GOPC Endorses SB 40

June 26th, 2015

The Policy Committee of the Greater Ohio Policy Center Board of Directors is proud to announce its endorsement of SB 40, which provides tax credits to individuals and for-profit corporations that invest in place-based catalytic neighborhood projects with non-profit organizations across Ohio. SB 40 has experienced the same bipartisan support it did in the last General Assembly. Please see the following link for coverage of the bill when it was originally introduced.

For more information on GOPC’s endorsement, please contact Lindsey Gardiner, Manager of Government Affairs at lgardiner@greaterohio.org.

 

GOPC Endorses HB 134

June 26th, 2015

The Policy Committee of the Greater Ohio Policy Center Board of Directors recently voted to endorse HB 134 (131st GA). HB 134 would expedite the foreclosure and transfer of unoccupied, blighted parcels in cities with Housing Courts (Cleveland and Toledo) or Environmental Courts (Columbus/Franklin County).  The bill also allows for property to be sold for less than 2/3 value to certified buyers in county sheriff sales.

HB 134 is sponsored by Representative Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City) and Representative Mike Curtin (D-Marble Cliff), who also introduced this legislation as HB 223 in the last General Assembly.

GOPC’s Policy Committee has endorsed this bill because many communities continue to struggle to mitigate the impact of blighted properties in their neighborhoods.  Providing a framework to shorten the foreclosure timeline will help move properties from “limbo” to responsible end users.  In particular, the ability to buy property at less than 2/3 value at sheriff sales, acknowledges the value of sweat equity in turning around neighborhoods and provides a pathway for interested parties to buy and renovate properties for owner occupancy.

For more information on GOPC’s endorsement, please contact Lindsey Gardiner, Manager of Government Affairs at lgardiner@greaterohio.org.

 

GOPC Endorses HB 233

June 26th, 2015

The Policy Committee of the Greater Ohio Policy Center Board of Directors recently voted to endorse HB 233 (131st GA). HB 233 would authorize municipal corporations to create downtown redevelopment districts and innovation districts for the purposes of promoting the rehabilitation of historic buildings, creating jobs, encouraging economic development in commercial and mixed-use areas, and supporting grants and loans to technology-oriented and other businesses.

HB 233 is sponsored by Representative Kirk Schuring (R-Canton).

GOPC’s Policy Committee endorses HB 233 because it champions revitalization and incentivizes investments and redevelopment in Ohio. Under the bill, a municipal corporation would be authorized to exempt a percentage of the increased value of parcels located within the Downtown Redevelopment District (DRD) from property taxations and require the owners of such parcels to make service payments in lieu of taxes. The revenue derived from the service payment would be used for economic development purposes, such as much needed public infrastructure improvements, and if the DRD includes an innovation district, for grants and loans to technology-oriented businesses, incubators, and accelerators.

For more information on GOPC’s endorsement, please contact Lindsey Gardiner, Manager of Government Affairs at lgardiner@greaterohio.org.

 

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.”

 

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″).

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.

Brachman to present at OSU’s Center for Urban & Regional Analysis

January 20th, 2015

This Thursday, January 22, from 3:30—5:00pm, GOPC’s Executive Director, Lavea Brachman will present at OSU’s Center for Urban & Regional Analysis. Her presentation, “Shining Cities on a Hill or Lights Under a Bushel? Realizing the Economic Potential of Ohio’s Cities, Towns and Metros” will discuss:

Throughout our history, American leaders have characterized our communities as potential “cities upon a hill.” One of Ohio’s greatest resources–as well as one of the state’s most powerful economic engines–are its many cities, towns and metros. But are we sufficiently leveraging assets to retain the current workforce, to realize their potential as centers for innovation, and to fulfill their potential as affordable and livable communities?

This talk will discuss current impediments to leveraging these places’ economic potential; identify solutions to restore prosperity; and outline plans for regenerating economic growth in Ohio’s cities, towns and metros that build on their past and prepare for the future.

The presentation will take place in 1080 Derby Hall at 154 N. Oval Mall in Columbus. All are invited and refreshments will be provided. We hope you join us!

Greater Ohio Policy Center’s 2014 Accomplishments

December 19th, 2014
Greater Ohio Policy Center 2014

Happy holidays from Greater Ohio Policy Center! Pictured from left: Meg Montgomery, Lavea Brachman, Alison Goebel, Nicholas Blaine, Marianne Eppig, and Mary Pat Martin. Photo credit: Tobias Roediger of Rave, LTD.

Dear friends,

This year has been one of significant achievement for the Greater Ohio Policy Center. Throughout 2014, we have been advancing revitalization and sustainable growth in Ohio’s cities and regions by leading state level advocacy efforts and demonstrating innovative practices with communities across the state.  To see a complete list of our 2014 achievements, please visit our website.

We have taken a leadership role advocating for state level policy solutions, such as legislation for the Neighborhood Infrastructure Assistance Program and critical transportation policy reforms that are linked with economic regrowth. With local partners, we have also made considerable progress assisting communities in Youngstown, Dayton, Cleveland, and Columbus by working with them to invest strategically in their neighborhoods.

Our national profile continues to grow as our research on cities has been recognized for identifying critical policy gaps and innovative solutions. This important work has also provided us with a platform to convene mayors, practitioners, and academics from across the country to discuss best practices and to highlight efforts underway in Ohio.

Next year promises to be equally, if not more, exciting for Greater Ohio Policy Center. Cities are gaining the spotlight as magnets for people and firms that are driving demand for dense, walkable places and increased transportation options. Greater Ohio Policy Center is leading efforts to ensure that Ohio’s communities—large and small—take advantage of this opportunity for reinvestment and sustainable economic growth. In 2015, we will embark on new initiatives focused on neighborhood stabilization, city innovation and revival, commercial district revitalization, water and sewer infrastructure, advocacy for increased transportation options, and much more.

We hope that you join us for our June 2015 Summit, Restoring Neighborhoods, Strengthening Economies: Innovation and Sustainable Growth in Ohio’s Cities & Regions, which will bring together national experts, state policymakers and local leaders who are transforming Ohio’s cities and regions in varied ways to forge a revitalization agenda that enhances Ohio’s 21st century economic competitiveness. Click here to learn more about the Summit.

Our 2014 successes and future initiatives would not be possible without the support of individuals like you.  Please take time to make a donation today, so that we can continue our work to create a greater Ohio.

With best wishes for a happy holiday season and a prosperous 2015,

Lavea Brachman & the Greater Ohio Policy Center staff