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.”


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.”


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 ( 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

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.


Living Area Before


Living Area After

Read the rest of this entry »

GOPC Invites Panel Proposals for its June 2015 Summit on Innovation & Sustainable Growth in Ohio

October 20th, 2014

GOPC 2015 Summit

Deadline for Letters of Interest: November 14, 2014

Restoring Neighborhoods, Strengthening Economies: A Summit on Innovation and Sustainable Growth in Ohio’s Cities & Regions, a Summit hosted by the Greater Ohio Policy Center on June 9-10 of 2015 at the Westin Columbus, will explore the links between neighborhood revitalization and regional growth that make economically Ohio competitive in the 21st century.

GOPC welcomes champions of sustainable development from across Ohio to participate in this Summit, creating a dialogue around both policy and practice that will set an agenda for innovation, sustainable growth, and economic prosperity in Ohio.

We invite Letters of Interest describing panels that address the role of innovation and sustainable development in city and regional revitalization and economic growth in Ohio, such as:

  • approaches to generating and supporting innovation economies in Ohio’s cities
  • strategies for metropolitan and regional sustainable development and economic growth
  • practices for vacant and abandoned property reuse and community revitalization
  • financial tools for infrastructure improvement
  • options and financing for advancing multimodal transportation
  • financial tools and partners for strengthening neighborhoods and downtowns
  • case studies of ways to address environmental and equitable development issues
  • innovative governance tools that advance sustainable development and economic growth
  • new cross-sector community and regional solutions for revitalization

Summit sessions will address a wide range of topics essential to sustainable development and economic growth in Ohio, appealing to an audience that includes civic, business, philanthropic, non-profit and political leaders, including bankers, developers, and practitioners. The Summit will highlight cutting-edge strategies and practices, new tools, effective partnerships and policy solutions that are laying the foundation for building sustainable, prosperous, innovative communities and regions in Ohio and beyond.

Format and Process for Letters of Interest

Letters of Interest (up to 500 words) should describe the panel concept and how it will contribute to the Summit. Please include a list of proposed speakers and be prepared to confirm their participation upon panel acceptance.

GOPC will work with selected participants to finalize panel topics and speakers. GOPC will notify all individuals who submit a Letter of Interest with a decision by January 2015.


Please direct any questions about the Summit or this process to Letters of Interest should be submitted to the same address by November 14, 2014.

About Greater Ohio Policy Center

Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC), a non-profit, non-partisan organization based in Columbus and operating statewide, develops and advances policies and practices that value our urban cores and metropolitan regions as economic drivers and preserve Ohio’s open space and farmland. Through education, research, and outreach, GOPC strives to create a political and policy climate receptive to new economic and governmental structures that advance sustainable development and economic growth.


The Ohio Land Bank Conference

September 15th, 2014

By Nicholas J. Blaine, Project Coordinator

Last week, on September 11, I attended the Thriving Communities Institute’s 4th annual Ohio Land Bank Conference in Columbus, Ohio. The event brought together experts in the field to discuss best practices and share successes from Ohio’s 22 land banks. As a new staffer for GOPC, I saw the event as a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the role of land banks in building a sustainable Ohio.


The morning began with remarks from Jim Rokakis, Vice President of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy and Director of its Thriving Communities Institute. The conference covered a wide range of topics, from the basics of vacant property management to how hemp can be used to promote sustainable growth. Read the rest of this entry »

Lessons of a GOPC Intern

September 3rd, 2014

A farewell blog post by Raquel Jones, a fantastic GOPC Intern

As a lifetime resident of the capital of Ohio, I have come to learn and appreciate the unique experiences and amenities offered through Ohio’s cities. Over the years, I have witnessed the many transformations that Columbus and many other cities in the state have gone through as they have fought to create new identities while retaining their historic presence.


Columbus, Ohio

Although I was young when it first hit, the Great Recession had a severe impact on my neighborhood and the community that I lived in, as it did in many parts of the state. I remember noticing a rise in foreclosures in the houses surrounding mine. Looking around the core of central Ohio’s metropolitan area, I could see the harsher effects of the downturn in the economy in the high number of boarded-up homes. I found this to be extremely disheartening, as I knew that many of these homes had the potential to be beautiful and once again serve a useful purpose, if only they were given the chance.

When I enrolled in the John Glenn High School Internship program through OSU, I knew that I wanted to work with a nonprofit that was working hard in the community to make a difference. When I was given the chance to intern at the Greater Ohio Policy Center, I knew little about land banks and government-sponsored programs, such as Moving Ohio Forward and the Neighborhood Initiative Program. I am now happy to report that I am knowledgeable in both programs, as well as others. Working at the GOPC has not only taught me about the daily functions of an office, but has also informed me on the process of policy formation, and the role that nonprofits play in engaging and interacting with local, regional, and statewide governments in producing outcomes that are favorable to both parties, as well as the constituents to which these policies affect. I have also become educated in a number of nationwide movements including the call for a multi-modal city, a more sustainably secure system of infrastructure, and public spaces that transcend the mundane. Read the rest of this entry »

Attorney General’s Demolition Program Extended

September 4th, 2013

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has announced that he will be extended the deadline for counties wishing to apply for demolition funds under the Moving Ohio Forward Program.  The program has been a rousing success so far, demolishing almost 5,000 blighted properties across the state.

With the deadline now extended to May 31, 2014, communities will have an opportunity to apply for the full amount of funds allocated to them.  According to records posted by the Attorney General’s office, almost $5 million in funds are currently unclaimed. 

The Greater Ohio Policy Center has been providing technical assistance to counties applying for and utilizing the Moving Ohio Forward funds.  For more information on GOPC’s relationship with the Attorney General’s office, please see our web page, which gives a background on our role in this program and includes resources that can help communities make strategic use of their demolition dollars.

For more information on the program extension, please visit the Ohio Attorney General’s website.

Media Advisory for Properties Institute

April 3rd, 2012



Alison D. Goebel
399 E. Main Street, Ste.140
Columbus, OH 43215
April 3, 2012

Greater Ohio Policy Center to Hold Ohio Properties Redevelopment Institute

 Two day event will provide hands-on strategies to private and public sector leaders to generate redevelopment opportunities for Ohio’s vacant and abandoned properties.

COLUMBUS – Representatives from over 35 cities and towns in Ohio will gather here this week to examine cutting edge solutions to address problem property development challenges and generate redevelopment opportunities. The Ohio Properties Redevelopment Institute is a critical component of Greater Ohio Policy Center’s broader statewide initiative, “Healthy Properties, Rebuilding Communities,” which is shaping property redevelopment policy solutions and practices for comprehensive community revitalization in Ohio.

WHO: The Greater Ohio Policy will host more than 175 state and local leaders from Ohio’s legal, banking, property development, nonprofit, community development, and academic, communities in a two-day discussion on the challenges and opportunities to Ohio’s vacant and abandoned property crisis. 

Local practitioners, financial institutions, and state and national level redevelopment experts will offer panel discussions on strategies for redevelopment.  Professor Frank Alexander, a leading national expert on real estate finance and community redevelopment law will keynote Wednesday’s lunch.

WHAT: The two day event will arm local leaders with new property reutilization tools, showcase best practices from the private and non-profit sectors and provide opportunities for input into policy reforms that align with local community development needs.

WHEN:  Wednesday April 4, 2012 8:30am-5:30 pm and Thursday, April 5, 2012 8:30am-3:30pm.  Frank Alexander keynote is Wednesday April 4, 2012 from 11:30am-1:00pm.  A Bank Panel on strategies to keep borrowers in their homes and discussion on neighborhood stabilization will take place on Thursday April 5th from 1:30pm-3:00pm.  

WHERE:  Columbus Hyatt Regency (McKinley and Hayes Rooms)
350 N. High Street
Columbus, OH 43215

 There is a Self-Park Parking lot at the Chestnut Street Parking Garage for $12. It is located 1 block south of the hotel on Chestnut Street. When entering the garage, please take a ticket and park as normal. The garage connects to the Hyatt Regency Columbus via a covered skywalk and can be accessed on the 3rd floor of the garage.

Journalists attending the Ohio Properties Redevelopment Institute should check in with the Event Registration desk, located outside the McKinley Room. 

WHY: Vacant and abandoned properties have been on the rise in Ohio’s cities and towns for over two decades — long before the national economic downturn hit in 2008  This Institute comes at a critical time as Ohio’s communities struggle to stem the tide of vacant and  abandoned properties.  The Institute’s goals of training and education, coalition-building and policy advancement are vital economic development interventions that will productively reshape Ohio’s communities. 

ADDITIONAL DETAILS: This Institute is part of Greater Ohio Policy Center’s “Healthy Properties, Rebuilding Communities Initiative,” which aims to equip local leaders with information, policy ideas and practices necessary to make progress against this crisis and to advance state policy reforms that are aligned with local action.  Addressing the physical deterioration of our cities and town is a critical economic development strategy that will help restore our state’s prosperity as a whole. 

For additional information please visit, or contact Samantha Spergel at 614-224-0187 or via email at

Mansfield Properties Conference

March 13th, 2012

Last week, Greater Ohio was in Mansfield, Ohio, participating in the 2nd Properties Conference, hosted by Downtown Mansfield, Inc. and Preservation Ohio.  The purpose of the half-day conference was to learn of the severity of the vacant and abandoned properties crisis in the area and to begin identifying solutions that will help head-off the next round of problem properties that are expected to hit the market in the next 6-18 months. Greater Ohio joined the Cleveland Federal Reserve and Preservation Ohio in discussing state wide initiatives underway that could help cities like Mansfield.

Over 50 people attended, from 6 counties, and the topic of a county land bank came up frequently as one important tool for stabilizing neighborhoods.  Jim Rokakis of the Thriving Communities Institute keynoted the event and discussed ways a county land bank could assist the city of Mansfield and other cities in Richland County in stemming the effects of vacant and abandoned properties. 

One of the most fascinating components of the Conference was a Tour of Unique Properties in Downtown Mansfield.  The walking tour took participants into an old car dealership that had been renovated to be used as office space, the 2nd floor of a historic building in Mansfield’s Carrousel District that is just ripe for condos or a beautiful restaurant. 

The most amazing property on the tour was the 11th and 12th floors of Mansfield’s tallest skyscraper—the Chase Building.  Originally, the 11th floor served as the executive office suite (it includes a kitchen and library) and the 12th floor as a modest ballroom with funky light fixtures from the 1960s.  These two floors are being remodeled to become a penthouse condo.  The Properties Conference tour was a preview to an event in May that Preservation Ohio and Downtown Mansfield, Inc. will be holding in Mansfield’s central business district: “Forbidden City Tour;” a tour that will give a “unique look at several properties that have not been seen by the general public in decades!”  What an innovative idea to tour closed up buildings and visualize the potential they have for the 21st Century!

Greater Ohio had a great time learning about efforts underway in North Central Ohio and wishes Richland County the best of luck as it continues to work towards a county land bank.

Growing Support for Franklin County Land Bank

November 7th, 2011

On Sunday, The Columbus Dispatch ran an article on the potential formation of the Franklin County Reutilization Corporation. This morning, the Dispatch had an editorial supporting the establishment of the county-wide land bank.  We applaud the Dispatch for their coverage and support of this significant development, and Ed Leonard, Franklin County Treasurer for undertaking this vital program.

Though Franklin County currently operates a land bank, they are barred from obtaining residential property. The Franklin County Reutilization Corporation could acquire foreclosed properties (including residential homes), rehabilitate them, or sell the properties qualified non-profit developers.  The City of Columbus currently has a land bank that holds almost 900 properties; the establishment of a county-wide land bank would work in conjunction with the city’s land bank to combat the vacant property crisis.    

Since the passage of both SB 535 and HB 313, in which Greater Ohio was instrumental, four counties have established land banks: Cuyahoga, Lucas, Montgomery and Trumbull.  Cuyahoga, Lucas and Trumbull counties have acquired an impressive 1900 properties.  There are an additional seven counties who are in the process of launching land banks, including Stark County and Butler County.

With the devastating problem of vacant and abandoned properties, and their negative impact on so many Ohio neighborhoods, it is imperative for the state to help cities and counties develop solutions.  Greater Ohio praises these leaders throughout the state who are implementing land banks and we are working to continue to advocate for additional state tools and solutions that will address the property challenges all our communities are facing.