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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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