The Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) facilitates the development, rehabilitation and financing of low- to moderate-income housing. The Agency’s programs help first-time homebuyers, renters, senior citizens, and others find quality affordable housing that meets their needs. Formerly a division of the Ohio Department of Development, OHFA became an
independent state agency on July 1, 2005 through Amended Substitute House Bill (HB) 431. OHFA funds competitive fixed-rate mortgage loans and provides financing for the development and rehabilitation of affordable rental housing through the Housing Tax Credit program, issuing tax-exempt mortgage revenue bonds, and other affordable housing programs.
In 2010, OHFA became the agency in charge of administering Ohio’s portion of the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Hardest Hit Fund (HHF). HHF provides funding for state housing finance agencies to develop locally-tailored foreclosure prevention solutions in areas that have been hard hit by home price declines and high unemployment. From its initial announcement, this program evolved from a $1.5 billion initiative focused on five states with the steepest home price declines and the vast majority of underwater homeowners to a broader-based $7.6 billion initiative encompassing 18 states and the District of Columbia.
In response to the statewide need to address vacant and blighted residential property, OHFA launched the Neighborhood Initiative Program (NIP) using HHF in 2014. NIP is an exclusive partnership between OHFA and Ohio Land Reutilization Corporations like the Cuyahoga Land Bank.
“OHFA is tapping into Ohio’s robust land bank network to implement the NIP Program and Cuyahoga Land Bank is a prime example of land banks’ versatility in addressing neighborhood needs,” said OHFA’s Neighborhood Initiative Manager Dave Gulden.
By partnering with land banks, OHFA seeks to reduce foreclosures by eliminating blight in residential neighborhoods. Furthermore, this can be achieved by leveraging land banks’ real estate abilities and demolition expertise.
Cuyahoga Land Bank was awarded an initial allocation of $10,118,750 – the largest award to any of the Ohio land banks and another $1,221,525 in the second round. More than 145 vacant and blighted properties have been demolished and paid for under this program. In addition, the Cuyahoga Land Bank identified and is implementing strategic blight demolition in 46 target areas that includes all of the City of Cleveland and several east side inner ring suburbs. A key element in NIP is that the land bank must own the vacant and blighted housing prior to demolition and it must continue to own it for at least three years after demolition. In certain circumstances, land banks can transfer the NIP property for an eligible use including a side yard to a neighbor, a public infrastructure project or a community garden. OHFA’s NIP partnership with the Cuyahoga Land Bank extends through 2016.
“We are proud to be a part of the Neighborhood Initiative Program,” said Cuyahoga Land Bank president Gus Frangos. “Through this partnership with the OHFA, we hope to determine better ways to improve our strategies for eliminating blight and restoring Cleveland’s neighborhoods.”
It is anticipated that this partnership will reveal best practices for strategic blight elimination and vacant land re-use in conjunction with foreclosure prevention and the restoration of equity for existing homeowners.