Legislative Update: Fast Track Foreclosure & Service Station Cleanup

May 21st, 2015

Ohio General Assembly Reviews Bill that will Fast Track Foreclosure on Problem Properties

House Bill 134, formerly known as HB 223 in the 130th General Assembly, has been re-introduced by bill cosponsors Representative Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City), and Representative Mike Curtin (D-Columbus).

Image by Forsaken Fotos

This bill will expedite the time it takes to foreclose on a vacant or abandoned residential property, leading to a faster turnaround for managing and mitigating blight in Ohio’s neighborhoods.  Specifically, HB 134 aims to:

  1. authorize a municipal corporation to file for foreclosure on vacant and abandoned residential properties,
  2. permits blighted properties on sale at a sheriff’s auction to be listed without a minimum bid on the second sales attempt, and
  3. permits a municipality to dispose of blighted properties at their convenience if such properties have not been disposed of through a sheriff’s auction.

As a result of the bill, additional foreclosure actions may be filed by municipal corporations with the appropriate court of common pleas or municipal court, and those properties in turn could be sold through a sheriff’s sale, or if unsold, disposed of in a manner deemed appropriate by the municipal corporation that filed the action.

Since the bill’s introduction in late March, the bill has been moving quickly with a third hearing in the House Financial Institutions, Housing, and Urban Development Committee on Wednesday, May 20th. With the rate the legislation is moving and no testimony in opposition to the bill, HB 134 remains in good standing and could be up for a possible vote out of committee by the end of this month.

GOPC has offered support to assist Representatives Grossman and Curtin, and is working collaboratively with the Ohio CDC Association and other Interested Party members, such as the Ohio Bankers League (OBL), and various other stakeholders of this legislation. Proponents of HB 134 include the Ohio Mortgage Bankers Association (OMBA), Safeguard Properties, Community Blight Solutions, SecureView companies, the City of Columbus, and the Buckeyes State Sheriffs’ Association.

HB 134 continues to receive widespread, bipartisan support and GOPC is optimistic the bill will pick up more momentum as more members of the Legislature learn of the positive impact it will have on Ohio’s communities.

 


 

GOPC Testifies to Ohio’s Senate Finance Workforce Subcommittee on the Service Station Cleanup Fund Program

Image by Matthew Rutledge

Government Affairs Manager Lindsey Gardiner recently offered interested party testimony to the Senate Finance Workforce Subcommittee on the Service Station Cleanup Fund Program contained within the Ohio Development Services Agency’s budget, which is part of the 2016-2017 Operating Budget (HB64).

Gardiner gave the following remarks (excerpt from testimony):

“We were pleased to see that the Operating Budget proposes the creation of a Service Station Cleanup Fund (Sec. 610.20). We have made three recommendations for consideration in the Budget.

  1. Expand the definition of property owner to include organizations that have entered into an agreement with a political subdivision, which will be better prepared to manage the challenges associated with these contaminated sites.
  2. Clarify the definition of cleanup or remediation to include the acquisition of a class C release site, demolition performed at a site, and the installation or upgrade of the minimum amount of infrastructure that is necessary to make a site operational after other clean up measures. Adding specifics to this definition will ensure properties are shovel-ready.
  3. Adjust the grant amounts for property assessment from $500,000 to $100,000 and cleanup from $2,000,000 to $500,000. Average assessment costs for small sites like a service station usually range from $20,000 to $120,000 and cleanup and remediation of these sites often can be accomplished with $100,000 to $600,000.”

GOPC is very pleased to see a commitment by the state of Ohio to assist communities in priming sites that will directly support local economic development efforts. Ohio has much economic redevelopment potential locked-up in contaminated sites and remediating these locations will help businesses thrive and create places where people want to live. We hope that the Service Station Cleanup Fund is the first of several programs that leverage the investments needed for these sites, which are located in so many of Ohio’s communities.

 

GOPC Releases Study on Ohio’s County Land Banks

May 15th, 2015

GOPC releases its latest report, “Taking Stock of Ohio County Land Banks: Current Practices and Promising Strategies.”

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As of April 2015, Ohio had twenty-two county land banks in operation, which have revitalized hundreds of buildings, including residential homes, skyscrapers, historic theaters, and vacant factories, and have demolished over 15,000 blighted structures.

The Greater Ohio Policy Center’s latest report, “Taking Stock of Ohio County Land Banks: Current Practices and Promising Strategies,” utilizes interviews, conference presentations, media coverage, and land bank documents to assess the current state of land banking in Ohio.  Through its research, GOPC places land banks in the larger context of community revitalization and highlights promising county land bank programs that have the potential to greatly contribute to sustainable economic and community redevelopment throughout Ohio.

GOPC found that each of Ohio’s 22 county land banks is tailored to their local circumstances, although most have shaped their missions to include the broad goals of:

  1. stabilizing and strengthening markets—particularly residential neighborhoods—to prevent further decline, and
  2. clearing a path for private sector re-engagement by lowering barriers through incentives, support, and resources.

Through the study, GOPC identified changes in local practices and state level policies that would further increase land banks’ effectiveness.  Recommended changes in state level policies include:

  • give counties the option to forgo holding forfeited land sales in cases in which properties on this list are more of a liability than asset
  • require county auditors to assess the condition and quality of properties at the same time they are assessed for value
  • provide immunity to trespassing charges to county land bank officials who enter blighted properties

 While Ohio’s county land banks are still early in their development, and many have yet to implement all the tools available to them, “Taking Stock of Ohio’s County Land Banks” concludes that land banks are having impact in their communities and hold great promise for the future.

For more information and a copy of this report please visit “Taking Stock of Ohio County Land Banks: Current Practice and Promising Strategies.”

 

Announcing the Keynote of the Greater Ohio Summit

May 14th, 2015

Greater Ohio Policy Center is excited to announce that Mayor Michael Coleman will be the lunchtime keynote speaker at the GOPC Summit, Restoring Neighborhoods, Strengthening Economies. Mayor Coleman will speak at noon on June 9th, the first day of the Summit.

Since taking office in 2000, Mayor Michael B. Coleman has built Columbus’ reputation as one of the most livable cities in the nation by building stronger, safer neighborhoods, creating jobs and maintaining a high quality of life. Mayor Coleman is the first African-American and longest-serving mayor in Columbus history, the 3rd longest serving Mayor in the country, and the longest-serving African-American mayor among major U.S. cities.

“Coleman seems to focus relentlessly on the kind of urban renewal that will make Columbus attractive to the next generation,” wrote Matt Bai in Yahoo! News in December of 2014.

Mayor Coleman will be one of the many leaders who will be sharing innovative ideas and new approaches for transforming Ohio’s cities and regions for a new era at the Summit.

Don’t miss this unique opportunity to hear from many of the leading voices of revitalization at this one-time-only event. The discounted room rate at the Westin Columbus is available until May 19, 2015. Click here to register now and make a reservation.

 

Also, Make Sure to Join Us for the Networking Reception with Members of the Ohio General Assembly!

On June 9th, from 4:15-6:15pm at the Westin Columbus, Greater Ohio Policy Center is hosting a networking reception with Representatives and Senators from across the state.  Click here to register now and join us for this special event that is part of the Greater Ohio Summit.

Want to know who else is attending? Click here to see the list of attending organizations.

 

 

Donate to GOPC on May 12 and boost your dollars!

May 7th, 2015

The Big Give is Coming to Central Ohio!

For 24 hours, beginning Tuesday May 12, at 10:00 a.m., the Columbus Foundation will increase your online donation of $20 or more made to the Greater Ohio Policy Center!

Starting at 10am on May 12th and ending at 10am on May 13th, the Columbus Foundation is matching on a pro rata basis all donations made to nonprofits and charities in central Ohio.  The pool is $1.3 million and the Greater Ohio Policy Center is an eligible recipient!

Everyday GOPC works with leaders in the public, private, nonprofit, and philanthropic sectors to advance policies and programs that support the redevelopment of existing communities, strengthen regional cooperation, and protect the countryside and Ohio’s natural resources.

Support from donors like you help fund the work we do; won’t you join us in championing revitalization and sustainable growth in Ohio?

Best of all, you don’t even have to live in central Ohio to participate in the Big Give!

How it Works

Step 1: Beginning at 10 a.m. on May 12, visit http://columbusfoundation.org/ and click on the Big Give banner.

Step 2: Search for Greater Ohio Policy Center. Click the Give Now button. 100% of your donation will go to GOPC.

Step 3: Enter your credit card information to complete your donation of $20 or more. There is no maximum amount.

The Big Give ends at 10 a.m. on May 13. Please make a gift during this 24 hour period—this is a rare opportunity to make your dollar go even further!

If you have any questions, please call the GOPC office and we can help: 614-224-0187.

Greater Ohio Summit: Last Call for Award Nominations, Hotel Reservations

May 1st, 2015

The Greater Ohio Policy Center invites you to attend our 2015 Summit, Restoring Neighborhoods, Strengthening Economies: Innovation & Sustainable Growth in Ohio’s Cities & Regions. This Summit will bring together national experts, state policymakers, and local leaders from all sectors to discuss new strategies for transforming Ohio’s cities and regions and for making Ohio economically competitive in the 21st century. Click here to see the Summit agenda.

The discounted room rate at the Westin Columbus is available until May 19, 2015. Click here to register now and make a reservation.


Last Call for Greater Ohio Sustainable Development Award Nominations!

The Awards will recognize public, private, and non-profit sector leaders who are working to create vibrant and sustainable communities and regions in Ohio.  TODAY is the deadline for award nominations.  Click here to find out more & send in your nomination.


Interested in Sponsorship Opportunities?

By becoming a sponsor of the Restoring Neighborhoods, Strengthening Economies Summit, your organization will be supporting the seminal statewide Summit in Ohio that brings together national experts with state policymakers and local leaders to highlight ways to transform Ohio’s cities and metros. Sponsors will be featured at the Summit and on promotional materials, and will have exhibit tables throughout the event.

For questions or sponsorship opportunities, please contact Marianne Eppig of Greater Ohio Policy Center (meppig@greaterohio.org or 614-224-0187).

 

Managing Distressed Properties at Wells Fargo Community Development

May 1st, 2015

Guest post by Lauren Martinez of Wells Fargo REO Community Development

In a little-known corner of Wells Fargo lives the REO (real estate owned) Community Development Team. This 30 person team, on a basic level, manages distressed properties that have gone through foreclosure while trying to find a suitable nonprofit organization or municipality to receive the properties as donations. The idea is pretty simple, but the effects of the idea create something wonderful out of (nearly) nothing.

This program began in 2009 and has grown over the past six years to donating more than 1,500 properties each year. Of course, there are some regions and states that see more donations than others, states like Florida, Maryland, and, more recently, New York. Wells Fargo operates both a large scale program that donates multiple properties at a time to organizations that have a housing-focused mission and extensive experience rehabilitating homes, as well as a smaller scale program called the Community and Urban Stabilization Program (known as CUSP). This program focuses on a wider target of non-profit organizations and places of worship that do not necessarily have a housing mission but do have the desire and ability to rehabilitate and use a distressed property for a good purpose. The underlying idea of both of these programs is to provide these non-profits and the communities that they serve with an opportunity to stabilize neighborhoods that need it.

It’s truly inspiring to see the wonderful things the nonprofits do with the properties. From vacant lots, we’ve seen community gardens and parks appear; from distressed homes we’ve seen food pantries, low income housing, non-profit office and meeting spaces take shape. The possibilities are virtually endless, and we at Wells Fargo are so proud to play a part in it. It’s no secret that the non-profits are those that put in the long hours and hard labor to put these homes and lots to good use. I often like to think of the process as growing a garden. The non-profits spend the time cultivating, watering, nurturing and weeding out what’s causing the blight. We’re providing the seed for the organizations to make something beautiful out of a less than ideal situation.

“From a small seed a mighty trunk may grow.” –Aeschylus

If you’d like more information on our programs, please visit http://reo.wellsfargo.com/community.

The pictures provided below are before and after photos of a rehabilitation completed by the Trumbull County Land Bank, located in Warren, Ohio. This non-profit organization’s focus is “to help return vacant and abandoned properties in Trumbull County, Ohio, to productive use.” The house is now a “first home” for a young couple.

Pic1

Living Area Before

Pic2

Living Area After

Read the rest of this entry »

GOPC’s Recommended Transportation Policies Signed Into Law

April 2nd, 2015

On Wednesday, April 1st, Governor Kasich signed the state transportation budget bill. This $7 billion budget bill includes two important provisions that GOPC strongly advocated for and that will help lay the foundation for a more diverse and modern transportation system in Ohio. GOPC’s successful policy provisions include:

  1. Performance metrics that allow for comparison of performance across transportation modes. The legislation directs ODOT to use these metrics to assist with statewide strategic planning processes and investment decisions (exact language can be found in Sec. 5501.08 of the transportation budget). With this new language, Ohio will be joining other states, such as Pennsylvania and North Carolina, in utilizing metrics to guide transportation investment. This provision should help public transportation compete for additional funding.
  2. Joint Legislative Task Force on Transportation Issues. Throughout the legislative process, GOPC championed the creation of a task force that would analyze transportation funding. This Task Force has a broader focus, but must report by December 31, 2016 on the funding needs and recommendations for funding transportation. There is significant bi-partisan support for this Task Force (the exact charges of the Task Force can be found in Sec. 775.40). This Task Force creates an opportunity to further explore funding options for multi-modal and public transit.

GOPC thanks the Legislature for considering these provisions and incorporating them into the final budget that went to the Governor.  Without support from key legislative champions, these provisions would not have been signed into law.

Click here to see the final transportation bill (follow the link for “Transportation and Public Safety Budget FY2016 and FY2017″).

The UpDayton Summit

March 26th, 2015

Guest post by AJ Ferguson, Director of UpDayton

UpDayton Volunteers

UpDayton Volunteers

The 2015 UpDayton Summit will be held on Friday, April 10th at the Dayton Art Institute from 2pm to 6pm. You can learn more or register online at http://updayton.city/.

UpDayton seeks to spur economic growth in the Dayton region by attracting and retaining young creative talent. UpDayton wants to show young adults that the Gem City is a great place to live, work and play. And if top-notch creative young professionals want to live in our community, then top-notch entrepreneurs, businesses and investors want to be here, too!

UpDayton is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The vast majority of UpDayton’s impact stems from the work of volunteers who want to build a better Dayton for themselves and their peers. Volunteers lead and power UpDayton’s targeted committees and projects that address factors college graduates and young professionals employ when they decide what city to call home.

Each year, UpDayton hosts a young creatives summit, bringing together diverse young talent, business leaders, non-profits, universities and elected officials to address the flight of young talent from the region. At the each Summit, the Dayton region’s diverse young creatives come together to share their needs and concerns for the Miami Valley and brainstorm ideas to make the region a better place to live, work and play.

Primary goals of the annual Summit: Read the rest of this entry »

GOPC Testifies to New Jersey Legislature on Benefits of Land Banking

March 18th, 2015
GOPC Testimony to NJ Legislature

Lavea Brachman testified alongside Alan Mallach of the Center for Community Progress on the merits of land banks.

On Monday, GOPC Executive Director Lavea Brachman gave testimony to the New Jersey legislature Housing and Community Development Committee on the status of land banks in Ohio to help inform their consideration of proposed land bank legislation for New Jersey.

At the invitation of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, Brachman gave the following remarks (excerpt from testimony):

“Similar to New Jersey, Ohio’s cities have been hit hard by urban blight and decline, experiencing some of the highest foreclosure and vacancy rates in the country. At its height in 2009, Ohio’s foreclosure filings was almost 90,000 per year, and the vacancy rates have climbed to devastating levels of over 15% in such cities as, Cleveland, Youngstown and Cincinnati, and over 20% in Dayton and many other cities and towns around the state.   These vacancies have also cost municipalities exponential amounts in collateral damage, represented in the form of public safety hazards and decreased property values.

In 2008, in response to this unparalleled foreclosure and vacant and abandoned property crisis, the Ohio General Assembly, with bipartisan support, passed legislation creating Ohio’s first county land bank, piloted in Cuyahoga County (where Cleveland is located). In 2010, GOPC and a coalition of partners from around the state successfully advocated for passage of legislation that extended land bank authority to an additional 42 out of Ohio’s 88 counties (based on a population threshold), permitting these specified counties to create a hybrid organization that combines the private sector efficiency of a non-profit corporation with the public purposes, powers and funding of a governmental organization.

Ohio land banks are a welcome example of a state policy implemented with appropriate local control intervening effectively to jumpstart local market operations. While Ohio communities have a long way to go to return to economic and physical health—and while there is room for land banks to maximize further use of their tools to help individuals thrive and achieve community revitalization—many cities and counties are actively leveraging their land banks’ capabilities demonstrating that well-intentioned state policy interventions in combination with local capacity and oversight can work in tandem with market operations. They are working so well that a recent proposal floated by the county treasurers’ association to expand land banks to the rest of the counties in the state.”

GOPC applauds the New Jersey legislature for considering the merits of land banks, which have made significant strides in blight elimination and neighborhood revitalization throughout Ohio.

The Water & Sewer Infrastructure Crisis and Potential Paths Forward

March 3rd, 2015

By Samantha Dawson, GOPC Intern, and Marianne Eppig, Manager of Research & Communications

Our nation and its legacy cities are facing an impending infrastructure crisis: water and sewer systems are failing and require modernization as soon as possible. Most of these water and sewer systems were built following WWII, meaning that they are approaching the end of their useful life. In some places, the infrastructure is already beginning to fail, leading to water main breaks, housing floods, sewage overflows into the environment, and public health crises.

While the national bill to upgrade this infrastructure has been estimated at around $1 trillion, costs for addressing Ohio’s existing water and sewer system deficiencies are estimated to be around $20.84 billion, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

To meet federal clean water mandates, cities must find ways to finance these needed infrastructure overhauls in short order. So far, many cities around Ohio have been ratcheting up water and sewer rates. The city of Akron, for example, has increased rates by 71% in one year. Other cities around Ohio have raised rates between 30% to 50% or more within the last two years.

Graph-WaterRates-OEPA    Graph-SewerRates-OEPA

GOPC is currently looking into other financial tools that can be used to restore Ohio’s water and sewer infrastructure systems. We will be discussing these tools with a panel of experts at our upcoming 2015 Summit on June 9th during the following session:

Finding Solutions to Ohio’s Water Infrastructure Challenges 

Ohio cities, large and small, must address the critical behind-the-scenes challenge of modernizing their water and sewer infrastructure to avoid potential serious public health crises and environmental degradation, and to create capacity to attract and support businesses and residents.  However, Ohio’s cities are struggling to find ways to finance the complicated infrastructure overhauls needed to address these challenges, comply with federal mandates, and even support on-going maintenance. On this panel, experts will discuss the scope of these infrastructure challenges along with innovative financing approaches and sustainable solutions necessary for Ohio’s cities to function smoothly and accommodate regrowth.

We hope you will join us at the 2015 Summit! For more information about the Summit agenda and to register, click here.