It’s the beginning of a long road.”

Read it from the source.

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Posted in Land Bank Coverage

Lessons From Cuyahoga County On Land Banking (WESA)

 

Since land bank legislation was adopted in 2009, Cuyahoga County has been working to create an effective process to deal with abandoned and vacant properties. Six years later, they’re taking in at least 100 properties every month while gradually eliminating blight in the region.  We’ll ask Cuyahoga County Land Bank President and General Counsel Gus Frangos how they’ve developed their model and what improvements could be adopted in the Pittsburgh area.

Listen to Gus’s interview from the source.

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Posted in Land Bank Coverage

Cuyahoga Land Bank

The mission of the Cuyahoga Land Bank is to strategically acquire properties, return them to productive use, reduce blight, increase property values, support community goals and improve the quality of life for county residents.

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