In March 2007, Governor Strickland created the “Ohio Foreclosure Prevention Task Force” to address the ever-increasing number of foreclosures plaguing the state. The group’s final report, issued in September 2007, identified 27 recommendations for state action. Since the rise in foreclosures likely won’t be going away anytime soon, perhaps it’s appropriate to take stock of Ohio’s progress on the recommendations issued over 16 months ago.
Here are a few of the Task Force’s ideas where notable progress has been made recently:
1. Facilitate land banking of properties.
2. Encourage mediation and alternative dispute resolution.
3. Expedite the post-judgment process of property transfer.
The Ohio legislature deserves a fair amount of credit for getting substantial legislation passed quickly on these issues. Most recently, Governor Strickland signed Senate Bill 353 that authorizes Cuyahoga County to create a “county land reutilization corporation” to manage, develop, and maintain vacant property. Much more can be said about the pros and cons of this land-bank effort (and will be in a later post), but suffice to say it is a positive step toward addressing the mass amounts of abandoned properties in the Cleveland area that have resulted from the rise in foreclosures. At a recent presentation to the Cuyahoga County Law Directors Association, County Treasurer Jim Rokakis was very upbeat about being to tackle the “land” aspect of the foreclosure problem.
The goals of encouraging mediation and expediting post-judgment transfer were realized earlier through Substitute House Bill 138, signed by Gov. Strickland in September 2008. The bill made sweeping changes to Ohio’s foreclosure process, all aimed at expediting the process and locating parties who purchase properties at sheriff’s sales. It also explicitly authorizes courts to require the mortgagor and mortgagee to engage in mediation at any stage of the foreclosure.
These actions may not be enough to stem the tide of the current crisis, but addressing foreclosure-related issues through legislation now could certainly help minimize similar problems that arise in the future. Now, about those other 24 recommendations…