Cuyahoga County Council OKs $50M building demolition plan (The News-Herald)

After months of discussion and a few last minute amendments, Cuyahoga County Council has approved a plan to make $50 million for demolition of both residential and commercial structures.

Municipalities in the county will be able to apply for $41 million of that money, with the other $9 million being allocated to the Cuyahoga County Land Bank.

The money will be handed out to municipalities in rounds. Municipalities can apply for up to $1 million in the first round of funding, while up to $2 million could be awarded in subsequent rounds. No more than $100,000 shall be awarded for the demolition of any individual structure, though some council members have said they would like to see that number bumped up to $200,000.

Municipalities can apply for a subsequent round of funding only after taking “all legal actions necessary to enable demolition” of at least 80 percent of the structures approved for demolition.

The funds will be equally available to all the municipalities in the county, despite previous attempts from representatives from Cleveland and inner-ring suburbs to receive a larger percentage of that funding.

Council approved Councilman David Greenspan’s amendment to give municipalities the option to receive funding in the form of a no-interest loan as opposed to a grant. Applicants who choose to go this route will be eligible to receive a grant equal to 50 percent of the principal amount of the original loan after the loan is paid off.

Greenspan’s plan called for the these grants to come out of the general fund, but Councilwoman Sunny Simon made an amendment to create a revolving loan fund to receive any principle loan repayments, which would then be used to payout the grants. Simon’s amendment was approved.

At a previous meeting regarding demolition funding, Cleveland City Council members urged the County Council to consider allocating some the funding for rehabilitation. County Councilwoman Yvonne M. Conwell had also expressed an interest in allocating some funds for rehabbing properties, but she said the bond council issued a legal opinion stating that it could not be done through this plan.

“Hopefully going forward with the committee process we can talk about other things in regards to (rehab) and especially a housing plan for Cuyahoga County,” Conwell said.

Councilman Pernel Jones said nobody in the country has attempted a demolition plan this ambitious.

“I always say legislation is organic,” Jones said. “What we do today is not the end of the process, it’s really the beginning.”

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Cuyahoga County Council expected to approve $50 million for demolitions (

Cuyahoga County Council tonight is expected to approve a long-discussed plan to borrow $50 million to pay for vacant property demolitions.

The demolition plan, originally proposed by County Executive Ed FitzGerald in February, would make available up to $1 million per city, village or township to knock down vacant buildings.

If there’s still money left over after an initial round of funding, communities can apply to receive up to an additional $2 million each.

It would also send $3 million to the Cuyahoga County Land Bank, the semi-public nonprofit, to tear down the buildings it owns throughout the county.

Cleveland, which has more vacant buildings than any other local community, haspushed for a larger share of the money. It would cost $120 million to knock down all the vacant, condemned buildings in the city alone.

Officials from inner-ring suburbs have also jockeyed for a larger share.

Council is also expected to approve legislation to create a new department of sustainability. The plan, introduced by councilwoman Sunny Simon, would promote ‘green’ efforts, including helping residents making green modifications to their home.

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Millions for demolition within reach for Cleveland and inner-ring suburbs (

 If Cuyahoga County Council approves a plan Tuesday to borrow $50 million for the demolition of vacant buildings, some of the region’s most blighted communities could see demolition crews within a month.

But limits on how much money each community can receive per application cycle could bog down the process for the hardest hit of all – Cleveland.

The city is home to more than 6,000 condemned, wrecking-ball ready structures. If County Council green lights the long-awaited bond issue, Cleveland would be ready to roll immediately with its list of highest-priority properties, City Council President Kevin Kelley said in an interview Friday.

“We need this so badly,” Kelley said. “We’re really looking forward to finally bringing relief to those neighborhoods that have been dealing with these abandoned homes for far too long.”

The proposed plan, however, dictates that each city, village or township can only apply for up to $1 million for the first round of funding. If there’s still money left over, communities can request an additional $2 million.

Cleveland, with as many as 12,000 abandoned buildings and entire streets that are virtually uninhabited, would need about $120 million to completely meet the city’s demolition needs.

“It could be problematic if Cleveland has to come back every week with another application,” said Jim Rokakis, director of the Thriving Communities Institute. The agency has helped leverage grants for demolition by sponsoring studies aimed at demonstrating the power of inner-city blight to destroy the urban real estate market and shift the tax burden on suburbanites.

City officials have joined mayors from the county’s 18 inner-ring suburbs in unsuccessfully jockeying for a larger share.

City Councilman Tony Brancatelli said he has been reassured that the county will accept applications on a rolling basis. Cleveland will be allowed to apply for more money after it spends 80 percent of its last allocation, rather than being forced to wait each round for other cities to get their portion, he said.

The city’s Vacant Property Task Force already has done the hard work of surveying and cueing up properties for demolition, he said. And a provision in the proposal carving out $3 million for each of the next three years for the Cuyahoga Land Bank bodes well for Cleveland. The land bank takes in between 80 and 100 vacant properties a month, many of them in the city.

Brancatelli acknowledged that submitting an application every other week for a sliver of the funds could become cumbersome.

“But I won’t have much anxiety, as long as the county performs and the process is timely,” he said.

So far, getting the legislation to a vote has been anything but.

County Executive Ed FitzGerald first announced the plan in his state of the county address in February. In April, he introduced legislation that created a property demolition fund but included few details.

Council, with the help of administration staff, has been fleshing out the specifics since then.

At County Council’s last meeting earlier this month, members continued to quibble over details of the plan.

Councilman Jack Schron, a Republican running for county executive, repeated concerns that council is “putting the cart before the horse” by not developing a more detailed strategy before borrowing the money.

He said the plan should require communities to submit proposals that are scored on a competitive basis.

Councilwoman Yvonne Conwell, a Democrat, said some of the money should be set aside to rehabilitate some houses.

Councilman Dave Greenspan, a Republican has proposed an alternative plan that would convert the program from a series of grants to zero-interest loans.

The communities that get the money could use increased tax revenues drawn from increased property values to repay the money, he has said. If the communities don’t see an improvement, the loans would be forgiven.

Cleveland officials and Rokakis say that Greenspan’s plan wrongly assumes that investing in the demolition program will bear an immediate return, when many neighborhoods are so ravaged by blight that it could take decades before property values rise.

“I appreciate his creativity,” Rokakis said. “But you can’t always be looking for an immediate return. This will change the quality of life for a lot of people in town. Sometimes you can’t put a Republican or Democratic spin on legislation. It’s just the right thing to do. Period.”

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Cuyahoga County Likely To Approve $50 Million Demolition Fund (Ideastream)

The proposal came from County Executive Ed Fitzgerald last February with few details on how the 50 million would be allocated.  Council has since filled in the details.

$9 million – $3 million each year for three years – will go to the county land bank, which owns many abondoned properties.  The remaining money will be available to cities throughout the county that can demonstrate the need.  Funding awards will be capped at $1 million, but once a city has used up its allocation it can reapply for additional money.

Tony Brancatelli is a Cleveland city councilman whose ward includes Slavic Village, a neighborhood filled with abandoned homes that have been stripped bare of usable or sellable materials.  He says he expects the bulk of the money for cities to go to Cleveland and inner ring suburbs that were also hit hard by the foreclosure crisis.

He says the sooner the funds are deployed, the better.

“I hope this can move forward very quickly,” he said.  “This fall can be a good demolition season so this spring we could start seeing grass grow on some of these vacant lots and start putting them back into productive use.”

The federal government has already funded demolitions through its Hardest Hit grants, as has the state and the city of Cleveland.  Brancatelli and others say additional funding from the county would be a significant boost.

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Gateway school board hosts intergovernmental meeting on land banking (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Officials from Monroeville and Pitcairn attended an intergovernmental meeting on land banking hosted by the Gateway school board last week.

“The purpose of this meeting is long-discussed issue of land banking, a procedure for getting delinquent property back on the tax rolls,’’ explained Janice Rawson, Gateway board member and committee chairwoman.

Amanda Settelmaier, executive director of the Turtle Creek Valley Council of Governments and Elizabeth Kosub, special projects coordinator, were on hand to answer questions at the Oct. 8 meeting.

The Turtle Creek Valley COG collaborated with the boards of directors of the Steel Valley and Twin Rivers COGs to facilitate a study of blighted, vacant and tax-delinquent properties in the region. The collaboration, called the Tri-COG Collaborative, consists of 40 municipalities in the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh.

According to the executive summary of Tri-COG’s land bank business plan, “The key is to return abandoned, vacant, tax-delinquent properties to productive use.”

Once acquired, the land bank will maintain all properties it has in its “bank” and get them up to municipal and state codes. After the properties are refurbished, the land bank would sell them to the public.

“Land banking is a newly available tool to reduce blight and encourage development. It redirects a small fraction of the resources that local governments are already spending to address the problem, and redeploys them in a way that saves money, all while maximizing local control of the process,” the summary states.

“The land bank wants to be a good community partner,” Ms. Settelmaier said.

However, for it to move forward, Ms. Settlemaier said 10,000 participants are needed. That number can come from any combination of school districts or municipalities in the Tri-COG area.

The project is in its beginning stages and no school district or municipality has signed on yet.

The Tri-COG collaborative has identified 170 blighted/delinquent properties in Monroeville and Pitcairn that would be eligible for the land bank program.

Ms. Settelmaier said each municipality or school district that signs on would be responsible for 5 percent of the delinquent tax base as well as 50 percent of the tax recapture from the sold properties for five years.

For Gateway, that would mean a commitment of about $75,000 per year for five years, or a total of $375,000. The numbers would be lower for Monroeville and Pitcairn because it is based on millage rates.

“Gateway is taking a hit on here,” said school board member Robert Elms. He added that the district would not see any funds until the next countywide assessment.

Board member Skip Drumheller added that the cost adds up to about one teacher per year for the district.

Monroeville Mayor Gregory Erosenko is in favor of the program.

“It’s really simple — get the abandoned homes back on the tax rolls,” he said. “This is a really good program. It’s going to make all of our property values go up,” he added.

Ms. Rawson said she wasn’t sure how much the land bank would help the Gateway District.

“We don’t have as many [abandoned properties] as Wilkinsburg or Woodland Hills,” she said.

Board member Chad Stubenbort said that if the abandoned, delinquent properties the district does have were rehabilitated, it would have an effect on the surrounding properties, which would probably increase in value.

“We have fewer properties, but a much larger net gain,” Mr. Stubenbort said.

“Let’s say you decide you don’t want to do it. Over time, more blight will come to Monroeville. This is in vesting in your community,” Mr. Erosenko added.

“As a community and school district, we need to work better. The school district is very limited,” Mr. Elms said. “The school district really can’t afford $75,000.”

Ms. Settelmaier told officials that the school district is “the big winner here” because it receives more tax money than the municipalities.

“To me it’s a no-brainer,” Mr. Stubenbort said about the land bank. “This is 1/10,000th of our budget,” he said. Gateway’s budget for the current school year is $70 million.

Gateway board member Neal Nola agreed, saying, “I think it’s a no-brainer, too.”

Pitcairn officials were also in favor of the land bank program.

Dona Galia, a council member in Pitcairn, said it would benefit the school district and the borough.

“It could bring in starter homes that people could afford in Pitcairn,” Ms. Galia said.

Although relatively new in the Pittsburgh area, the concept of a land bank has been successful in places like Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Ms. Settelmaier said.

“There are hundreds of land banks across the country,” she said.

Further information on the Tri-COG land bank program can be found online at

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Did You Know?

The Cuyahoga Land Bank recently partnered with Cleveland State University
and will be a host for the Campbell-Steinbacher fellowship in partnership with the Levin College of Urban Affairs and Dr. Dennis Keating. April Waltonen, a CSU senior majoring in Organizational Leadership and Psychology was awarded the fellowship. She is a McNair Scholar and works closely with the Office of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement. April grew up in Cleveland and lives in South Euclid with her family. April will be joining the Cuyahoga Land Bank for two semesters and will be focusing her work on research related to the impacts of the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s side yard and renovation programs.

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Posted in 2014.10.1, Didja Know?

Fun Fact

The Cuyahoga Land Bank has reached another milestone and has now transacted over
4,500 properties since its inception in June 2009! The Cuyahoga Land Bank has demolished over 2,850 properties and has helped facilitate over 950 renovations. These numbers highlight the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s employee’s hardwork and the organization efficiency as they conitune to impact Cuyahoga County every day! Have you ever wondered what properties Cuyahoga Land Bank has impacted throughout the county? These maps show all the locations of renovated and demolished properties, and all transacted properties by the Cuyahoga Land Bank.Take a look by clicking the links to view each map!

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Posted in 2014.10.1, Fun Fact!

Cuyahoga Land Bank, City of Euclid Secure a Responsible Owner for Historic Building

The Cuyahoga Land Bank and City of Euclid recently worked together to successfully preserve the history of 20001 Euclid Avenue in Euclid, Ohio. Over the past century, the building has
euclidseen several notable uses. It is most prominently know for serving as the site of the famous U.S. Supreme Court Euclid v. Ambler case in 1926. This case played an important role in establishing the legality of zoning ordinances in towns nationwide. The building was also home to a General Motors aircraft plant during World War II, and later a GM Fisher Body plant until the 1970s. The building can now continue its rich history under the new owner HGR Industrial Supplies, a company which buys and sells manufacturing and industrial equipment. HGR’s recent efforts to hurdle from tenant to landlord became a reality, through the cooperation of the City of Euclid and the Cuyahoga Land Bank. HGR was established in 1998 and opened in the facility at 20001 Euclid Avenue as a tenant. Over the last 16 years, the company has expanded and now occupies 500,000 square feet of the 966,000 square foot building. Recently, the building’s landlord lost ownership of the building. During this period the building had fallen into disrepair and needed a responsible owner to save the building from impending deterioration. HGR CEO/President Brian Krueger wanted to take ownership of the building to save HGR’s hgremployment base and avoid the upheaval of a large-scale move. Meanwhile, 20001 Euclid Avenue went through three unsuccessful sheriff’s sales and then into state forfeiture. That’s when the City of Euclid put Krueger in contact with the Cuyahoga Land Bank. “We helped bring the parties together,” said Jonathan Holody, Director of Planning and Development for the City of Euclid. “We wanted to ensure there would be an investment in the building going forward and wanted to avoid a prolonged period of abandonment or speculation.” Once the property was deeded to the Cuyahoga Land Bank, the Cuyahoga Land Bank was able to turn it over to HGR on condition HGR would retain its employees in Euclid and continue its business. With the building being back in the hands of a responsible owner and paying taxes, the necessary improvements can now be addressed and the building can be further marketed for additional tenants. “The Cuyahoga Land Bank got involved because we wanted to get it into someone’s hands that we knew would pay the taxes going forward and could do something to make it an asset to the City and the community.” said Doug Sawyer, Special Projects and Policy Council for the Land Bank. HGR submitted a proposal at the end of February 2014 to the Cuyahoga Land Bank that included plans to fix up the building and expand their business in Euclid. HGR’s plans include adding 15 employees and stabilizing the necessary improvements including a new HVAC system and a new roof, so that the rest of the building can be occupied. “We need to fix inside the structure before the rest of the building can be used, which will take a while,” said Krueger. “We started the day we took ownership. We have structural engineers working on it now.” Once the building is repaired, HGR plans to occupy the majority of the space with its manufacturing business and lease the remainder to other businesses. He believes they will be short-term leases because Krueger expects HGR employment to grow from 105 to 150 within the next few years. “The Cuyahoga Land Bank was a critical partner in this project and they were responsive and easy to work,” said Holody. “They moved quickly and are a great tool for us to have in this region. I think this move positioned HGR to stay and grow in Euclid, which is a good thing.”

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Posted in 2014.10.1, Newsletter

HUD Renewal | Euclid Historic Building Transfer – Cuyahoga Land Bank News – 2014.10.1

Newsletter to Blog 10.1

Posted in 2014.10.1, Newsletter

NJ foreclosure help bill advancing (New Jersey 101.5)

There may be some good news for Garden State residents on the verge of losing their homes. A bill to establish a three-year “Mortgage Assistance Pilot Program” has been approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

“New Jersey has the fourth highest foreclosure rate with about one in every 553 housing units having foreclosure filings,” said bill co-sponsor Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Mount Laurel).

New Jersey is also one of the few states in the nation where the foreclosure percentage rose over the past year. Under the bill, homeowners in default on a mortgage owned by the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA) could lower their monthly payments by transferring a portion of the equity in their home to the agency.

“The state of New Jersey, in order to help folks reduce their payments, is basically going to become investors in their home. By becoming investors in their home the state will lower a mortgage rate for someone and allow them to stay in their home,” Singleton explained.

The transferred equity wouldn’t have to be paid until the home is resold or over a 10-year period starting after the restructured mortgage is paid off. A homeowner who qualifies would have to remain the owner of the property for at least five years but, if an owner sells the property in less than five years, an additional five percent of the sales price would be forfeited to the HMFA.

“What we want to see is families staying in homes, stabilizing neighborhoods so they can sort of move through this rough patch,” Singleton said.

The bill now awaits a vote in the full Assembly.

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HUD, Cuyahoga Land Bank Renew Agreement – The Only One of its Kind in the US (Press Release)

In 2010, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corporation, commonly known as the Cuyahoga Land Bank, came to a groundbreaking agreement: HUD would transfer low-value, vacant and abandoned properties to the Cuyahoga Land Bank for $100.

The Cuyahoga Land Bank is proud to announce that for the fourth time HUD has agreed to once again renew the annual agreement, which is the only one of its kind in the country.

“We are excited that HUD has chosen to continue their relationships with us,” said Cuyahoga Land Bank President Gus Frangos.  “It means that we have been able to demonstrate a positive impact and that HUD continues to believe in the value of working with us to eliminate blight in our community.”

The properties that the Cuyahoga Land Bank acquires from HUD are lower-value properties appraised at $20,000 or below.  Such properties come under the ownership of HUD as a result of mortgage foreclosures guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

The partnership between HUD and the Cuyahoga Land Bank continues to be essential to the stabilization of the real estate market and the rejuvenation of Cuyahoga County’s neighborhoods through the repurposing of distressed properties, which often perpetuate the cycle of tax foreclosure and abandonment, from the speculator market.

Under the renewed agreement, HUD will continue to transfer HUD-owned properties in Cuyahoga County valued at under $20,000 to the Cuyahoga Land Bank for $100 after paying all current taxes.  Once acquired, the Cuyahoga Land Bank evaluates all properties, demolishes those that are beyond repair and preserves those homes that can be renovated.

Properties deemed eligible for renovation are available to private rehabbers that agree to meet the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s Housing Standards. To enforce these standards, the Cuyahoga Land Bank retains title to privately rehabbed homes until a final, satisfactory inspection of the renovation.

“At the Cuyahoga Land Bank, we understand that the impacts of the foreclosure crisis are too big to combat alone.  We must leverage partnerships and work together to stabilize and reimagine our communities,” said Frangos.  “The HUD agreement allows us to efficiently property and we are grateful to have the opportunity to continue the partnership.”

To date, the Cuyahoga Land Bank has acquired approximately 4,350 properties overall and has demolished nearly 2,800 properties.  More than 1,700 of the vacant lots created by demolition have been transferred to city land banks for neighborhood side yard expansions, community gardens, and economic development opportunities.  Additionally, the Cuyahoga Land Bank has also successfully facilitated the renovation of nearly 925 properties by private owners, using private dollars.

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HUD re-ups with the Cuyahoga Land Bank for one-of-a-kind program (WKSU)

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has renewed a one-of-a-kind deal in the nation with the Cuyahoga County Land Bank.

The agreement allows HUD to continue to transfer abandoned properties worth $20,000 or less to the Land Bank for $100. William Whitney of the Land Bank says HUD came by many of the properties because of its role in the subprime mortgage boom.


“Because of the guarantee held by the FHA, HUD ended up with these parcels. So this was a way that HUD could work with us, help to remove blighted, low-market properties, and also allow us to do what we do locally … to get properties rehabilitated and back on the market.”

HUD has transferred about 1,200 properties under the program, most on the east side of Cleveland and east side suburbs — and most of which have been demolished. It pays all the back taxes before it makes the transfers. This is the fourth time the program has been renewed.

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Clark County land bank could benefit from settlement (Springfield News Sun)

The Clark County land bank could benefit financially if Ohio receives a share of a private settlement between Bank of America and the U.S. Department of Justice to provide relief for some of the state’s hardest-hit counties, including several southwest Ohio counties.

Ohio’s U.S. senators Sherrod Brown, D-Avon, and Rob Portman, R-Cincinnati, are asking for $100 million out of the $16.65 billion settlement.

And the plan is to have the money funneled directly to the 22 county land banks that directly deal with properties in disrepair and need to be demolished in order to improve communities.

Brown and Portman sent a letter to Bank of America last month asking the company to direct part of its multi-billion settlement reached in August to Ohio communities.

“It’s time that the big banks make right for these practices and reinvest in Ohio communities,” Brown said. “By securing these funds, we can help families stay in their homes and rebuild their neighborhoods. I urge Bank of America to invest in Ohio.”

Since 2009, more than 369,700 homeowners have been foreclosed upon by banks, and more than 88,000 of those homes were among 10 counties in Southwest Ohio. Clark County has had more than 4,600 foreclosures during that time and ranks among the top 20 counties with the most foreclosures in the state. Cuyahoga and Franklin counties top the list.

Clark County Land Reutilization Corp. leaders are hopeful the land bank gets a share of the money to help demolish or rehabilitate foreclosed homes.

Commissioners John Detrick and David Hartley, who are land bank board members, said the land bank that was established earlier this year could use additional financial assistance.

The land bank was awarded $680,000 through the Neighborhood Initiative Program in August to rid area neighborhoods of dilapidated homes and abandoned proprieties, and to return them into productive uses. But officials said additional money from the settlement is needed because of the the large number of blighted proprieties in the area.

“We’ve got more demand for structures than we’ve got money to do them, so this would be a real shot in the arm,” Detrick said.

Hartley said there are foreclosed properties in Clark County that are falling apart and need to be rehabbed and returned to the local tax base.

Hartley said he hopes Brown and Portman’s efforts succeed and help land banks.

“It might not wind up being that much (for Clark County), but anything we could get would help,” Hartley said.

Brown said they have requested upwards of $100 million be earmarked for Ohio in negotiations with not-for-profit groups, such as Thriving Communities Institute, and the county land banks that represent 70 percent of the state’s population.

Portman concurs with Brown and “strongly supports” the efforts of Ohio land banks and other stakeholders to help struggling neighborhoods get back on their feet. He said land banks and housing groups are at the forefront to turn around communities.

“Foreclosures and declining home prices have hit many of Ohio’s neighborhoods, and it’s crucial that the private and public sector work together on neighborhood stabilization efforts,” said Ohio’s junior senator.

August’s $16.65 billion settlement deal is the latest in national bank foreclosure settlements. Ohio benefited from the first national settlement — a $25 billion settlement in 2012 with the country’s five largest banks — when it received more than $300 million. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office, which is not involved in this latest settlement deal, created the Moving Ohio Forward grant program. Counties divvied up a share of $75 million to raze dilapidated, foreclosed and abandoned homes.

“For these bank settlements to be truly meaningful it’s critical that hard dollars find their way to the most seriously affected communities in Ohio,” said Jim Rokakis, director of Thriving Communities Institute, a northern Ohio agency that aids communities in revamping vacant and non-productive properties.

After the $13 billion JP Morgan Chase settlement was announced, more than 100 people representing organizations around Ohio worked to develop a plan to give to banks when deciding where to distribute settlement dollars, he said.

“We think making donations to Ohio land banks could be attractive, for example,” Rokakis said.

Outside of verifying a land bank is legitimate, he said no due diligence is required of Bank of America — or any other financial intuition — which is ordered to pay restitution in connection to the mortgage fraud scandal.

Brown said that former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke touted that the economy will recover when manufacturing strengthens. The senior senator contends the housing market is also part of that equation.

“It’s been some six years since the financial crisis reaped terrible damage of homeowners and investors in our state and across the country. We’ve made progress, we know the economy can’t only recover only until the housing market does,” Brown said. “The manufacturing has turned around — not as much as we want — but it has been meaningful that way. Housing has not pulled its part in many ways.”

Foreclosures, though, have declined, Brown said, but not enough. Until 2012, the senator said Ohio had 14 consecutive years of more foreclosures than the year before.

“These funds won’t erase the housing crisis but it will help reverse its course,” Brown said.

Clark County Community Development Grant Coordinator David Fleck said land bank officials would like to see funds become available to rehab properties.

“There’s been a lot of money going around lately for demolitions which was great because it was needed, but we would like to see some money eventually for rehab programs to rehabilitate some of the housing stock we have now … We want to make the best out of the stock that we do have instead of leveling (all of the dilapidated properties),” Fleck said.

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Fun Fact

People like us on Facebook! We have over 2,000 likes! Follow us on Facebook for the latest updates.

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Did You Know?

The Cuyahoga Land Bank has a FAQ page complete with Land Bank FAQ 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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Partner Feature: Mayfield Heights


mayfield heights logo

The City of Mayfield Heights is a vibrant community led by Mayor Anthony DiCicco and seven council representatives. The City, with a population of approximately 20,000, consists of 5,000 single family homes and a dynamic retail district located along Mayfield Road and SOM Center Road. The Mayfield Road/I-271 interchange access, major road improvements, and a vibrant business community all lend themselves to the city’s appeal and charm. Over 50,000 people access Mayfield Road and SOM Center Road on any given day. There are several office buildings located off of Lander Road that are generally filled to capacity and are the home to many recognizable businesses as well as world headquarters to several large corporations.
At the heart of the City are single mayfield_1family homes, and the high priority Mayfield Heights places on maintaining and exercising programs that support the Housing Code. The City has a Property Maintenance Program as well as Point-of-Sale and Rental License requirements. Property maintenance is vital to the well-being of the community and Mayfield Heights embraces a working relationship with the Cuyahoga Land Bank to support these efforts.
Like other communities, Mayfield Heights has been affected to a certain degree by the nationwide housing and financial crisis.“We are willing to go to any length to protect the homes, the environment of our residents, and the neighborhoods they live in. The Cuyahoga Land Bank is a tremendous asset to our community,” said City of Mayfield Heights Director of Building, Thomas Jamieson, who added “The City of Mayfield Heights is looking forward to the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s help in removing some long time vacant and blighted homes. The homes have been vacant anywhere from three to five years.”


“Every community we work in is different and unique,” The homes have been vacant anywhere from three to five years.” “Every community we work in is different and unique,” said Cuyahoga Land Bank President Gus Frangos. “We are excited to enter into this relationship with the City of Mayfield Heights.”









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Posted in 2014.9.2, Newsletter, Uncategorized

Senate Bill 172 signed into law | City of Mayfield Heights – Cuyahoga Land Bank News – 2014.9.2


Posted in 2014.9.2, Newsletter

Senate Bill 172

On June 5, 2014, Cuyahoga Land Bank Staff Attorney Doug Sawyer and President Gus Frangos travelled to Columbus to meet with Governor John Kasich for the signing of S.B. 172.The new law provided amendments to the land banking statutes  which enhance the ability of courts, boards of revision and other governmental agencies to repurpose and eliminate vacant  and abandoned properties throughout the State of Ohio. The new bill was sponsored by Senator Tom Patton who was also the chief sponsor of S.B. 353 in 2009 which established county land banks. Frangos has written several bills since 2004 which have been enacted by the General Assembly. The Frangos-Sawyer collaboration was the first for Sawyer who has been an employee of the Cuyahoga Land Bank for four years, first as an intern and now as staff attorney.Together, they worked with the Ohio Legislative Services Commission in crafting new policies.“Through the excellent work of our staff, the Cuyahoga Land Bank has built up credibility with our General Assembly.” said Frangos. County Treasurers Wade Kapszukiewicz from Lucas County and Carolyn Rice from Montgomery County also attended the signing with Governor Kasich. Rice pointed out that the Cuyahoga Land Bank continues to provide leadership for all the land banks statewide when it comes to resolving policy issues and its familiarity with the legislative process. Frangos stated “it is great to be able to work with such a skilled lawyer” referring to Sawyer. So what’s next? According to Frangos and Sawyer, they said “stay tuned.”


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Posted in 2014.9.2, Newsletter

New York’s foreclosure backlog isn’t going away until 2016, at least (Housing Wire)

The backlog that keeps the average property in the state New York in foreclosure proceedings for more than four years isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, the foreclosure logjam isn’t expected to dissipate until at least 2016, according to a new report from Moody’s Investors Service on foreclosures for loans in private-label residential mortgage-backed securitizations.

Due to New York’s judicial foreclosure process, a private-label RMBS loan in New York currently spends an average of 1,498 days in foreclosure proceedings before exiting. That’s up from 1,339 days as of 2013’s fourth quarter.

The number has continually grown since the fourth quarter of 2006, when properties were in foreclosure proceedings for an average of 271 days.

And while the number of loans in foreclosure fell from 40,693 to 38,213 in the second quarter of 2014, the figure is still above the foreclosure total at the end of 2009, when 36,844 properties were in foreclosure.

“In New York, the recent private-label RMBS foreclosure backlog of 38,213 loans could be cleared in approximately 5.7 years using the last 12 months’ average exit rate of 1,684 loans and in approximately 2.4 years using the 2008-10 average rate of 4,059 loans,” Moody’s said in its report.

New York’s foreclosure backlog is currently the second highest in the U.S., behind only Florida. Moody’s said that the backlog is due to three factors that lengthen the foreclosure process. Those factors are:

1. New York law requires mandatory settlement conferences (mediation) for all foreclosures. This process can often take more than a year. Foreclosure cannot move forward until the completion of the conferences, and courts will frequently grant long adjournments

2. Two judgments are necessary to complete the foreclosure, one on the order of reference or motion for summary judgment and one on the final judgment of foreclosure. Other states, including New Jersey, require only one judgment

3. Use of referees is necessary for several steps of the foreclosure process, which often causes long delays.

Just behind New York in ranking of states with the highest exposure to 60-plus days delinquent loans is New Jersey.

“New York and New Jersey together account for more than 20% of all loans in private-label RMBS that are more than 60 days delinquent, and the foreclosure timelines in the two states (which currently are five times as long as they were before the financial crisis) are the longest in the U.S. after Florida,” Moody’s said.

“The prognosis for New Jersey is better than for New York, however, because New Jersey’s lengthy foreclosure timelines are mainly the result of legacy issues.”

A private-label RMBS loan in New Jersey currently spends an average of 1,322 days in foreclosure proceedings before exiting, up from 1,080 days in 4Q13.

Like New York, the number has continually grown since the fourth quarter of 2006, when properties were in foreclosure proceedings for an average of 265 days.

The number of loans in foreclosure also fell in 2Q14, from 26,526 to 25,792. The current total is just below the foreclosure total at the end of 2009, when 26,901 properties were in foreclosure.

Moody’s suggests that the prognosis is better for New Jersey than New York, due to New York’s complicated legal process.

“Once the backlogs clear, we expect that New Jersey’s average foreclosure timelines will be shorter than New York’s because New Jersey’s normal foreclosure process is more streamlined,” Moody’s said.

“In addition, whereas uncontested New Jersey foreclosures are concentrated in a single office, New York foreclosures are spread throughout the court system and backlog resolution depends on the particular county and the particular judge.”

Moody’s posits that the REO liquidation timeline will reduce during the next several years because of improvements in the economy, which should help to ease the foreclosure crunch.

In New Jersey, the liquidation timeline for an REO property has dropped to 69 days from a peak of 175 days in September 2011. In New York, even though liquidation timelines extended in the second quarter of 2014, they have still narrowed to 114 days from 173 days at their peak.

But Moody’s cautions that “the improvements will not be enough to offset the lengthy foreclosure timelines and resulting high foreclosure costs that will reduce the recovery values on the loans when the properties are eventually sold.”

Read it from the source

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Posted in Relevant News

City plans to combat vacant buildings (My San Antonio)

In a new program meant to resuscitate vacant buildings, property owners would have to register their buildings with the city, comply with stricter code standards, and pay a $500 fine per violation.

“We don’t want any public shaming, we want to do education,” Lori Houston, director of the Center City Development Office, told members of City Council on Wednesday. “We want to educate people on opportunities that the buildings present. What incentives are available? What could this building become?”

At its core, property owners will have to register their buildings, and present a plan within 30 days of how they are to improve the building. They would have to display “vacant building” placards, carry insurance on the building, and sign a “no trespass affidavit” to allow safety responders to remove trespassers.

People who own single-family homes pay $250 to register, while owners of all other types of buildings pay $750. Failure to register would cost them up to $500 a day in fines.

The plan also raises the standard for the maintenance of vacant buildings. For example, currently all a vacant building needs to comply with city code is plywood on windows on the first floor, and not the upper floors.

“We don’t think that’s acceptable,” said Shanon Shea Miller, the city’s historic preservation officer. “What we’re proposing is for the building to look like someone could reasonably move into it. The windows are repaired. The doors are repaired. There’s no architectural features missing, or hanging off the building. So it doesn’t look abandoned.”

Failure to comply with the elevated standard could cost property owners up to $500 per violation.

The pilot program, scheduled to begin Jan. 1, would cover empty structures in the downtown and surrounding area, historic districts, as well as landmarks.

These buildings will require an annual inspection, which the owner pays for, at the cost of 1 cent per square foot, or a $50 minimum charge.

The plan also calls for an inter-local agreement between the city, Bexar County and the San Antonio Independent School District, that would grant the city first right of refusal in taking over properties that the county has acquired during the foreclosure process, and use wield those properties for future development.

“All three taxing entities have agreed to waive leans and taxes so that we can acquire them at a reduced rate and make them available for redevelopment,” Miller said.

The city estimates that roughly 800 properties will be effected in the pilot program. The plan is scheduled to go before the City Council during a June 4 B session, and to a regular council meeting on June 12.

The CCDO and OHP will then spend the rest of the year reaching out to property owners, and educating them on the other facets of the program, and other tools like State Historic Tax Credits, that are all meant to combat empty buildings.

Read it from the source.

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Posted in Relevant News

Neighborhood Initiative Program

NIPLogo_HiResThe 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.

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Posted in 2014.9.1, Newsletter

Couple transforms a side yard into a beautiful garden and family gathering space

Jackie and Timothy smith_final2Smith have lived in their home for many years and loved everything about it except one thing – the property next door was abandoned.  Then, came the Cuyahoga Land Bank!  The Land Bank acquired the abandoned property, demolished the structure and contacted the Smiths to see if they would be interested in acquiring the property through its Side Yard Program.  The Smiths eagerly accepted and got to work! Quickly, the Smiths began the transformation of their side yard. The fence was replaced, a concrete slab was put in near the back part of the yard, as well as a storage shed and a pavilion with three outdoor grills were built.  “My brother-in-laws love to cook, now we have space to grill and each one can prepare whatever they like,” said Jackie.   The Smiths continued their transformation by landscaping with a decorative brick wall, tree removal and the addition of various shrubs and flowers.smith_final1
The space is now primarily used for family gatherings such as reunions, birthdays and, most recently, a Fourth of July celebration.  The Smiths used to have to look elsewhere for family gatherings, but nowadays the newly enlarged yard provides enough space to entertain family members of all ages. “We set up cornhole, we have volleyball games and the kids are safe to
run around,” said Jackie.
The yard is a labor of love particularly for Mr. Smith.  “This is his passion,” Jackie says of her husband.  “He loves working in the yard.  We are thankful to the Cuyahoga Land Bank and the Side Yard Program,” said Jackie.  “The abandoned property was a poor reflection on our home.smith_final3  Now we own it and maintain it and have made it a place for family.  This is our forever home. The Side Yard Program helped us make this possible.”
The Side Yard Program is dedicated to repurposing land by offering the vacant lots to owners of adjacent properties that meet the eligibility requirements.  For more information, please visit

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Posted in 2014.9.1, Newsletter

Vacant lot transforms into a beautiful garden and family gathering space | Neighborhood Initiative Program – Cuyahoga Land Bank News – 2014.9.1


Posted in 2014.9.1, Newsletter

Richmond Heights City Council approves Land Bank agreement (The News Herald)

Richmond Heights has taken the first steps to deal with vacant, blighted residential properties in the city.

At its most recent meeting, City Council approved an agreement with the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp., commonly referred to as the Land Bank.

“The purpose of the Land Bank is to help demolish vacant abandoned homes throughout the city so that we can support our property values,” Mayor Miesha Wilson Headen said.

Headen said that it also would increase safety in the city. Richmond Heights has seen an increase in 2014 of the number of homes broken into, often to steal copper, though the thefts have gone down in recent months following the arrest of a man linked to several break-ins in the city.

Acting Building Commissioner Nino Monaco said that the Land Bank will look at each individual house that has been identified by the city and decide whether it needs to be torn down or rehabbed.

“They haven’t made a commitment to how many, but they’re definitely going to work with us,” he said.

Monaco said demolition notices have been sent out for five houses. All five are owned by banks.

Three of the houses are on Highland Road, one is on Cary Jay Boulevard and one is on Richmond Park West.

“Hopefully the banks that have been notified about these nuisance properties will take the initiative to knock it down themselves, but if not we’ll look at the Land Bank,” he said.

Headen acknowledged the work that Monaco and Economic Development Director Christel Best did to get the deal done with the Land Bank.

“When they both came on board together, they set it as a priority,” Headen said. “With Nino’s experience as a councilman in Mayfield Heights, who has extensive experience with the program, and Christel Best’s experience with her connections over at the Cuyahoga County Land Bank, they were able to expedite the process.”

The Cuyahoga County Land Bank was recently awarded an additional $1.2 million from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency as part of the federal Hardest Hit Fund. The funds bring the Land Bank’s 2014 allocation to $11.3 million, according to a news release.

Read it from the source

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Posted in Relevant News

Cuyahoga Land Bank awarded an additional $1.2 million from OHFA for demolition

This spring, the Cuyahoga Land Bank was awarded the largest portion of $49.5 million in federal Hardest Hit Funds (HHF) by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) for the demolition of blighted vacant properties.  OHFA recently followed up with a second round of funding, distributing more than $10 million to 15 counties with established land banks in Ohio.  The Cuyahoga Land Bank received another $1.2 million, bringing the total 2014 allocation to the Cuyahoga Land Bank to $11.3 million.


According to OHFA, the HHF funds, which were made available through the Neighborhood Initiative Program (NIP), were awarded to applicants that are focusing efforts on target areas in which the demolition and greening of abandoned properties will help prevent further reduction in property values and stem further foreclosures.


“Foreclosures result in distressed sales that further depress property values and continue the downward spiral, too often resulting in vacant and blighted homes,” said OHFA Executive Director Doug Garver in a press release.  “NIP is a critical component to stabilizing home values and preventing foreclosure.”


The $60 million of HHF distributed by OHFA this year are part of $570.4 million in HHF awarded to OHFA in 2010 to administer the state’s foreclosure prevention program, Save the Dream Ohio.  Any funds not spent by the fall of 2016 must be returned to the US Treasury Department.


To date, the Cuyahoga Land Bank leads efforts to put this year’s funding allocation to use. Since mid-March, the Cuyahoga Land Bank has spent more than $1 million of the awarded funds to demolish more than 100 properties.


“We are working hard to take advantage of this funding by removing blighted homes from our community,” said Cuyahoga Land Bank President Gus Frangos.  “Demolition of dilapidated structures that are beyond repair is an essential element of revitalizing our neighborhoods.”

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Posted in Press Release

She’s looking for a Few Good Souls

Gail Reese could teach the non-profit world a few things about partnerships and collaborations. Her program, “Ministry of Reconciliation,” thrives on the sorts of alliances that build communities—and now, thanks to help from the Cuyahoga Land Bank, Reese’s group has a home for its faith-based outreach and mentoring activities.
Until this year, Ministry of Reconciliation has been borrowing storefronts, living rooms and any othGEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAer spaces they could persuade people to donate short-term. “We needed a permanent place for our small-group sessions,” says Gail Reese, the Ministry’s founder, and for work surrounding the Ministry’s main purpose, “connecting congregations, schools and businesses, mobilizing them to pool their resources and help the people in their communities.”
Reese and her volunteers are like busy neurotransmitters that carry messages across the synapses of the brain. They learn about the resources of a church or business—financial, social, spiritual, physical—and constantly work the synapses of the community, matching those strengths to people’s needs.
Without a permanent address, however, it hasn’t always been easy to bring people together efficiently. A few of the Ministry’s people-driven programs:

  • Adopt-a-School. This Ward 1 initiative introduced pastors and school principals to each other, in hopes they would commit to making sure kids’ needs in their overlapping jurisdictions were covered. “We took the principals to church, and some of them talked to the congregations from the pulpit,” Reese says. One church welcomed an entire school staff to a cookout. Parishioners volunteered their time and supplied schools with uniforms, supplies and other items the schools needed. Every school in the ward was adopted, with one exception.
  • Stop the Violence Campaign. Partnering with the Rape Crisis Center, the Ministry used school gyms to counsel students who wanted to talk confidentially about any kind of abuse, bullying or violence. Individuals in churches were trained in crisis counseling so that when they adopted a school, they could work with the school in its anti-violence programs. Students also entered their essays, poetry and artwork to compete for $50 prizes.
  • “Strength to Stand” support groups. As part of “Stop the Violence,” neighbors are offered evaluation and counseling in anger management and conflict management, with ongoing support beyond the 30-day programs.
  • Parent Power Breakfasts. Parents, grandparents and guardians attend a full-course breakfast where they’re encouraged to talk about their needs, feel supported, and get information. “Our goal with this program and the others is to train people,” Reese says, “so they can take what they learn out into the neighborhood.” Like all of the Ministry’s programs, Parent Power has a spiritual component: “We all pray for other people,” she says. “We make sure everyone has someone praying for them and their needs.”

The Ministry’s new home is on Emery Road, in the Lee-Harvey-Miles community. The Ministry acquired the property from the Cuyahoga Land Bank with much of the renovation work being donated. “Businesses and individuals have given their time—one installed carpeting for free, and a church sent a team to paint,” Reese says. “People invested with their hearts.” Little money has been involved in transforming the Ministry’s new home, but Reese considers herself a wealthy woman regardless: “It’s been a rich process,” she says.

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Posted in 2014.8.1, Newsletter

Jim Rokakis headlines the City Club

On August 15, Thriving Communities Institute Director Jim Rokakis spoke to a sold-out City Club lunch forum that attracted politicians, civil servants, land bankers and activisjim_rokakists from across the state of Ohio. Cuyahoga Land Bank Board Chair and Cleveland City Councilman Tony Brancatelli opened with an impressive introduction that recalled Rokakis’ extensive work combating the urban problems associated with the foreclosure club - FINAL
Rokakis recounted the history of the foreclosure crisis and its effects in Northeast Ohio – the early warning signs in 2001, the unpleasant distinction of five Cleveland zip codes with the most foreclosures in the country in 2008-2009 and the hope for a reimagined community thanks to the work of many of the people in attendance.
Rokakis spoke on the creation of the Cuyahoga Land Bank, declaring it the best in the country! He also spoke of the work of Thriving Communities Institute to in increasing the number of land banks statewide. “There are now 22 land banks in Ohio, including one in 15 of 17 counties in the service area of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy,” he said.
Rokakis listed successes in the battle against the foreclosure crisis beginning with Attorney General Mike DeWine’s allocation of $75 million toward demolition from the nationwide robo-signing settlement with major banks, and then the $10 million in Hardest Hit Funds recently allocated to the Cuyahoga Land Bank for blight-clearing demolition. He also stressed the need for additional funding for demolition for the remaining vacant and abandoned properties that need to come down.
“We can’t have a new Cleveland until we tear some of the old one down,” Rokakis insisted. “The Cuyahoga Land Bank, the largest renovation entity in the county, is facilitating one rehab for every 2.8 demolitions. There is a point at which this can shift. Once we get the bad properties down, we can truly build a new Cleveland.”
“It’s not all doom and gloom,” said Rokakis. He touted an increase in young, educated people that are committing to the city; a Western Reserve Land Conservancy partnership project to increase the tree canopy in the urban core; the rejuvenation of the lakefront and the success of the Slavic Village Recovery Project model as signs of hope.

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Posted in 2014.8.1, Newsletter

Jim Rokakis headlines the City Club | Gail Resses’ Ministry of Reconciliation – Cuyahoga Land Bank News – 2014.8.1


Posted in 2014.8.1, Newsletter

Making Beautiful Music with the Cuyahoga Land Bank

Aside from a few copper pipes and perhaps some nice woodwork or windows, demolition contractors for the Cuyahoga Land Bank do not often come across valuable treasures in houses scheduled for demolition. Until recently, that is, when demolition contractors discovered a Wurlitzer Baby Grand Piano in an abandoned home, just waiting for someone to rekindle its keys!
That someone would be Lafayette CarPiano_movethon, musician extraordinaire whose musical partners have included Celine Dion, Paula Abdul and the immortal Michael Jackson! Carthon has played piano, keyboards and synthesizer, directed choirs and handled remixing on various albums for many famous artists. A native Clevelander, Carthon founded and now directs the
Carthon Conservatory, which provides after-school music training and life skills development for kids and teens, as well as  parent empowerment classes and music lessons for seniors.
Carthon was already working with the Land Bank when the piano was found. “We are trying to secure a second site for the conservatory, to expand our services,” he says. So when the demo team found the Baby Grand, Land Bank staff knew the conservatory would give it a loving home.
“Saving this piano means so much more to us because we often see items that are too damaged and beyond salvage,” says Rosemary Woodruff, Property Specialist for the Cuyahoga Land Bank. “And knowing that this piano will be helping young musicians learn and grow gives us all a big morale boost.
Carthon has found a specialist to restore the piano and when complete, the Wurlitzer will be used for piano lessons and practicing.
“It’s a very, very welcomed gift,” he says. “We work with low-income students and people just trying to advance their musical skills.  Not a lot of them have instruments at home. Here we have an actual grand piano for them to practice on. It’s so exciting!”
Another piano also was found in the abandoned home, but unfortunately, it was deteriorated beyond restoration.

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Posted in 2014.7.2, Newsletter

Making Beautiful Music with the Cuyahoga Land Bank | SWAT Training in Warrensville Heights – Cuyahoga Land Bank News – 2014.7.2


Posted in 2014.7.2, Newsletter

Fun Fact!: Court Community Service (CSS)

In 2013 alone, the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s Partnership with Court Community Service resulted in 4,624community service hours,4,799 bags of trash collected, 158 tires collected and 996 cubic yards of debris collected!  The Cuyahoga Land Bank’s partnership with Court Community Service provides an efficient, cost-effective solution to maintaining Cuyahoga Land Bank properties until those properties are either demolished or renovated.  Check out a video on our Youtube page that outlines the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s Partnership with Court Community Service!

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Posted in 2014.7.2, Fun Fact!, Newsletter

SWAT Training on Land Bank Property in Warrensville Heights

At the Cuyahoga Land Bank, we sometimes surprise ourselves with some of the uses found for properties in our inventory that cannot be renovated.  A property slated for demolition in Warrensville Heights was used as a training facility for the Cleveland Heights Police Special Response Team (SRT)? Earlier in the year, a property was used for fire fighter training.
This partnership provides real-life trGroup_Photoaining to officers and removes a severely neglected building.
“This training is a valuable community asset,” said Cheryl Stephens, Director of Acquisition, Disposition and Development at the Cuyahoga Land Bank.  “Because we were able to make this property available to the Cleveland Heights SRT, the officers gained invaluable hands-on experience.”
The SRT officers completed a classroom training session prior to participating in a training lead by Sergeant Michael D’Amico and Sergeant Corrigan at the property.  The SRT officers were trained to perform building searches, rapid response to shooter tactics, tactical breaching of doors and windows and how to use less lethal distraction devices and chemical munitions.   The team members also learned how to properly use gas masks.  SWAT_Raid
“We are very fortunate that the Cuyahoga Land Bank makes buildings like this available to our department and other departments in the area,” said Sergeant D’Amico.  “Training opportunities in buildings such as this are challenging for us and they give us an element of surprise since we are not familiar with the property.”
Both team leaders for the SRT team, Sergeant D’Amico and Sergeant Corrigan, are instructors for Less Lethal Distraction Devices and Chemical Munitions.
“Being able to use the space for training helps us learn to work in new environments and helps keep our skills sharp,” said Sergeant D’Amico.  “Although we work in the same department, we aren’t all assigned together. This helps us learn together, practice together, and work together as a team.”

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Posted in 2014.7.2, Newsletter

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.

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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.

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Subprime payback continues as Citigroup is hit with $7 billion payout (

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.

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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 and the phone is 216-698-8853,” said Zautner.

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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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