Did you Know?: Cuyahoga Land Bank Side Yard Program Featured on Newsnet 5

The Cuyahoga Land Bank’s Side Yard Program received great press coverage last week thanks to Newsnet 5! A special thanks to Cleveland residents Jim and Bonnie Walker for showing all of us that it is possible to turn a liability like a vacant and abandoned property into a beautiful asset  for the entire neighborhood! “It adds value to their home. It also beautifies the neighborhood and then it puts vacant properties back on the tax rolls, which is a win-win situation” said Lilah Zautner, Manager of Special Projects and Vacant Land Reuse at the Cuyahoga Land Bank who was also interviewed for the story.  If you are interested in the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s Side Yard Program, visit our Side Yard Program page on our website, send us an email or call 216-698-8853.  Check out the entire story clip here from Newsnet 5′s website!

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Posted in 2014.7.1, Didja Know?, Newsletter

Cuyahoga Land Bank Featured in Rooms to Let Cleveland

Even a vacant home can be turned into an artist’s canvas! This is exactly what happened in the Warszawa District in Slavic Village.  Painters, architects, and neighborhood children collaborated to create for Rooms to Let Cleveland, an artwork exhibition and block party to showcase three vacant homes which happened to be owned by the Cuyahoga Land Bank. 
Two of the homes will be renovated and the third is scheduled for demolition.  The purpose of the event was to bring people together for a free, memorable afternoon of art and to show beauty in the blight.  The artists were found near their work, speaking to the public about what inspires them.
Scott Pickering, curator of the “Boing BPAPER_PLASTICoing House”, located at 6801 Forman Avenue, worked fruitfully for two weeks leading up to the exhibition. A husband and wife duo of Steven Intermill and Jillian Slane, created an upstairs room titled “Slavic Village Gnostic Temple.”  The room was dark with swirling lights and music for meditation.  Jeff Chiplis, another artist, created a different atmosphere in another room out of neon lights.
One home,
6626 Forman Avenue was distinguished by its artistic exterior – red shrink wrap titled “Existing to Remain”, by Maker Design Studio partners Westleigh Harper, Michael Horton and Harold DeBoe. The interior was constructed by associates from Bialosky + Partners Architects, which represented, according to Hallie Del Villan, the stages of grief as inspiration.  Other artists included Allison Lukacsy and her installation, “Paper/Plastic” which featured a beach scene entirely constructed from plastic, paper bags and thousands of plastic cigar tips collected on Cleveland’s beaches which represented our society’s impact on the environment.
The last home, “Extopos: Out of Place” at 6818 Fleet Avenue.  included inspirational messages on the stairs along with recycled materials woven together on the wall.  Furniture dangled from the ceiling and walls in a piece by Julie Schenkelberg, an artist currently living in New York City but who calls Cleveland home.  With a carpenter to help guide her materials into the perfect combination, Schenkelberg worked to unveil the beauty of each object.  “I take domestic objects and dissect them to tell a story,” said Schenkelberg. You can check out all of the photos of the
Rooms to Let Cleveland art installations here.

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Posted in 2014.7.1, Newsletter

Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries Celebrates New Urban Garden

On a bright, beautiful Saturday summer morning, staff and residents of Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries (“LMM”) came together with the Cuyahoga Land Bank, Campus District, Inc. and the Kent State University’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative to put into reality the vision that was set in motion two years earlier between the Cuyahoga Land Bank and LMM.
LMM provides quality transitional housing for men including armed forces veterans at 2100 Lakeside Avenue.  Over two years ago, LMM and the Cuyahoga Land Bank began discussing ways in which the vacant abandoned building next to LMM’s facility could be acquired and used for an urban garden for the residents.  After dealing with a number of lengthy and complicated title issues, the property was finally donated to the Cuyahoga Land Bank.  The Cuyahoga Land Bank demolished the blighted building to create garden opportunities for LMM’s residents.
LMM enlisted the services of the Kent State University’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, headed by Terry Schwarz, who managed a number of students and put together an incredible design for the gardens. 
Group_PhotoSchwarz said that this project provided the Kent State students with an experience in a real time setting, and that the mission of LMM made the effort that much more rewarding.
LMM’s Vice President of Housing & Shelter Mike Sering greeted the Saturday morning crowd and thanked them for volunteering their time and efforts to make the beautiful garden a reality for the LMM residents.  LMM residents prepared and worked the site weeks in advance of the ground breaking.  Sering also thanked the Cuyahoga Land Bank for acquiring the property and demolishing it for LMM.  “We could not have done it without the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s expertise and sticking with us on this project.”
LMM is located within the Campus District, whose Executive Director is Bobbi Reichtell – also a Board member of the Cuyahoga Land Bank.  Reichtell worked alongside the residents of LMM throughout the day and said, “I am proud to be a member of the Land Bank Board because of projects just like this, which help people.”
Cuyahoga Land Bank President and General Counsel Gus Frangos also attended with his daughter Joy and made remarks to the crowd congratulating them for their success and their passion for helping transition residents into independent living.  “This was one of our first collaborations with a social service agency.  It is very gratifying to see our first collaboration become a reality.”

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Posted in 2014.7.1, Newsletter

LMM Celebrates Urban Garden | Rooms To Let CLE – Cuyahoga Land Bank News – 2014.7.1


Posted in 2014.7.1, Newsletter

Jefferson County Commissioners Gives Loan To Land Bank (Columbus CEO)

Jefferson County commissioners gave the county land bank a loan on Wednesday to allow the fledgling organization pay bills until permanent funding arrives in the coming months.

A county land bank was created by state law for Cuyahoga County in 2008. The law was amended in 2010 for 43 other counties.

The land bank will demolish dilapidated structures throughout the county and allow property titles to be cleared of liens. Under the land bank, property and houses can be more easily transferred to a responsible property owner. Banks that have foreclosed on properties can donate the properties to the land bank.

The county will take 5 percent of the delinquent tax proceeds to fund the land bank. School districts supported the measure, even though it means the districts will receive less in proceeds from delinquent tax sales of properties.

The land bank will get about $30,000 in delinquent tax foreclosure money through the end of the year. said Domenick Mucci, Jefferson County Regional Planning Commission director. Mucci said the land bank will get about $125,000 to $160,000 a year through the delinquent tax fund.

The county also is eligible for $500,000 in a state grant. The grant application is due by Aug. 29.

County Commissioner David Maple, who sits on the land bank board, said several areas of the county, including Steubenville, Toronto, Wintersville, Mingo Junction and Knox Township, have been identified to get funding for demolitions once the state grant is received.

County Commissioner Thomas Graham said the targeted areas can be altered once the grant is received.

Mucci said the land bank will reimburse the commissioners for the $5,000 in start-up money once permanent funding is received.

Commissioners also agreed to pay the regional planning commission $1,500 a month for administering the land bank.

Maple, Graham, county Treasurer Raymond Agresta, Evan Scurti, county port authority economic development director, and Chris Petrossi, Steubenville Urban Projects director, are the members of the land bank board.

Also, the commissioners approved setting aside funds as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s funding of the Crestview-Belvedere sewage project.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture provided the county $5,884,000 in loans, with a 2.75 percent interest rate, and $4,979,000 in grants, for the $11 million sewer project.

The federal agency required the county to annually set aside $82,461 in money that can be used to pay for the purchase of equipment for the water and sewer department. The county also has to set aside 10 percent of the annual debt of the project or $25,164 until the amount of money equals one year of debt payment.

The set aside of money will continue until the 30-year bond is paid off.

Read it from the source.

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Hardest Hit Funds demolition policy change on track to become a boon for distressed communities (Community Progress)

In February 2010, President Obama unveiled the Hardest Hit Fund, a United States Treasury program to use Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) repayments to provide targeted aid to families in states hit hard by the economic and housing market downturn. In total, the Treasury provided $7.6 billion in assistance to 18 states and the District of Columbia, selected on the basis of either high unemployment or steep home price declines. The program was designed to help people at risk of foreclosure with measures such as mortgage payment assistance, principal reduction, or support transitioning into more affordable homes.

By the end of 2011, however, public officials in a number of the states that had received HHF money – most notably Michigan and Ohio – were concerned that they were facing perhaps an even more urgent problem.

Thousands of houses were being abandoned in those states’ cities, pushing down the value of neighboring properties, destabilizing neighborhoods, and indirectly exacerbating the very problem that HHF was trying to deal with: houses going into foreclosure and families losing their homes. Jim Rokakis, Executive Director of the Thriving Communities Institute in Cleveland and former Cuyahoga County Treasurer; and Dan Kildee, then Executive Director of the Center for Community Progress and now Member of Congress for Michigan’s 5th District (and former Genesee County Treasurer), along with others, began to explore ways to raise more funding for demolitions in hard-hit cities like Cleveland, Flint or Detroit.

“We had to make the case for internalizing the externalities of blight and vacancy,” said Kildee. “We had to prove to Treasury that abolishing vacant structures that will not be repurposed will reduce foreclosure from abandonment and that this is, in fact, primary prevention of foreclosures.”

These advocates found a responsive ear at the Treasury Department, where key officials like Don Graves and David Dworkin had deep roots in those same cities. During 2012, in parallel with efforts to promote federal legislation – which proved unsuccessful – Treasury staff began to explore whether it might be possible to authorize demolition of derelict properties under the legal constraints of the TARP legislation.

Their efforts were supported by a growing body of research showing not only that abandoned properties have a significant, measurable effect on property values, but that demolition of those properties, under appropriate circumstances, can help reverse the damage. This research was critical in enabling the Treasury Department to demonstrate that demolition could have an impact on foreclosures.

By spring 2013, the Treasury Department was ready to make the change. Treasury staff had been in ongoing contact with officials in Michigan and Ohio, and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority started the ball rolling in April by making a formal request to the Treasury to use $100 million of the state’s HHF money for demolition. Treasury moved quickly, and the request was approved in late May. Ohio followed suit soon thereafter, receiving approval to spend $60 million of its HHF money for demolition. Since then, Treasury has approved similar requests from Indiana ($75 million) and Illinois ($30 million).

The Michigan State Housing Development Authority decided to allocate all of its demolition funds to five particularly hard-hit cities – Detroit, Flint, Pontiac, Grand Rapids and Saginaw. Each city was then required to submit a plan showing how their demolition strategy would strengthen their communities and reduce the risk of foreclosures, and the program was officially launched in September 2013.

Ohio officials decided to implement the program using the state’s network of county land bank authorities. They invited proposals from land banks through a competitive process that required each applicant to submit a plan, showing how demolition would be targeted as “part of a larger, comprehensive strategy to stabilize home values and prevent foreclosure.” Proposals for an initial funding round of $50 million were invited in January 2014, allocations announced by the end of February, and funding agreements executed at the end of March. A second round of $10 million will take place this summer. Indiana exannounced its first funding awards in late May 2014, while Illinois’ program is just getting under way.

The rapid development and ramp-up of this program reflects not only the general sense of urgency that people in Michigan, Ohio and elsewhere feel about the impact of derelict properties, but also the requirements of the HHF program, under which all money given to the states must be spent by the end of 2017. That is three and a half years away, but closer than it may seem. One of the conditions set by Treasury to make the blight elimination program conform to the TARP legislation is that the entity doing the demolition must own the property before they knock it down. While this is not a problem for land banks like the Genesee County Land Bank Authority which already has a large inventory of vacant properties, land banks that need to start acquiring properties from scratch will need all the time they can get.

The program is just getting off the ground – the first properties in Michigan are being demolished, while Ohio’s land banks are not far behind. To date, implementation of the program has brought successes but also challenges. Some land banks have found the program structure, under which they do not receive up-front funds, but instead are reimbursed by the state as demolitions take place, to be a challenge, as it required them to secure additional financing. In Flint, Genesee County agreed to provide short-term debt financing for the program, while in Detroit, the land bank was able to negotiate a $6 million revolving line of credit.

There are still some question marks to be sorted out. The requirement that a lien be placed on each property for the demolition cost is still being fine-tuned, including the question of whether the liens can be released when an end user is found for the property within the three-year lien period; the level of historic preservation review for properties in historic districts also needs clarification.

Overall, though, the program seems on track to become a major boon for distressed communities. A particularly valuable feature of the program is that allowable costs include site greening – so that the vacant lot is a community asset rather than a potential nuisance itself – and site maintenance for three years; as Jim Rokakis says, this “has gotten a conversation started about beautification and green reuse options.”

In Detroit, the scale of the program has spurred a level of interagency cooperation that did not previously exist, leading in turn to greater efficiency in the demolition process, as well as stronger demolition and environmental standards. In Ohio, the Lucas County Land Bank is partnering with the city of Toledo to do the demolitions in-house, which they estimate will reduce costs by around 20%.  The Land Bank also plans to use part of the administrative money that comes with the program to conduct a parcel condition survey to help better target future blight elimination efforts.

Demolition alone is not the solution to urban blight or foreclosure, but it can make a major contribution to combating blight. The way in which the Treasury Department adapted the Hardest Hit program to this need, the ways Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois have taken advantage of the opportunity to create thoughtful state-level programs to fund demolition, and the ways in which land banks and other entities in those states have designed and implemented their programs shows that public agencies can respond creatively – and speedily – to address a need.

Read it from the source.

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Subprime payback continues as Citigroup is hit with $7 billion payout (Cleveland.com)

A decade after subprime mortgages tore through neighborhoods in Greater Cleveland and nationwide, another powerhouse bank is paying billions to settle with the government.

Citigroup will pay $7 billion to settle the Justice Department’s investigation into the bank’s history of approving subprime mortgages.

The agreement was announced this morning, weeks after Justice Department vowed to sue the nation’s third-largest bank if a settlement wasn’t reached. Citi was one of the largest originators of subprime loans in Northeast Ohio.

Citigroup will provide $2.5 billion for consumer relief, including reducing principal amounts for some homeowners, and financing for construction and preservation of affordable housing, by the end of 2018. Details about how homeowners can tap into that $2.5 billion should be announced soon.

Citi will also make a $4 billion civil monetary payment to the Justice Department and $500 million in compensatory payments to states and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Subprime mortgages were the single biggest cause of the financial crisis of 2008 because the practice of rubberstamping loan applications falsely pushed up home prices until the bubble burst, and banks and everyday investors started losing money as loans went bad.

While mortgages with slightly higher rates are appropriate for borrowers with lower credit ratings or lower down payments, many banks cashed in on the subprime phenomenon by approving ridiculous loans. Thousands of loans were originated nationwide to people with little or no income in some cases. In others, loans were approved for amounts that were double or triple the actual value of the home.

Banks were able to survive participating in the practice because they made money from fees to originate the loans but generally sold the loans to investors before the loans went bad.

The financial crisis ultimately claimed the jobs of 9 million people nationwide, while 4.3 million homes were foreclosed on from 2008 to 2012. People saving for retirement lost half of their wealth in 18 months.

Locally, two of Cleveland’s four largest banks, National City and Ohio Savings/AmTrust, collapsed because of subprime loans. Nationwide, nearly 500 banks failed over a five-year period, after only 25 had failed in the previous seven years.

JPMorgan Chase reached a $13 billion settlement late last year over its role in subprime mortgages. Bank of America is reportedly in the process of negotiating a settlement as well.

Read it from the source.

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Cuyahoga County Land Bank creates neighborhood smiles (News Net 5)

Watching the two homes next door to their house on the west side’s Camden Avenue slowly deteriorate, Jim and Bonnie Walker could only wait out their regression. One home was purchased, slowly rebuilt, but the other fell into foreclosure according to Jim. Its interior filled with black mold forcing the city of Cleveland to declare it unfit for living, tabling it for demolition.

That day finally came.

“My wife called me one day and said they were tearing it down,” said Jim. “I couldn’t wait to jump on it and see if we could pick it up.”

“We wanted both houses because they both were in terrible shape,” said Bonnie Walker. “But, thanks to the Land Bank people, we couldn’t be happier that we got this and now it’s everything we wanted for a yard.”

The Side Lot Program is something Lilah Zautner, Manager of Special Projects and Land Reuse for the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corporation, does many things for home owners tired of neighboring, abandoned houses, helping to raise property values, and increasing the local county tax base for Cuyahoga county.

“It’s taking the home out and putting roots in,” said Zautner. “Home owners can purchase properties next to their home. They make play spaces, they add on additions to their home, they put in garages, they create beautiful yards. It adds value to their home. It also beautifies the neighborhood and then it puts vacant properties back on the tax rolls, which is a win-win situation.”

Bonnie is simply happy to have a yard, now completely fenced in to the tune of around $4,000 and Jim’s hard labor, but it’s much more safe now for quick-moving grandchildren.

“They just love it. And it’s safe since it’s all fenced in, it’s safe for them and I don’t have to worry about them. They can’t get out as easily. The grandkids are 10, 9, 8 and 4 so it’s great and now my daughters come over a lot more and they can put the kids out and we can relax and have a good time and talk while bonding without worrying about the kids yelling mommy,” laughed Bonnie.

Zautner said the program has been a huge success for many more families than just the Walkers.

“It really helps residents as their families expand while beautifying the neighborhood, restoring the urban edge, as these properties that can longer be saved are coming down making way for new development like the Walker’s property. We have many folks just like that. We have done 167 side yards so far, many of them are just like those folks. They have put in many hours of energy, love and money into their yards. It’s so great to see where a house just sat there degrading and now it’s just gorgeous with fresh grass, nice fencing, and beautiful landscaping. It’s awesome to see what people can create if you just give them more space,” said Zautner. “It increases the value of their home and the homes around them.”

“I actually had my taxes lowered because of the decreased value from both of the houses next to me before. They were in that bad of shape,” said Jim Walker.

The process took about six months for the Walkers to obtain the rights to the property. The final bill? “$100,” said Walker. “That’s it. The rest was all my money and my both of our labor.”

“If you’re interested in the Side Lot Program, or any of the programs that the Cuyahoga Land Bank offers you can go to www.cuyahogalandbank.org and the phone is 216-698-8853,” said Zautner.

Read and watch it from the source.

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Posted in Land Bank Coverage

Did You Know?: Cuyahoga Land Bank Receives Eagle Award from County Prosecutor

In May 2014,  the Cuyahoga Land Bank was recognized by Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty for the Land Bank’s leadership during the acquisition and demolition of convicted kidnapper and rapist Ariel Castro’s property on Cleveland’s west side last summer.  Despite the tragic circumstances, we were honored to be recipients of the Eagle Award as recognition of our strong partnership with the County Prosecutor. 


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Posted in 2014.6.2, Newsletter

The Cuyahoga Land Bank Goes International!

In May, 2014, a delegation of representatives appointed by the embassies of Mexico, Macedonia, Maldives, Turkey and Haiti visited the Cuyahoga Land Bank.  The purpose of their visit was to study economic development trends and housing development in the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis.
The delegation was hosted in the United States by the Cleveland Council on World Affairs.  Their travels took them to ClevelandWorld Affairs, Washington D.C., Seattle, Pensacola, New York and other stops as part of their investigation.
Of particular interest to the group was how the Cuyahoga Land Bank was working to improve housing development and the housing market generally in the Midwest where the foreclosure crisis hit the hardest. The Land Bank staff did not disappoint.  The delegation was treated to an array of successful housing projects and collaborations as well as the success of the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s deed-in-escrow program which has facilitated nearly 900 home renovations throughout the County.
Many of the delegation members were amazed to learn that properties could be acquired inexpensively from the Cuyahoga Land Bank, provided the buyer renovated and stabilized the home by complying with the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s renovation specifications, acquiring permits and placing the property back onto the tax rolls.
The group quickly discerned that these home renovations are what is necessary to stabilize urban areas.  In fact, many at the meeting indicated their interest in bringing international investors to Cuyahoga County possibly to undertake renovations, repair and investment in properties.
Although Land Bank President, Gus Frangos, cautioned that no properties could be transferred unless and until fully renovated, the Land Bank was nevertheless open to all qualified buyers, even international buyers.
Amanda McCoy who accompanied the group said after the meeting that the group was very engaged and found the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s presentation one of its most interesting meetings along the international trip.

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Posted in 2014.6.2, Newsletter

The Cuyahoga Land Bank Celebrates Five Years!

Land Bank Staff

 It was June 1, 2009 when a group of eight newly hired Land Bank staff sat in a semi-circle in the unfurnished new office space of the Cuyahoga Land Bank at 323 West Lakeside Avenue.  “You are the A-Team.  You are the pioneers,” said Cuyahoga Land Bank President and General Counsel Gus Frangos to his new staff at the Cuyahoga Land Bank.  This was to be an incredible experiment with a newly formed type of corporation with newly enacted statutory tools to address vacant, blighted and abandoned properties, and to work to stabilize the County’s residential tax base. Over 900 renovations later, 4,500 property acquisitions and 2,600 demolitions of blighted properties throughout the County, the Cuyahoga Land Bank has exceeded all expectations.  So much so, that it is viewed as the national model of land banking.
Concluding its fifth year in existence, the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s achievements and collaborations were recently published in its report entitled “
A Successful Stabilization Response for the Present, A Strategic Redevelopment Catalyst for the Future.”
The Cuyahoga Land Bank has worked with and assisted nearly every municipality within the County helping to make properties productive.  Additionally, the Cuyahoga Land Bank works with every major community development corporation throughout the County as well as numerous human services agencies ranging from veterans, refugees, transitional housing organizations to work force development, re-entry and disabilities organizations.
“What makes the Land Bank special is its highly skilled and professional staff,” said Bill Whitney, who was the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s Chief Operating Officer from the very start.  “It is also a great environment to work at. Our staff is highly motivated and takes ownership of the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s mission.”
Currently the Cuyahoga Land Bank employees administer the acquisition, maintenance and disposition of thousands of properties. “They took the mission of this new enterprise, became creative and made it into an exceptional example of efficient and effective community development,” said Frangos, referring to his original and now expanded staff.
Gina Johnson, one of the Land Bank’s originals, remembers that first day on the job.  “I remember being told that we were to be the ‘A-Team’ and we took that very seriously and we became the A-Team.  I am very proud to work with so many professional and friendly peers at the Cuyahoga Land Bank,”  said Johnson.
In the five years since opening up shop, the Cuyahoga Land Bank has become a leader in research, policy and legislative initiatives that have advanced land banking practice, tax foreclosure and land stabilization throughout the State of Ohio.  The Cuyahoga Land Bank’s directors are frequent speakers and panelists at national conventions and conferences dealing with land re-use and community development.

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Posted in 2014.6.2, About Us, Newsletter

The Cuyahoga Land Bank Celebrates Five Years | The Cuyahoga Land Bank Goes International – Cuyahoga Land Bank News – 2014.6.2


Posted in 2014.6.2, Newsletter

Mayfield Heights to demolish four properties (The News-Herald)

Mayfield Heights City Council has declared four properties nuisances and will move forward with demolitions this summer.
Council unanimously voted each property a nuisance and showed support for the demolitions at a special meeting of council July 2.
Properties that may be demolished include:
– 1104 Summit Drive —single-family dwelling and attached garage
– 1150 Commonwealth Ave. — single-family dwelling
– 1397 Worton Blvd. — detached garage
– 1563 Crestwood Road — single-family dwelling and detached garage
All properties are vacant, and the city will send a notice to property owners stating the property has been declared a nuisance by city council.
Within 30 days, the property owner can stop a demolition if the nuisance is abated, said Mayfield Heights Law Director Paul Murphy. If there is no response, the city can move forward with the demolition.
The city recently signed a contract with the Cuyahoga County Land Bank that will allow Mayfield Heights to submit a request to the land bank to demolish the properties, Mayor Anthony DiCicco said.
The land bank has 30 days to decide if they will accept the property and demolish it or reject the property and the city continues on with the demolition.
The Cuyahoga County Land Bank will make a decision on each property, not as a group.
If the city is responsible for all the demolitions, it will cost no more than $55,000, according to past resolutions.
DiCicco said the property owner will be responsible for the cost of the demolition, either to the land bank or the city. The property owner can pay for the demolition while it is happening or will be placed on the property tax.
The city demolishes one or two properties a year, he said, but more homes are becoming vacant because of the recent “housing crisis.”
“This is good for the city because these nuisance properties are eyesores and are a safety concern,” DiCicco said. “This will allow us to fight blight in the neighborhoods and typically when a house is demolished a new one is built, so this will work toward improving the housing stock.”

Read it from the source.

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Blight and home abandonment now a persistent drag on Greater Cleveland’s economy: Brent Larkin (Cleveland.com)

In a meeting with about 60 senior citizens at the Cleveland branch library in Glenville the night of May 28, Councilman Kevin Conwell asked for a show of hands from residents who felt trapped in houses that have plummeted in value.

Every person in the room raised their hand.

Conwell, joined by Councilmen Mike Polensek and T.J. Dow, had invited seniors to discuss what he calls “shelter poverty,” people stuck in houses they can’t afford to leave, in neighborhoods overwhelmed by blight.

“Too many of our residents are surrounded by boarded-up homes, crime, poverty and hopelessness,” said Conwell. “Taxes and the price of government are high. Services are low. And their houses are now worth so little they can’t afford to fix them up.”

In many Cleveland neighborhoods, it’s every bit that bad.

A study of property records in Cleveland and five contiguous communities shows the median sale price of existing homes dropped an astonishing 62 percent (from about $86,000 to about $33,000) between 2006 and 2013. Those prices do not include nontraditional low-value transfers such as sheriff sales, quit claims and forfeitures.

In Cleveland, sale prices dropped 63.4 percent. They dropped 80.9 percent in East Cleveland, 67.5 percent in Maple Heights, 67.3 percent in Garfield Heights, 62.3 percent in Euclid and 58.9 percent in Newburgh Heights.

Median sales prices for homes in Cuyahoga County’s other 53 municipalities dropped 21 percent ($154,000 to $121,000) during the same seven-year period.

The study, which used home-transfer data and assessed property valuations, was conducted by the nonprofit Thriving Communities Institute, with backing from Cleveland City Council, Neighborhood Progress Inc. and the Cuyahoga County Land Bank. It was completed in March.

Entitled “The Cost of Vacancy – Everybody Pays,” the report also explained why the dramatic drop in sale prices should bother every resident of Cuyahoga County, not just those in Cleveland and the five contiguous communities.

Declining property values in Cleveland and its inner ring have shifted nearly $45 million in property tax burdens to the more prosperous suburbs – meaning that taxpayers in outer-ring suburbs pay more to fund levies for things like county social programs, the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority, Cuyahoga Community College and the Cleveland Metroparks.

Countywide tax levies are based on assessed property values and paid by the property owners. In 2006, property owners in the outer-ring suburbs were responsible for paying 79.2 percent of the county’s property tax bill. By 2012 that figure had grown to 83.5 percent.

Lots of good things are happening in a few parts of Cleveland, but the threat that the inexorable spread of blight poses to this community cannot be overstated. That spread – and the crime and human misery that follow it – will not stop until those vacant buildings come down.

It is no coincidence that the primary recommendation of the task force convened by the Obama administration to attack the blight in bankrupt Detroit was to raise the $850 million needed to quickly demolish 40,000 empty buildings.

“Blight is a cancer,” said task force chairman and Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert when the group issued its report in late May. It “sucks the soul out of anyone who gets near it.”

With a nearby view of what happened a few miles to the north, the Toledo Blade has launched an ongoing series of front-page stories entitled, “The Ugly Truth about Toledo.” The series focuses on the spread of blight and the urgent need to demolish at least 5,000 structures.

Closer to home, the latest figures kept by the Western Reserve Land Conservancy show that, as of June 19, there were a minimum of 9,430 vacant structures in Cleveland and 19,644 countywide.

At the present rate, the Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium estimates that by 2040 an additional 175,000 homes will be abandoned in the 12-county region. The cost to take them down: nearly $2 billion.

“It’s a no-win situation: Ignore the problem and watch the blight and disinvestment spread even farther, or spend money you don’t have, raise taxes, and drive more residents and business away, in order to try to keep things from getting worse,” wrote Jason Segedy, director of the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study, in a report that can be found at http://thestile1972.tumblr.com/post/71691657173/today-is-yesterdays-tomorrow

The most blighted communities are tearing down as many structures as possible. And County Executive Ed FitzGerald wisely wants to spend $50 million on clearing blighted neighborhoods. But because demolition is costly (about $10,000 for a single-family home), it’s not nearly enough.

Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley knows that.

“This is a horrible problem,” said Kelley. “And it’s an expensive one. But these structures absolutely have to come down. “

For several years, the loudest voice on this issue has belonged to Jim Rokakis, director of the Thriving Communities Institute and a former Cleveland councilman and county treasurer.

“We can fix this problem,” he insisted. “If we as a community come together with the determination to take down these structures, clean up the soil and make land green – if we do that in a holistic way – we can actually turn a negative into a positive.

“It takes will. And it’s not as exciting as a chandelier in Playhouse Square or a new restaurant in Ohio City. I get all that. But if we don’t do anything about it, things will only get worse.”

That may seem to some like a prediction. It’s actually a fact.

Read it from the source

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Posted in Relevant News

Even in prosperous Middleburg, a few decrepit homes are being torn down (Cleveland.com)

Even in this thriving suburb, some abandoned homes are being torn down.

Three such homes have been razed so far this year, and City Council plans to vote Tuesday night, June 24, on a fourth. Officials say they may have seven or eight demolished, all told.

The Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp. is tearing down buildings for Middleburg, Berea and many other cities. In the past four years, the land bank has helped Berea, one of its first partners, deal with 13 structures so far, including vacant car dealerships in the North End. Middleburg signed up with the land bank last August.

Cheryl Stephens, the land bank’s director of acquisition, disposition and development, says, “If you’d told me I’d have three demolitions in Middleburg Heights this spring, I would have been surprised.” But it seems that there are problem homes almost everywhere.

Middleburg officials say they try hard to work with homeowners to fix homes rather than raze them. But some of the homes’ owners have died and left no heirs. And all the homes have decayed too much to be worth saving. They’ve been doomed by leaky roofs, rotten interiors, bugs, mold, rats and more. One foreclosed family reportedly left the water running in spite.

“These houses sit, and they’re not safe,” says Middleburg Service Director Jim Herron. He worries that “flippers” might scoop them up and fail to fix them up properly.

Ward 4 Councilman John Grech says, “This is going on throughout Cuyahoga County and throughout the country. People are just abandoning their properties. It’s a shame.”

Grech says a bulldozer is a last resort, but the city has to keep the neighborhood safe and desirable. Officials tried for a couple of years to save a home on toney Webster Road with piles of possessions several feet high. “There were all kinds of animals and mold,” says Grech. “It was just disgusting.”

Now council will vote Tuesday on whether to ask the land bank to demolish a house at 7125 Fry Road, north of Bagley Road. The front window gives a good view of a crumbling ceiling.

The demolition is good news to a next-door neighbor, Heidi Kisela, who drives a bus for the Berea school district. “If they can’t fix it, definitely tear it down.” She says local youths have broken into the vacant house and smoked what smells like marijuana there.

The land bank demolishes buildings at no cost to local governments. It spends about $18 million per year of money from the county and higher governments. It recovers what it can from property owners.

The price of demolition varies. It cost about $16,000 to empty and raze the home on Webster. Stephens says the land bank has to empty a home first, because household debris goes to different landfills than construction debris.

Officials in some old, dense suburbs don’t want to replace razed homes. Instead, they’re helping neighbors create community gardens or buy the empty lots to expand their yards. The goal is to reduce density and boost property values.

For now, the razed lots in relatively young, prosperous Middleburg still belong to private owners. The city plans to mow the grass as necessary and bill the owners. Herron said he’d like eventually to see new homes there but would be open to other possibilities.

Read it from the source.

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Posted in Land Bank Coverage

Lake, Geauga, Cuyahoga counties working to remove blight (The News-Herald)

The Lake County Land Bank demolished its first blighted home on Sept. 30, 2013, kicking off a project to strengthen both the properties and the neighborhoods these homes were located in.

Since that first home in Mentor-on-the-Lake was removed, 38 more vacant, foreclosed and blighted residential structures have been removed by the Land Bank.

“It makes the homes and land more attractive and helps neighborhood stabilization,” said state Rep. John Rogers, D-Mentor-on-the-Lake, who also is executive director of the Lake County Land Bank.

In addition to the 39 properties removed by the Land Bank, another 10 were addressed by the home owners or another interested party. Of those 10, Rogers said three or four had owners and they came in and made the repairs necessary to get the homes back up to code, while the the rest were demolished.

Funding for the home demolitions comes from the Moving Ohio Forward program. The program, started by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, was designed to help communities across the state demolish dilapidated and abandoned residential properties. A total of $75 million has been allocated for the project, with the money coming from Ohio’s share of the national mortgage settlement reached with the country’s five largest mortgage servicers over foreclosure abuses, fraud and unacceptable mortgage practices.

As of May 28, about 10,467 structures have been demolished statewide through the Moving Ohio Forward program according to the Attorney General’s Office.

The Lake County Land Bank has received about $800,000 in funding so far and about $732,500 has been spent. Rogers said the demolitions have averaged out to about $18,000 per home, more than they originally expected, but still “well within the scope of what we intended to do.” Five percent of the funds also go to reimburse administrative costs. CT Consultants of Mentor is overseeing the administrative component of the program.

The first $500,000 is covered by the Moving Ohio Forward grant, from there the cost is split with the Land Bank. Rogers said all costs incurred by the Land Bank for properties held by private owners will be subject to a lien in an effort to recover any funds expended.  These funds will be used for future projects.

The city of Painesville has seen the most homes demolished so far with 10. Mentor-on-the-Lake and Eastlake have the second most with five each. Madison Township has the third most with four.

Another 36 residential structures have been tentatively identified for future demolition.

Of the structures, Eastlake has the most with 11, followed by Mentor with five and Willowick and Madison Township with four each.

Properties scheduled to be demolished are first identified and condemned by the communities. The property owners and all interested parties are notified that the property has been condemned and that the intention is to demolish it.

Rogers said the parties usually have between 30 and 45 days to respond. After that timeframe, the government entity passes a resolution to seek assistance from the Land Bank.

Before the properties can be demolished, environmental checks need to be done to find and remove things like asbestos.

After a structure is removed, the land is graded and seeded in a process that takes seven to 10 days.

Geauga County
In Geauga County, Bainbridge Zoning Inspector Karen Endres said that approximately 30 homes have been demolished through the Moving Ohio Forward program so far. Endres said there are about another three or four in the county that have been identified for possible demolition.

Unlike Lake County, Geauga does not have a land bank. Bainbridge Township took over the administrator role in the summer of 2012, helping other townships demolish homes in their communities for a flat 5 percent fee.

Cuyahoga County 

Cuyahoga County, like Lake and Geauga counties, has received grant funding from Move Ohio Forward and other sources, but District 11 County Councilwoman Sunny Simon said that it is enough to address the county’s large number of blighted homes.

The problem, she said, is especially raging in inner-city Cleveland and in some of the inner-ring suburbs. Along with the blighted homes come crime, vandalism and other problems.

“It just really impacts the entire county,” she said.

Nate Kelly, Cuyahoga County’s deputy chief of staff of development, said estimates of the exact number of vacant and distressed properties in the county can vary based on who is asked. He put the number at about 12,000.

In his State of the County Address in February, County Executive Ed FitzGerald introduced a plan to borrow up to $50 million for demolition projects. Now Cuyahoga County Council is working on the details of how that plan will work.

“It’s still in its infant stages,” Simon said. “Council is studying this plan in depth from both a financial planning and practical standpoint to maximize the impact of such a plan.”

Unlike through the Move Ohio Forward Program, Kelly said that funds through this proposed plan can be used for both residential and commercial demolitions. Another difference is nuisance properties will also be eligible for demolition.

Simon is reaching out to the mayor’s and council members in her district to see what the needs are in those communities.

Kelly said it will be up to the individual communities to identify which properties are in need of demolition. How the municipalities execute the demolitions will also be up to them.  Kelly said some have the capacity to remove the structures themselves, while others will “undoubtedly” use the Cuyahoga County Land Bank, which has experience with efficient demolitions.

There is no timetable for when the plan will be in place, but Simon is hoping to have it finalized by the end of the year.

“We’ve been pretty consistent in pursuing this,” she said.

Read it from the source.

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County Board of Revision forecloses on Larchmere’s Sedlak building (Cleveland.com)

Cuyahoga County officials plan to put Larchmere’s long-vacant Sedlak building up for Sheriff’s Sale, possibly this summer.

If no one wants to start the bidding at $225,000 to pay off back taxes, this could finally clear the way for the county Land Bank to briefly take ownership of the property before turning it over to investor Michael Montlack for redevelopment.

The county Board of Revision moved the property into foreclosure June 13 after making a formal determination that any current and purported interest in buying the site had evaporated.

A lien holder on the property, located at Larchmere and 127th Street, last year had a “For Sale” sign placed on the building and claimed to have a buyer lined up with an asking price of $399,000, buying some time in the foreclosure process for another six months.

The Board of Revision granted a continuance, followed by three more from the county Prosecutor’s Office.

“It’s been a long slog with this property, but it looks like it is finally coming into what is hopefully a practical use,” said Ohio Fair Lending Coalition Director Chip Bromley.

Montlack has already been “vetted” by stakeholders in the process that included the Shaker Square Area Development Corp., Bromley noted.

As a local developer, Montlack appeared at an earlier meeting of the Shaker Square Alliance with the idea of rehabilitating the property.

Bromley also pointed out that once the property is turned over to the county Land Bank, the back taxes are “removed from the equation,” leaving money to fix a building that was in dire need of repairs over a year ago.

While the building continued to sit and deteriorate, Greg Staursky, SHAD’s Co-Director of Properties and Project Construction, noted that it at least allowed time to get the property released from bankruptcy proceedings in California.

Staursky said after the June 13 Board of Revision hearing it was unclear from the county Prosecutor’s Office whether there would be one or two Sheriff’s Sale offerings.

“But there is the thought that the property, in its condition, is not worth the amount of past due taxes so a buyer is unlikely.

“Although the original hope was that the Board of Revision would also directly transfer Sedlak to the Land Bank, this is an additional step towards that goal,” Staursky added.

At the June 12 meeting of the Shaker Square Alliance, SHAD Board President George Palda  said “it’s a significant location on Larchmere that needs to be improved. It’s not enough to keep kicking the can down the road.”

Staursky also noted that the City of Cleveland has an active condemnation on at least some of the multiple buildings that make up the property.

Bromley earlier expressed some frustration that “there’s been seven more months of dancing around on this.”

But he pointed out after the ruling that the big difference with Sedlak is that it’s commercial property, as opposed to single-family homes and residential property, which is the overwhelming majority of what the Land Bank handles.

Read it from the source here.

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Posted in Uncategorized

Fun Fact!: Landbankers On The Run!

Landbankers Michael Schramm, Anurag Saxena, Stephen Love and Cuyahoga Land Bank President, Gus Frangos (before the race) hit the ground running in the 38th Annual Cleveland Rite Aid Marathon last month participating in the 10K and full marathon.  Next year we will be challenging all Land Bank staff to be up and running on race day for the 10K, half marathon and for the brazen few, the full marathon!

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Posted in 2013.6.1, Newsletter

Partner Feature: Cuyahoga County Council

Cuyahoga County Council maintains an important partnership with the Cuyahoga Land Bank.
Currently, County Council Member Pernel Jones, Jr. (District – 8) serves as the Vice Chair and the County Council RepresentativeCounty Councile on the Board of Directors for the Cuyahoga Land Bank, a position previously held by County Council Member Dan Brady (District – 3).
“As the County Council Member who serves on the Cuyahoga Land Bank Board, I am proud of the work to reduce blight throughout the County, make vacant productive, and increase neighborhood green space,” said Councilman Jones. “The Land Bank is a win-win for everyone.  They have been able to get families into their first homes, increase property values throughout the County and improve the overall quality of life for County residents.”
Dedicated to stabilizing and strengthening the County’s housing market, the Council has provided strong support through championing the Land Bank’s efforts, providing guidance and Board leadership.
Most recently, County Council Members Jones, Sunny Simon (District – 11) and David Greenspan (District – 1) joined the Cuyahoga Land Bank to announce the launch of the HomeFront Veteran’s Program which offers a discount of up to 20% off the purchase price to Veterans interested in purchasing either a move-in ready or a to-be-renovated home from the Cuyahoga Land Bank.  This discount is possible thanks to a $100,000 grant from the Cuyahoga County Council, which the Cuyahoga Land Bank matched with another $200,000.
“Council is proud to have contributed to this program,” said County Council Member Greenspan.
“This collaboration also promotes the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s efforts to bring vacant and abandoned properties in Cuyahoga County back to productive use,” said Cuyahoga Land Bank President Gus Frangos.
“The Cuyahoga Land Bank does more than just help stabilize the housing market within the County, it helps individuals and families reconnect with the American dream of home ownership and helps clean up the vacant and abandoned foreclosed houses that some neighborhoods struggle with on a daily basis,” said County Council Member Simon.
As one of the lead sponsors to provide funding for the HomeFront Veteran’s Program, Simon also added “It’s important that we not only provide veterans with well-deserved homes through the Homefront Program, but to show our appreciation for them in a tangible way…a home!”

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Posted in 2014.6.1, Newsletter

Celebrating the HomeFront Program

 Home is where the heart is! For the American soldiers who risk their lives every day to protect our freedoms, home is a cherished memory and something they dream about coming back to.  The Cuyahoga Land Bank has made this dream a reality with the HomeFront Veteran’s Home Ownership ProgramVeteran.  On Friday, May 23, 2014, the Cuyahoga Land Bank held a Memorial Day event commemorating U.S. Army Specialist Holden Gibbons for purchasing and renovating a home through the HomeFront program.
Gibbons served in Afghanistan from 2012-2013, earning two Afghan Campaign Stars, an Army Achievement Medal, a NATO Medal and a Good Conduct Medal.   He chose the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s program because he decided he wanted to own his own home instead of paying rent.  HomeFront offered affordable payments and discounts for the first-time homebuyer.  Gibbons chose the City of Euclid for his home because of the proximity to downtown Cleveland and University Circle.
“This is a fantastic program that makes it so much more possible to own a home without getting into a huge loan,” said Gibbons. “Working with the Land Bank was such an enjoyable experience because of the people.  You feel like you’re dealing with family at every stage of the process.”
At the celebration, Gibbons stood with his father, local veterans in uniform along with Cuyahoga Land Bank President Gus Frangos and Euclid Mayor Bill Cervenik.  Cervenik welcomed and honored Gibbons for his service.
“The City of Euclid welcomes US Army SPC Gibbons to our community,” said Cervenik.  “We see the immediate results of working with the Cuyahoga Land Bank to attract interest in the purchase and renovation of formerly vacant, abandoned properties in our community when we gain new residents like Mr. Gibbons.”
The event was held not only to commemorate Mr. Gibbons and Memorial Day, but also to raise awareness among veteran’s organizations of the options they have when it comes to home-buying.
More information on the program can be found at
“I would recommend this program for all vets,” said Gibbons.  “Even for those who aren’t vets, I would recommend the Cuyahoga Land Bank because they are extremely flexible and want to help the community.”
The Land Bank is very proud of this program and its ability to help those who help us.  To Holden Gibbons: Welcome home, Soldier.

Watch Highlights of the Homefront Press Conference Event on YouTube

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Posted in 2014.6.1, Newsletter

Celebrating the Homefront Program | County Council Partner Feature – Cuyahoga Land Bank News – 2014.6.1



Posted in 2014.6.1, Newsletter

County takes another step towards land bank (Springfield News-Sun)

The Clark County Land Re-utilization Corporation has been designated as the agency to reclaim, rehab and reuse vacant and abandoned properties in the county.

Clark County commissioners recently voted on the resolution in a move that will bring the county a step closer to establishing a land bank.

Officials began the process of establishing a land bank in April after Commissioners John Detrick and David Hartley voted in favor of allowing the county treasurer to file documents to incorporate the Clark County Land Re-utilization Corp., a land bank that would allow the entire county to speed up the process of returning blighted and abandoned properties to productive uses.

County Administrator Nathan Kennedy said the decision to designate the re-utilization corporation as the agency to reclaim and rehab foreclosed and abandoned properties is another step in establishing a land bank

Kennedy has said the county would be eligible for $500,000 to $1 million in grant money if it established a land bank, which is non-profit organization that can take foreclosed properties and rehabilitate them to make them reusable or demolish structures.

The land bank is a separate entity from the county, and the county would not own the property.

However, two county commissioners — Detrick and Hartley — and Treasurer Stephen Metzger are required to be on the board, Kennedy said.

Local officials have been mulling the possibility of establishing a land bank since Cuyahoga County established one in 2009, Clark County Community Development Director Tom Hale has said.

“We felt it was a good resource for the community to try and help both the city and the county,” Hale has said.

Read it from the source

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Posted in Land Bank Coverage, Relevant News

Can Detroit Keep Empty Lots From Becoming Eyesores Again? (Business Week)

Detroit is home to 114,033 empty lots—and about 5 percent have become illegal trash dumps. As the city considers tearing down tens of thousands of blighted properties, there’s new focus on what it could and should do to keep the cleared space from becoming blighted yet again.

Detroit’s Blight Removal Task Force issued a massive report on Tuesday that found 30 percent of the city’s structures are blighted. The recommendation: Utilize the authority of the city’s land bank to tear down about 10 percent of the city’s buildings right away. But mass demolitions would give the bank “the responsibility of maintaining tens of thousands of vacant lots until they can be repurposed, with no funding to do so,” the report warns.

The cost of upkeep for each vacant lot runs about $150 per year, meaning Detroit would spend $7.5 million a year to keep just 50,000 empty lots tidy. The mechanics of vacant space are something Detroit knows well, with more than 52,000 lots already in the city’s possession. The report suggest immediate removal of debris after demolitions, followed by the planting of slow-growing grass or clover on the sites. Those plants require more time and care initially to take root than traditional grass but demand less maintenance over the long haul.

The blight report envisions nonprofit groups and community organizations footing much of the bill and taking on most of the upkeep. While some efforts have tried to do this locally, it has never been done on this scale. Rock Ventures, the umbrella company for Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert’s investments, is giving $100,000 to pilot a program to coordinate the lot maintenance among city, community, and corporate groups. The effort aims to figure out how best to create everything from an online citywide maintenance schedule to local distribution of gardening supplies, such as wheelbarrows. Rock Ventures has also committed 5,000 volunteer hours to the maintenance.

What to do with well-maintained lots is yet another question. The land bank has already started auctioning off abandoned homes that can be made livable again, and the report says it should immediately implement its planned program to let homeowners buy vacant lots adjacent to their property. Otherwise, the report is virtually silent on the land bank’s options. The more established land bank in nearby Flint has a similar side-lot program, and it also gives and leases plots to community groups to maintain green spaces and urban gardens.

The overarching goal of the antiblight efforts is to give the city a relatively clean slate to work from as it emerges from bankruptcy. If that rebirth works and creates growth, perhaps someday the vacant properties could be redeveloped. In the meantime, Detroit will need a lot more lawn mowers.

Read it from the source

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Cuyahoga Land Bank helps U.S. military veteran purchase Euclid home at greatly discounted rate (WEWS NewsChannel 5)

There was a popular song during and after the American Civil War which was sung on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.

“When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again” was a song of welcome for soldiers who had fought on both sides of the war. It was a song of welcome for soldiers returning to their hometowns, intent on picking up where they had left off … if they could again.

“When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again” was not sung in Euclid, but its essence was there in the welcoming home of a veteran of the U.S. Army who had served in the war in Afghanistan. Waiting for former Specialist Holden Gibbons was a house which he purchased at a greatly discounted rate.

The program comes out of the Cuyahoga Land Bank. Veterans interested in purchasing a home for renovation or a renovated move-in-ready home are eligible for discounts of up to 20 percent of the purchase price. Gibbons was presented the keys to his new home in Euclid. “I came to them with a game plan and told them I would like to purchase a duplex,” said Gibbons. “I’d like to live in the bottom and rent out the top and they said, ‘Okay, that makes sense financially.’”

So a deal was made. The Cuyahoga Land Bank has been making these deals for many months. It received a $100,000 grant from Cuyahoga County last year which the Land Bank matched with a like amount. With the money, the Land Bank is able to offer homes at discount rates for returning U.S. military veterans.

With a veterans’ unit in uniform standing with him and Euclid Mayor Bill Cervenik speaking, there was a formal presentation. Gus Frangos, president of the Cuyahoga Land Bank also spoke.

“We wanted to provide housing that would create true wealth so within four or five years, this home would be paid off and the veteran would have equity and it would be affordable during those five years that he’s paying it off,” said Frangos.

The veteran must live on the property as his or her primary residence for at least two years and agree to several points required by the Land Bank. If the veteran does some of the rehab work, the vet can save even more money.

“Primarily, I’m doing the fixtures, which I’m still working on,” beamed Gibbons on a tour of the house. “I’m doing the painting work and I’m doing the floors,” he added, pointing to the hardwood floors of which he was proud.

Gibbons was all smiles as he stood next to a veterans honor guard who applauded his service in the Army and were part of the welcoming ceremony at Gibbon’s new house. Workers were still making repairs on the duplex and they seemed excited to be a part of such a project. At the front door was an American flag, symbolic of the contribution Gibbons made in the military.

It was a fitting tribute on the Memorial Day weekend where a soldier who has come home from war was welcomed with open arms, strong praise from the mayor of the community, and the keys to a new house where the vet can begin building equity.

As the old song lyrics have it, “When Johnny comes marching home again,” there is a refrain. “Hurrah, hurrah.” For former Army Specialist Holden Gibbons and for the Cuyahoga Land Bank: “Hurrah, hurrah.”

Read and watch it from the source

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Posted in Land Bank Coverage

5PM: Cuyahyoga Land Bank helps U.S. military veteran purchase Euclid home at greatly discounted rate (WEWS NewsChannel 5)

Here is video footage of the Cuyahoga Land Bank Memorial Day event featuring Holden Gibbons and his home purchase through the Home Front Program.


Watch it from the source here

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Posted in Land Bank Coverage

Did You Know?: Land Bank Property Maintenance

Spring is finally upon us and with it comes the start of the grass cutting season! The Cuyahoga Land Bank employs both large and small field servicing contractors to cut the grass as needed on properties in our inventory and maintain the property in the event of damage by weather or vandalism. The Cuyahoga Land Bank also has a partnership with Cuyahoga County Court Community Services to utilize minor offenders fulfilling their community service sentence to perform basic lawn care maintenance.  And thanks to our Property Profile Field Service management system, our properties stay a ‘cut’ above the rest!

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Posted in 2014.5.1, Didja Know?, Newsletter

PRESS RELEASE: Cuyahoga Land Bank celebrates Memorial Day by honoring Afghanistan Veteran US Army SPC Holden Gibbons, a HomeFront – Cuyahoga County Veteran’s Home Ownership Program Participant

The Cuyahoga Land Bank, Euclid Mayor Bill Cervenik and members of the Veteran’s community gathered together today to honor U.S. Army SPC ­­Holden Gibbons, who is currently renovating a home in Euclid through the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s HomeFront – Cuyahoga County Veteran’s Home Ownership Program.  While in Afghanistan from 2012 to 2013, worked with local indigenous people to build ties. Gibbons earned two Afghan Campaign Stars, an Army Achievement Medal, a NATO Medal and a Good Conduct Medal.

HomeFront – Cuyahoga County offers assistance to eligible veterans interested in purchasing either a renovated move-in ready home or a home that will be renovated with the assistance of the Cuyahoga Land Bank.

“This is a fantastic program that makes it so much more possible to own a home without getting into a huge loan,” said Gibbons. “The single biggest factor that I can point to as to why dealing with the Land Bank was such an enjoyable experience was the people.  You feel like you’re dealing with family at every stage of the process.”

Veterans interested in purchasing a home for renovation or a renovated move-in ready home are eligible for a discount of up to 20% of the purchase price. All homes meet the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s Housing Quality Standards and all applicable point-of-sale requirements and the Cuyahoga Land Bank is paying closing costs.

“This program is an opportunity for us to give back to the men and women that have risked their lives for our country,” said Cuyhoga Land Bank President Gus Frangos.  “We are able to provide a chance for veterans to own a home on very flexible terms as well as to establish immediate equity.”

Veterans who may not yet be bankable but have had steady employment for at least one year, may qualify as lease-to-own buyers. The Cuyahoga Land Bank will work with these veterans to promote home ownership through lease-to-own options.

“The City of Euclid welcomes US Army SPC Gibbons to our community,” said Euclid Mayor Bill Cervenik.  “We see the immediate results of working with the Cuyahoga Land Bank to attract interest in the purchase and renovation of formerly vacant, abandoned properties in our community when we gain new residents like Mr. Gibbons.”

The Cuyahoga Land Bank received a $100,000 grant from Cuyahoga County last year, which the Cuyahoga Land Bank matched with $100,000 of its own funds in order to create a revolving loan fund.  Because of this structure, Homefront is a self-sustaining program that allows the Cuyahoga Land Bank to help veterans achieve the dream of homeownership on an ongoing basis.

In order to renovate a home through the Homefront Veterans Program, the veteran must:

    • intend to live in the property as their primary residence for at least two years;
    • agree, at minimum, to renovate the property according to the specifications provided by the Cuyahoga Land Bank and satisfy all municipal Point of Sale requirements, if the property requires renovation;
    • provide satisfactory documentation to the Cuyahoga Land Bank that shows they have the ability to finance, at minimum,  the cost of acquiring and renovating the property or have the ability to obtain financing within three years;
    • agree to follow all the rules and policies as promulgated by the Cuyahoga Land Bank;
    • sign a Cuyahoga Land Bank purchase/renovation/lease-to-own contract;
    • have a minimum credit score as determined by the Cuyahoga Land Bank;
    • have been employed for at least one year

All properties in the Cuyahoga Land Bank inventory are available to veterans via the Homefront – Cuyahoga County, a Veterans’ homeownership program.

More information on Homefront – Cuyahoga County is available on the Cuyahoga Land Bank website at: www.cuyahogalandbank.org/homefront.

Read our Memorial Day Home Front Release

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Posted in Press Release

Cuyahoga Land Bank helps veterans find homes (News-Herald)

As a way to give back to the community and local veterans, the Cuyahoga Land Bank has created a unique program that helps veterans achieve home ownership.
The HomeFront Veterans Home Ownership Program works with veterans to find renovated homes or homes that can be renovated.
The Cuyahoga Land Bank is a nonprofit organization that acquires foreclosed properties and returns them to productive use, which improves quality of life and increases property value, according to the organization’s website.
“There is a great need to help our veterans,” said Gus Frangos, president and general council of the Cuyahoga Land Bank. “Our objective is to get homes into productive peoples’ hands … and veterans are so worthy.”
The program began on Veterans Day in 2013, and since its inception, the land bank has helped seven veterans find homes.
On May 23, the land bank will host an event to celebrate Memorial Day in Euclid with U.S. Army Spc. Holden Gibbons, an Afghanistan War veteran who is renovating a home through the land bank’s HomeFront program.
“I’m a first time homebuyer … (and) I settled on the land bank because I am going back to school on the GI Bill and I didn’t want to pay rent,” Gibbons said. “I am excited to own a piece of property and do my part. I have seen other military flags on the street, so I am excited to meet my neighbors and hear their stories.”
He said he picked Euclid because of its proximity to University Circle and downtown Cleveland.
Gibbons has chosen a home on East 221st Street in Euclid, and Frangos said this program can help not only the veteran, but also the community.
“It really helps to integrated the veteran into the community because he or she is being welcomed and honored,” he said. “This also helps to give back to the community because it is fixing up a home … which keeps property values up.”
The land bank changes inventory every month, with homes across Cuyahoga County, typically in the inner-ring suburbs.
“(Gibbons) picked a home from our inventory and we worked to create a spec,” Frangos said. “We will help him finance the home, with reasonable payments, which is what our vets need. He will build equity, pay off his home in four to five years and get something in return for serving his country. We don’t want our vets in debt for 30 years.”
He added that the payments on the home will not be over 30 percent of the veteran’s income, and the program also offers renovated or to-be-renovated homes at 20 percent off the purchase price with a lease-to-own option available as well.
The program is made possible through a $100,000 grant from the Cuyahoga County Council’s Veterans Services Fund last year, and a $100,000 matching grant from the Cuyahoga Land Bank, HomeFront — Cuyahoga County Program.
“We decided to develop this program as a revolving loan, which could end up taking a couple hundred thousand and turn that into $1 million in home ownership,” Frangos said. “It started as an offshoot of our Deed-In-Escrow Program, where investors or owners agree to rehab the home and once the work was done, we would deed the property to them.”
The event is hoping to create awareness with veterans organizations and other local veterans about this program, as well as let them know the options they have.
“This isn’t a giveaway and we noticed that vets don’t want to giveaways, they want to be involved in the (homebuying process), but they need access and help getting there and we want to help fill that gap,” Frangos said.
Gibbons, who served in the Army for about 3 1/2 years, said his home should be completely renovated and move-in ready in two weeks. The home was gutted and completely redone except for the roof, he said.
“I would recommend this program for all vets,” he said. “Even for those who aren’t vets, I would recommend the land bank because they are extremely flexible and want to help the community.”


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Posted in Press Conference, Relevant News

Land Bank Properties Serve as Sites for Fire Department Trainings

Imagine being in temperatures of 400 degrees and higher with zero visibility while carrying 57 pounds of water.  It is hard to hear and time is of the essence.  This scenario sounds incredibly dangerous yet firefighters put their lives in this danger every day on the job.  With no room for mistakes, training is especially important and that is why most firefighters in the Cleveland area choose the Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) Fire Academy.fireman
Fire Academy students culminate their experience by participating in a live burn Urban Search and Rescue training exercise, which simulates a real house fire.   In order to do this, they need a site in which to practice.
The associate commander of the Fire Academy, Daniel Waitkus, reached out to the Cuyahoga Land Bank about a year ago to discuss a partnership.  Since then, the Fire Academy trains on Cuyahoga Land Bank owned properties at least four times annually.
“We’re truly grateful to be able to work in professional collaboration with the Land Bank.  Working with Cheryl Stephens and Jim Maher has been wonderful,” said Waitkus of the partnership.  “Any opportunity we have as first responders to simulate a life-like situation, the types of situations we would encounter, is an invaluable opportunity to learn and hone the craft.”
The most recent training occurred on April 2nd, 2014.  A class of 26 firefighters from Lake, Lorain and Cuyahoga counties was led by Brian Harting, team leader for the Ohio Response System.  The building had been intentionally partially collapsed in preparation for the training.  The ten hour training was to practice skills and tactics for the firefighters to safely get people out of a damaged building and to search for any victims within the structure.
Watch Urban Search and rescue training in action.
“The Land Bank has been very accommodating as far as making this happen,” said Harting.  “To find a house and partially demolish it has allowed the team to improve their skill sets in a live setting.”

burning_buildingThe most recent live burn training took place in a residential area in the City of Euclid, which included firefighters from the Euclid Fire Department.
All participating firefighters were divided into 6 companies, or groups, to rotate through the different stages of fire fighting.  The lead instructor/incident commander for the April training was Chief Patrick Finneran, the Assistant Chief for the Parma Heights Fire Department who acted as a fire chief would in an actual fire setting.  There are 6 teaching stations, which are completed in this order: Attack, Rehabilitation, Horizontal Ventilation, Observation, Pump and Back Up.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the live burn is that the house itself is not actually set on fire.  Instead, Class A Combustibles – commonly known as wood pallets and straw – are ignited for the live burn.
“People get the idea from TV and movies that when a building is on fire you have to be in direct contact with fire and flame to be injured, which is not true,” said Waitkus.  “It is literally like opening up your oven and crawling inside of it.  It is that hot in there.”
For safety, all furniture is removed before the training, and the ceiling is covered with a cement board to prolong the fire from destroying the room. Each time a company begins the attack stage, a new fire is lit.
As for the firefighters themselves, “…they love what they do and are passionate about fire service,” Waitkus said.

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Posted in 2014.5.1, Newsletter

PRESS RELEASE: Cuyahoga Land Bank, City Mission and Church on the Rise partner to create New Horizons: a permanent housing initiative for families transitioning out of homelessness

The Cuyahoga Land Bank, Church on the Rise and The City Mission came together on April 9, 2014 to announce an agreement and shared vision for permanent housing for families transitioning out of Laura’s Home Women’s Crisis Center, a ministry of The City Mission.


The City Mission and the Cuyahoga Land Bank launched “New Horizons” – a countywide, church-sponsored permanent housing initiative.  The first sponsoring church is Church on the Rise, a church in Westlake, Ohio with a strong urban ministry.  Under the New Horizons initiative, the Cuyahoga Land Bank will provide deeply discounted homes to a sponsoring church which will acquire the home for families transitioning from Laura’s Home.  It is a collaboration made in heaven according to the three partners.


“‘New Horizons’ is a model which provides permanent housing and ongoing support services for families in need,” said Cuyahoga Land Bank President Gus Frangos. “We are excited to partner with The City Mission, Laura’s Home and Church on the Rise.”


The Cuyahoga Land Bank will provide the home, professional renovation specifications and technical assistance. The sponsoring church, in this case The Church on the Rise will partner with The City Mission to acquire the property from the Cuyahoga Land Bank, take responsibility for its renovation through its volunteer tradesmen and church parishioners and then provide ongoing property management services.  In turn, The City Mission will provide “wrap-around services,” including case management, job placement, mental health and other wellness services. These services are tailored to strengthen families and allow families in crises to get a fresh start and become productive.


“In our efforts to help families move from crisis to independent living, the most significant challenge we face is the lack of affordable housing. This partnership has the potential to effectively address that issue and at the same time provide so much more – security, stability and hope for the future,” said The City Mission CEO Richard Trickel.  “The City Mission is thrilled to be working in partnership with the Cuyahoga Land Bank and the local church community impacting lives one family at a time.”


The City Mission and other faith-based organizations provide critical services to men, women and children who are struggling with human services needs and various crises.  The goal of these organizations is to transition individuals and families from crisis to stability.  Permanent housing is a big part of that equation.  According to the recently issued National Low Income Housing Coalition’s Annual Out of Reach report, there has been a decline of affordable permanent housing options.


“The synergy that this ongoing mission to help the homeless is creating in our congregation is outstanding! We have over 40 volunteers and will literally have to work in shifts due to the massive support of the cause,” said Church on the Rise Senior Pastor Paul Endrei.  “It’s our vision to inspire both suburban and urban churches to sponsor homeless families and provide them permanent housing that these desperate families have been mentored to maintain and afford.”


Read our City Mission Press Release

Posted in Uncategorized

Cuyahoga Land Bank acquires 4000th property; demolishes 2,500th property and renovates 860th property

This week, the Cuyahoga Land Bank hit three milestones as it continues to fulfill its mission 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.


Since opening its doors in 2009, the Cuyahoga Land Bank has acquired 4,000 properties.  The Cuyahoga Land Bank acquires distressed properties from a variety of sources, including banks, government sponsored enterprises such as Fannie Mae, federal and state agencies, such as HUD, as well as real estate lost to tax foreclosure and donated properties. Houses acquired by the Cuyahoga Land Bank are either renovated or demolished.


Many of the properties acquired by the Cuyahoga Land Bank are blighted and beyond repair. They create a health and safety hazard, constitute a haven for criminal activity and lower the value of surrounding homes.  In these instances, the house is scheduled for demolition.


“Blighted properties are a strain on the neighborhood, often endangering people’s safety,” said Cheryl Stephens, Director of Acquisition, Disposition and Development for the Cuyahoga Land Bank. “By removing these properties, we improve conditions and pave the way for something new, whether that’s a bigger yard for a neighbor, a community garden or a new home.”


Once slated for demolition, the Cuyahoga Land Bank acts swiftly to remove the nuisance property in order to speed the recovery and stability of the community in which that property is located. This week, The Cuyahoga Land Bank successfully completed its 2,500th demolition since starting operations in 2009.


The Cuyahoga Land Bank offers a variety of renovation programs, including the Owner Occupant Buyer Advantage Program (OOBA), the Advantage Plus Loan Program (Advantage Plus) and the HomeFront Veterans Home Ownership Program, which all target owner occupants, as well as the Deed-in-Escrow Program.


As of this month, 860 homes acquired by the Cuyahoga Land Bank from tax foreclosure, HUD and Fannie Mae have been renovated by private owners, using private dollars.  These owners purchased the homes on strict conditions that the homes would be renovated in compliance with the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s Housing Quality Standards and Specifications, housing codes and applicable point of sale requirements.  Nearly 40% of these sales are to owner-occupants.


“We are happy to make progress in the battle against blight in our neighborhoods,” said Cuyahoga Land Bank President and General Counsel Gus Frangos.  “There is still much work to be done and we will continue to work diligently with our board and city partners so that our community can make strides toward recovery.”


Read our 4000 acquisitions 2500 demos release

Posted in Uncategorized

Thriving Communities – Land Banks Gear Up for OHFA Stabilization Dollars

At its April, 2014 quarterly meeting, Thriving Communities Institute (an outreach of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy), county land bank representatives and county treasurers met to discuss best practices, new land bank legislation and emerging guidelines to the Ohio Housing Finance Agency’s (OHFA) recently announced plan to utilize Hardest Hit Funds (“HHF”) for demolition of vacant and abandoned structures.
Cindy Flaherty, OHFA’s Director of Homeownership, explained the program and answered important questions on program implementation.Thriving Communities
Thriving Communities Director James Rokakis played a central role in advocating to the U.S. Treasury Department and the Northeast Ohio congressional delegation to make these funds available.  “As the studies clearly show, targeted demolition not only promotes increased property values and neighborhood stability, but also lessens home foreclosures,” said Rokakis.
Cuyahoga Land Bank President Gus Frangos also updated his statewide land bank counterparts on legislative changes under the recently passed Senate Bill 172 which facilities land banking practice.  Trumbull County Treasurer Sam Lamancusa announced that he was hosting treasurers and prosecutors to observe the Trumbull County process for Board of Revision tax foreclosures.  “The nice thing about the new law is that it can be used by big and small counties based on the priorities and capacity of each county,” said Lamancusa.
Thriving Communities Institute has provided extensive training to new land banks which it helped set-up, and continues to provide technical assistance when needed, and through its quarterly land bank meetings.

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Posted in 2014.5.1, Newsletter

Land Banks Gear Up for OHFA Stabilization Dollars | Land Bank Properties Serve As Fire Department Trainings- Cuyahoga Land Bank News – 2014.5.1


Posted in 2014.5.1, Newsletter

Property values dropping in Lake, Geauga, Cuyahoga counties (The News-Herald)

It’s a mixed bag when one looks into how single-family home property values have fluctuated across Lake, Geauga and eastern Cuyahoga counties during the past several years.
The average value for most communities in Geauga County  for this type of home has dropped very little since 2008, when the real estate market began to crash nationally, according to information from the county Auditor’s Office.
Auditor Frank J. Gliha said his office also just recently completed the triennial update of property values that are determined based on sales, and there will be no change in values from when a countywide reappraisal was conducted three years ago.
“I thought that is very good for the residents of Geauga County,” he said. “I’m working hard to stabilize the values where they are today.”
He doesn’t believe the values will get back to the levels in 2005 when the real estate boom occurred, causing values to skyrocket.
“I think we’re in an economy where the value is where they should be,” Gliha said.
Geauga County Commissioner Mary Samide, who has served in her position for 10 years, believes the large lot zoning requirements in many of the townships, along with the semi-rural characteristics within the county, also have helped to keep property values from declining as much as in other areas in the state.
The average residential property value in eight communities covered by The News-Herald in eastern Cuyahoga County for 2013 shows more of a drop when compared with the years 2008 and 2009, according to the Cuyahoga County Fiscal Office.
These communities showed the smallest average value drop was $18,005 in Mayfield Village while the highest decline of $38,745 was in Richmond Heights.
Richmond Heights Building Commissioner Philip Seyboldt said property values are probably more accurate now than they were during the boom years of 2005, 2006 and 2007, when he said “practically anybody could buy a house with no money down.”
“Mortgages are harder to come by than they were six or seven years ago,” Seyboldt said.
In Euclid, the average certified value of a residential property was $105,511 in 2008 and decreased to $69,586 in 2013. Several programs are offered in Euclid to help fight abandonment and blight.
The Euclid Development Corp., for example, offers 3 percent interest loans for eligible residents to upgrade and improve their homes, or down-payment assistance for eligible incoming residents.
Through the Cuyahoga County Land Bank, the Advantage Plus Loan Program also is available in Euclid. This program, which is available exclusively in Euclid, is specifically geared toward prospective home owners who want to rehabilitate a home to make it their own. The properties in this program need extensive work that requires the purchaser “to have either renovation expertise or the ability to pay contractors to make the necessary repairs,” according to the Cuyahoga County Land Bank’s website. Investors are excluded from the program.
Participants in the Advantage Plus Loan Program can receive up to $10,000 in renovation work that the buyer and the Cuyahoga County Land Bank “agree must be completed in order to meet the Land Bank’s Housing Quality Standards and any municipal point-of-sale requirements,” according to the Land Bank’s website.
Ian Ahern, a housing manager with the Cuyahoga County Land Bank, said the project is a pilot program and they work hand in hand with Euclid Building Department to increase owner occupancy in the city.
Ahern added the program started in 2013 and about 20 homes have been sold through it.
In Lake County, average single home property values weren’t available from the Auditor’s Office, but the average sale prices were available from years 2006 through 2013.
The statistics, which did not include foreclosed or distressed properties, showed average sale prices generally trended toward a decline countywide from 2006 ($161,924) through 2009 ($127,260) jumped slightly in 2010 ($129,300), then spiked by an average of $42,000 to $173,500 in 2011.
In 2012 ($169,680) and 2013 ($166,919), the average sale price countywide leveled off and declined slightly.
Another component of the single-family home sales shows that the number of sales in 2006 in the county totaled 4,274.
In 2007 there were 3,566 sales; 3,147 in 2008; 3,188 in 2009; 2,840, in 2010; the statistics show.
There was a huge dropoff in the number of sales in 2011 with just 930 countywide; in 2012 there were 1,053; and in 2013 the total jumped to 1,624.
State Rep. John Rogers, D-Mentor-on-the-Lake, serves as executive director of the Lake County Land Reutilization Corp., also called the Lake County Land Bank. He said after the real estate bubble burst a few years ago, there were many foreclosures and tax delinquencies that took place, so it’s hard to say exactly how much that has affected average sale prices.
But Rogers said items such as low interest rates and programs like the federal Home Affordable Refinance Program have helped stabilize some prices.
One way the county works to maintain property values is to help get rid of property blight, he said.
So far, the Land Bank has taken down 40 homes within the county since the agency was formed by Lake County commissioners created the entity in 2012.
“We’ve already seen some of these properties be interested for future development,” Rogers said.
Other properties acquired by the Land Bank also have sparked some interest in renovation or possible sales, he said.


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Volunteers Spruce Up Slavic Village (The Plain Dealer)

Volunteers spruced up Slavic Village during the second-annual volunteer Community Day conducted by Slavic Village Recovery on the corner of E. 59th Street and Huss Street in Slavic Village on Friday, May 9, 2014. The rain did not deter 65 volunteers who helped build a Slavic Village neighborhood green area on three adjacent corners. Huge excavators, donated from Lightning Demolition and Excavating, helped plant maple, oak, ginkgo and serviceberry trees around new cement walkways. A hardy grass will be planted soon. Slavic Village Recovery’s mission is to ” combine public, non-profit and for-profit enterprise with a unified vision to rehabilitate single-family homes in a concentrated area, creating affordable housing and bringing large-scale change to Slavic Village.”   Employees from Forest City Enterprises,  Safeguard Properties, SecureView and Slavic Village Development volunteered their time today. Materials, equipment and other support were also donated by Cuyahoga Land Bank, LivinStone and Lightning Demolition and Excavating. 


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Clark County to spend $25K on land bank set up (Springfield News-Sun)

Clark County commissioners are expected to spend $25,000 to hire a consultant to help set up a land bank.

Clark County Treasurer Stephen Metzger said the county currently has 600 parcels that account for up to $5 million of delinquent properties in the county.

Metzger said he hopes a land bank could help the county find buyers for the vacant houses and properties.

“My hope is that we can do something to move them to private individuals or businesses. The city has been active in taking down abandoned property, hopefully, we can help them,” Metzger said.

Last month, County Commissioners John Detrick and David Hartley voted to allow county officials to file documents to incorporate the Clark County Land Re-utilization Corp., a land bank that would allow the entire county to speed up the process of returning blighted and abandoned properties into productive uses.

Rick Lohnes abstained on the land bank vote, saying he wanted more information. He’s leaning toward supporting the land bank, Lohnes said, but wants to make sure it’s clear that it will be operated by a non-profit organization and that local government officials won’t tell people what they can and cannot do with their land.

Area leaders began have been mulling the possibility of establishing a land bank since Cuyahoga County established one in 2009.

County Administrator Nathan Kennedy told commissioners he anticipates the county would be eligible for $500,000 to $1 million in grant money if officials established a land bank, which is a non-profit organization that can take foreclosed properties and rehabilitate them to make them reusable or demolish structures.

The land bank is a separate entity from the county, would have its own staff and the county would not own property, Kennedy said.

However, two county commissioners and the county treasurer would be required to be on the board, he said.

Commissioners will discuss land bank members at the commission meeting at 6 p.m. today.

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Westlake Church on the Rise volunteers start work on Cleveland house for homeless family (Cleveland.com

All the neighbors were curious when a team of volunteers from Westlake’s Church on the Rise descended on a vacant house in Cleveland’s Old Brooklyn neighborhood on Saturday

The team tore out drywall, cleaned up landscaping and generally prepared for a renovation that will create a home for a now-homeless family.

The church is partnering with the City Mission and Cuyahoga Land Bank to provide permanent housing for families ready to leave Laura’s Home Women’s Crisis Center, a City Mission program. Church on the Rise is the first of what organizers hope will be many congregations that join the New Horizons effort.

Paul Endrei, senior pastor of the Westlake church, said he now has 80 volunteers signed up to work in shifts at the house, which he expects to have ready for its new occupants this summer.

The New Horizons partnership pools the resources of the Cuyahoga Land Bank, which provides a heavily discounted house and technical assistance, and the City Mission, which will continue to provide case management, job placement, mental health care and other services to the families.

Gus Frangos, president of the Cuyahoga Land Bank, said New Horizons is a chance to “turn lemons into lemonade” by giving new life to vacant properties and addressing human needs. He said that by working with various development partners, the land bank has spurred the rehabilitation of more than 800 properties.

Once the first house is ready, the family to move in will be chosen by City Mission, which will continue to provide support services. During a one-year “proving period,” Endrei said, the family will have to demonstrate it is ready for homeownership by doing such things as paying the utility bills and maintaining the home.

If that goes well, the family will get a no-interest loan from the church. The loan will be based on the church’s costs, not the higher, actual value of the house.

Endrei is hoping that other congregations will join his in the New Horizons program. “I think we can do 100 houses a year if we work together. I don’t think it’s a pipe dream,” he said on Saturday. “I think it’s a vision.”

Anyone interested in volunteering with the Church on the Rise team is asked to call 440-808-0200 for more information.

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Posted in Relevant News

Still Growing – Literally – Old Brooklyn Style!

We surprised a lot of readers last summer with our story about Rising Harvest Farms in Old Brooklyn. Who could imagine a 2.3-acre farm in the heart of the city?
But with eight crop fields, 24 plots, a chicken coop and two greenhouses, the farm—a project of
Koinonia Homes, an organization providing residential, vocational and support services for more than 450 disabled citizens—was a rousing success. “We sold 65 Market Basket shares last year,” says Jerry DeLiberato, Koinonia’s Vice President of Business Development, “and already we’ve sold out all 120 slots for 2014.”
Market Basket is part of the nationwide network of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs in which anyone can subscribe for a share, or half-share, and receive ultra-fresh food every week. “Rising Harvest Farms is a great place to get fresh, healthy vegetables,” says Gus Frangos, President of the Cuyahoga Land Bank. “It also is a shining example of service to the community and to our disabled citizens.”
But subscribers occasionally drop out of the program—and the good news is, you can join the waiting list at
www.RisingHarvestFarms.org for shares that might become available. The weekly harvest can include eggs, salad greens, kale, spinach, red and green scallions, basil—whatever crops and foods are ready that week—as well as locally-made food products like pastas from Ohio City Pasta. Proceeds pay for the farm’s upkeep and wages for workers who are clients of Koinonia Homes.
Rising Harvest wants to add two new hoop houses—low tunnel shaped greenhouses where farm workers can grow spinach, lettuces and any other crops they need. The hoop houses are pricey, though—between $18,000 and $20,000 each—but they make it possible to raise and sell fresh produce year-round.
And, as of January, 1, Rising Harvest now participates in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), the USDA’s national standards-setting program that sets  food safety procedures for small farms.
“We’ve documented our processes all along,” DeLiberato says, “and it’s a lot of work—but it helps us to implement procedures that will make us more efficient.”
“We feel the GAP program is where things are going for all small farms,” he adds. “It’s especially meaningful for Rising Harvest because it will help us get access to prospective customers we wouldn’t otherwise connect with, such as food brokers who deliver food to schools.”
So the more they grow, the more they grow. Rising Harvest recently hosted an Open House to showcase the farm and recruit volunteers;  you can find more details at

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Posted in 2014.4.2, Newsletter

Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland “Getting Back in Gear” Summit Draws Crowds

Activists, experts and people seeking to learn more about stalled and vacant foreclosures filled the tenth floor of The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland for the Getting Back in Gear Summit last month.  The topic was so popular that another 100+ people streamed the Summit live.
The Summit focused on a very specific question: What do communities do with vacant and abandoned homes wherein the bank or mortgage company never completed a foreclosure? Often, these homeowners vacated the property under the impression they had already lost their home to the bank, which holds the lien and is ultimately responsible for keeping the property secure.
Getting Back in Gear
This is the vexing question: why didn’t the bank actually initiate or complete the foreclosure?  When the cost of the foreclosure procedure is higher than the value of the property itself, banks often choose not to proceed.
Vacant and stalled foreclosures are a lose – lose for everyone.  As a home sits vacant, it becomes dilapidated due to lack of care, lowering the safety and security of the neighborhood and the value of surrounding homes.  Combined, these factors have negative impacts across the community. 

The first panel, consisting of Daren Blomquist, Vice President of Realty Trac, and A. Nicole Clowers, Director of the Government Accounting Office, defined the problem.  According to their data, 21% of all foreclosures currently in progress across the country are vacant of which Ohio has a significant number.
On the featured panel, Gus Frangos, President and General Counsel of the Cuyahoga Land Bank, Frank Ford from Thriving Communities Institute, Craig Nickerson from the National Community Stabilization Trust and Spencer Cowan from the Woodstock Institute discussed local responses to stalled and vacant foreclosures.
One such response is the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s
partnerships with Fannie Mae, HUD, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America, wherein the Cuyahoga Land Bank in its partnerships receive properties held by these institutions and move them back into productive use either through renovation or demolition.  The Cuyahoga Land Bank has acquired more than 2,250 properties as a result of such agency agreements.

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Posted in 2014.4.2, Newsletter

Did You Know?: Cuyahoga Land Bank FAQ Page Updates

The Cuyahoga Land Bank has a new and improved FAQ page complete with all of the Land Bank FAQ series videos from our YouTube channel! Find helpful answers to questions about the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s programs, property pipelines and organizational structure. Explore the FAQ page on our website today!

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Posted in 2014.4.2, Didja Know?, Newsletter

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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