Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cuyahoga County Fiscal Office has not held its regular forfeited land sale for nearly two years. As a result, the number of forfeited properties in Cuyahoga County has ballooned to almost 1,000 properties. Instead of allowing the forfeited properties to accumulate and languish, the Cuyahoga Land Bank stepped in to help transfer title to numerous forfeited properties to the municipalities in which they are located. Under Ohio law, county land banks are able to acquire forfeited properties prior to the forfeited land sale. Once acquired from forfeiture, the land bank is able to then transfer the lots to interested municipalities.
“Not knowing when the county will resume in-person auctions, we are able to assist the Fiscal Office in getting some of these properties into responsible hands,” says Douglas Sawyer, Assistant General Counsel for the Cuyahoga Land Bank.
The municipalities usually incorporate the properties into their land reutilization programs and either hold vacant land for future development, offer vacant lots to its residents for side yards, or cause the renovation of unoccupied buildings. On average, the Cuyahoga Land Bank acquires six vacant lots from forfeiture each month and transfers them to neighboring homeowners. Over the last three months, the Cuyahoga Land Bank acquired and transferred nearly 40 forfeited properties to municipalities county-wide. Municipalities requesting properties included Brooklyn, North Olmsted, Garfield Heights, Euclid, Westlake, Independence, Bedford, Berea, Cleveland Heights, and Oakwood Village.