As I mentioned in an earlier post, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland recently signed legislation creating a new “land bank” in Cuyahoga County. Like a dose of cold medicine, Senate Bill 353 is not a cure for the foreclosure crisis, but it should help solve one of its primary symptoms – abandoned and vacant housing.
More than any other area in the state, Greater Cleveland has struggled with vacant properties due to its dramatic population decline over the past fifty years. In 1950, Cleveland’s population stood at 914,808, making it the seventh largest city in the U.S. Today, the population is estimated at 438,000. In other words, the city was built for twice as many people, leaving Clevelanders with easy commutes and plentiful abandoned properties.
Essentially, a land bank offers a means for holding property that remains in county hands after a tax foreclosure. They county may simply retain the property, or it could be more proactive and demolish rundown buildings, redevelop or sell the property. A major innovation in the new land bank, as opposed to that authorized by the Ohio legislature in 1976, is to create an entity separate from local government. This offers one huge advantage over the old model - the possibility of quick action on a regional level. The municipal bureaucracies will no longer have to monitor and approve of land bank action.
The land bank, or “County Land Reutilization Corporation,” will come into being in April and efforts are already underway to make sure it is well-funded from the outset. If all goes as planned, it could be a critical tool toward the “Sustainable Cleveland” that city leaders are beginning to envision, and usher in a new wave of well-planned redevelopment opportunities.