GOPC Legislative Update November 2015

November 24th, 2015

By Lindsey Gardiner, GOPC Manager of Government Affairs

The following grid is designed to provide you with insight into the likelihood of passage of the legislation we are monitoring. Please note that due to the fluid nature of the legislative process, the color coding of bills is subject to change at any time. GOPC will be regularly updating the legislative update the last Thursday of every month and when major developments arise. If you have any concerns about a particular bill, please let us know.

November Leg. Update Grid

Bills Available Online at

Updates on Key Bills: greater-ohio-flag

greater-ohio-flag  HB 134 UPDATE: HB 134 has continued moving through the legislative process. Last week, the bill was passed out of the House of Representatives with 88 affirmative votes and zero objections. HB 134 is now on its way to the Senate where it will await referral to its respected committee. GOPC will continue to monitor HB 134 and looks forward to offering support as the legislation makes its way through the Senate.

greater-ohio-flag HB 233 UPDATE: HB 233 was unanimously voted out of the House chamber on October 27th with 91 affirmative votes. Earlier this month, the bill that proposes to establish Downtown Redevelopment Districts, was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee. GOPC anticipates HB 233 will be received well in committee and we look forward to offering support for the bill as it makes its way through the Senate.

greater-ohio-flag HB 303 UPDATE: As we reported last month, HB 303 had its first hearing with the House Financial Institutions, Housing and Urban Development Committee on October 20th. Since then, the committee held a second hearing, where GOPC offered interested party testimony in support of the proposal. Before the conclusion of HB 303′s second hearing, a substitute bill was accepted by the committee, which made changes to the Ohio Housing Finance Agency’s (OHFA) authority over the program. It was noted that the change was in agreement between OHFA and the bill sponsors. There were no objections to the sub bill and the committee unanimously approved HB 303 to be sent to the House floor. For more detailed information, please see the HB 303 Comparison Document.

greater-ohio-flag HB 340 UPDATE: HB 340, which proposes to extend the Local Government Innovation Council (LGIC) for another four years, continues to move through the Legislature at lightning speed. On October 27th, the bill was unanimously passed out of the House with 91 affirmative votes. Earlier this month, HB 340 was referred to the Senate Finance Committee and just last week, the bill has already had its first hearing. The LGIC expires at the end of December, and GOPC is ready to provide support as it continues through the second phase of the legislative process.

NEW Bills & Explanation of Bill Impact on Economic Development within Ohio:

SB 232 is sponsored by Senator Kevin Bacon (R-Columbus). This bill deals with the consequences of divorce, dissolution, or annulment on a transfer on death designation on an affidavit or deed that designates a spouse as the real property owner’s beneficiary. Currently Ohioans who execute a transfer on death designation affidavit or transfer on death deed are required to amend or revoke either document following a divorce to ensure that their spouse has no claim to their property. SB 232 intends to address the issue that an increasing number of Ohioans are seeking divorce without the advice or an attorney, who would ordinarily advise that they make these changes. GOPC is interested in this bill as it will help ensure properties are transferred to appropriate end-users; therefore, preventing blight within communities.

SJR 3 is sponsored by Senator Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman). Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 3 calls for state and federal legislation to assist communities across Ohio to improve outdated sewer and water systems. The proposal would allow the state to issue up to $100 million per fiscal year over a 10 year period for sewer and water capital improvements in cities, counties and townships. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) shares Senator Schiovoni’s commitment to giving Ohio communities more resources to pay for critically important water and sewer infrastructure. GOPC believes there is a great need for additional funding to update Ohio’s water infrastructure and we are continuing to explore potential mechanisms for such funding. Please see our recent report titled “An Assessment of Ohio Cities’ Water and Sewer Infrastructure and Brownfield Sites Redevelopment: Needs and Gaps.


For more details and information on legislation that GOPC is tracking, please visit our Previous Legislative Updates.

GOPC Legislative Update October 2015

October 23rd, 2015

By Lindsey Gardiner, GOPC Manager of Government Affairs

The following grid is designed to provide you with insight into the likelihood of passage of the legislation we are monitoring. Please note that due to the fluid nature of the legislative process, the color coding of bills is subject to change at any time. GOPC will be regularly updating the legislative update the last Thursday of every month and when major developments arise. If you have any concerns about a particular bill, please let us know.

October Leg. Update Grid

Bills Available Online at

Updates on Key Bills: greater-ohio-flag

greater-ohio-flag  HB 134 UPDATE: HB 134 has been on the move within the House Judiciary Committee and appears to have re-gained traction as it has continued through the legislative process. Earlier in the month, the bill had its first hearing and received supportive testimony from a representative of the Ohio Recorder’s Association. During its first hearing, the sponsors offered a substitute version of the bill which included changing criteria for vacant and abandoned properties. There were no objections to the changes, and the substitute bill was accepted. HB 134 continued to maintain the focus of the House Judiciary Committee, and on October 13th, the bill was unanimously reported out of the Committee, where it now awaits approval to be sent to the House Floor before it is sent to the Senate for review.

greater-ohio-flag HB 233 UPDATE: HB 233 has taken a similar track as HB 134 as it has continued through the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee. Earlier this month, five organizations offered testimony in support of HB 233 including Greater Ohio Policy Center. Lindsey Gardiner, Manager of Government Affairs, announced GOPC’s endorsement of the legislation and shared reasons why HB 233 would benefit local communities across the state. On October 20th, a substitute bill was accepted by the Committee, which adds provisions requiring the State to track information necessary to anticipate the tax revenue impact of the historic preservation tax credits in current and future fiscal years. HB 233 unanimously passed out of the Committee and is headed to the House Floor pending approval from the Speaker.

greater-ohio-flag HB 303 UPDATE: HB 303 had its first hearing with the House Financial Institutions, Housing and Urban Development Committee on October 20th. Sponsor Representative Dever shared that his D.O.L.L.A.R. Deed concept surfaced during his time working as a defense attorney during the time of the foreclosure process. Dever shared that he noticed there weren’t many options for families facing financial hardships with foreclosure of their homes and found room for improvement with pre-existing policy. Co-sponsor Representative McColley called the use of the program soley permissive and said banks would not be required to enter into the program. The D.O.L.L.A.R. Deed program is the first of its kind within Ohio and GOPC is looking forward to learning more about the potential impact and benefits it can have for families and communities across the State.

greater-ohio-flagHB 340 UPDATE: Out of all the economic development and revitalization legislation GOPC is actively tracking, HB 340 appears to be moving at lightning speed. The LGIC is scheduled to sunset or expire on December 31, 2015 and GOPC is happy to see members of the House work together in an effort to extend the program. GOPC was extremely supportive of the program when it was established in 2011 and we have been impressed by its positive impact in hundreds of communities across the state. Earlier this month GOPC continued its support for the LGIC and submitted written testimony to the House State Government Committee. We’re happy to report that on October 14th HB 340 was successfully reported out of the Committee and is expected to be voted on the House Floor in the near future.

greater-ohio-flagSB 201 UPDATE: From an economic development standpoint, GOPC believes SB 201 will help address blight within our urban and rural neighborhoods by strengthening an existing tool local government officials already use to deal with problem properties that are hazardous. SB 201 is currently being vetted by the Senate Civil Justice Committee, which completed a third hearing on the bill in mid-October.

NEW Bills & Explanation of Bill Impact on Economic Development within Ohio:

HB 126 is sponsored by Representatives Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) and David Leland (D-Columbus). This bill would accomplish much of the same objectives that SB 201 contains (see below). HB 126 expands the definition of a “nuisance” in the Ohio Revised Code to include “an offense of violence”. HB 126 is designed to give the Attorney General and city prosecutors an additional tool to deal with nuisance problem communities face throughout Ohio.

HB 340 is sponsored by Representative Ron Amstutz (R-Wooster) and proposes to extend the operation of the Local Government Innovation Council (LGIC) through December 31, 2019. The LGIC was created in 2011 as a means to offer communities financial assistance to create more efficient and effective services to their constituents (HB 53-129th GA). The Local Government Innovation Program and the Local Government Efficiency Program have proven a success and GOPC believes that the addition of the Local Government Safety Capital Grant Program will continue such success. HB 340 encourages Ohio government to work together more efficiently and will enable the continuation of various programs that overall will benefit communities in innovation, efficiency, and public safety.

For more details and information on legislation that GOPC is tracking, please visit our September Legislative Update.

Recrafting Vacant Properties into Assests: Panel at HeritageOhio

October 19th, 2015

By Ellen Turk, GOPC Intern

I recently attended a panel at the HeritageOhio annual conference where Alison Goebel, Associate Director of the Greater Ohio Policy Center along with Doug Lewis, Painesville Assistance City Manager and Josh Harmon, President of the Ohio Code Enforcement Officials Association, discussed utilizing “Vacant Properties as Assets”.

Goebel explained that since the 1970s Ohio’s population has incrementally declined while land use for commercial purposes has remained stable. In addition to this decline, Ohioans’ demographic makeup has continued to age at a rapid rate. Vacant properties across the state have remained at about 10%, costing an estimated $15 million in city services each year with $49 million lost in taxpaying revenue. Eight cities in Ohio spent $41 million servicing vacant properties. To this end, Greater Ohio Policy Center’s guidebook, “Redeveloping Commercial Vacant Properties in Legacy Cities,” functions as a resource for anyone seeking to redevelop and reuse vacant properties in downtown areas of towns or cities to promote economic growth.  Motivating business people and owners to invest in downtown properties and updating them can help attract visitors and generate revenue for communities.

But how do you encourage title owners to maintain their property or business owners to invest in local downtowns?

One method described in the guidebook and implemented successfully by Painesville Assistance City Manager Doug Lewis is through passing a Vacant Properties Ordinance. In Painesville, vacant properties can be owned by a variety of titleholders, including irresponsible owners and corporations not inclined to sell or maintain. The Ordinance requires owners to submit a Vacant Properties Plan whereby proprietors who do not comply with the rules of the Ordinance and proprietors who do not file the plan on time face fines. If the property is no longer deemed vacant, 30% of the building must be used and the first floor must be utilized.

Another way to curb irresponsible property ownership is through the courts. In Cleveland, the court system has stipulated that you can conduct no business within the court until you have paid off any outstanding fines to the court. This is very useful for incentivizing owners of multiple vacant buildings with fines to sell or generate revenue on the properties. Also, a Court Community Service program ensures minor offenders are placed in the community to perform manual labor and bring properties back to building code compliance.

According to the guidebook, another essential tool is hard data demonstrating the economic effects of revitalization. Josh Harmon spoke about the importance of data as a tool to show communities the detriments of having vacant properties. Census counts recording the number of vacant properties in an area is important. Often, showing residents a vacant property can act as a drain to city resources encourages them to support Vacant Building Ordinances. In Franklin County alone the last time that vacant properties were assessed was 2006! To mitigate vacant property problems, Greater Ohio Policy Center recommends targeting resources, forming alliances in the community, and defining the most effective way to allocate funds and assets.

Landmark Legislation Extends Land Bank Authority, Marks Fifth Anniversary

July 7th, 2015

Greater Ohio Policy Center applauds the Ohio General Assembly for passage of game-changing legislation that extends land banking authority to the remaining 44 Ohio counties that previously could not establish land banks!  Five years ago, on July 7, 2010, Ohio’s 43 most populous counties received statutory authority to organize county land banks, with Cuyahoga leading the way the year before.  Ohio enjoys one of the most effective and widely-used pieces of land bank legislation in the country.  Happy anniversary to Ohio’s county land banks!

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Land from the Cuyahoga County Land Bank has been redeveloped for urban farming, among many other uses, in Cleveland.

In 2009, Cuyahoga County piloted the land bank structure and its success compelled legislators to extend land banking authority to counties with 60,000 or more residents in 2010.  Now, five years later, the General Assembly has amended the original legislation to allow all counties to create land banks and Governor Kasich signed the changes into law on June 30, 2015.  This amendment paves a path for more exurban and rural counties to access this tremendous tool for community and economic redevelopment.

Since 2010, Ohio’s county land banks have helped revitalize hundreds of buildings–including residential homes, skyscrapers, historic theaters, and vacant factories–and have demolished over 15,000 blighted structures throughout the state.  While not a panacea, land banks have managed the redevelopment of hundreds of acres, guided critical community reinvestment, and fostered economic regrowth in some of Ohio’s most distressed areas.  With this new legislation, existing and additional Ohio counties have the capacity to continue to accelerate community revitalization and statewide economic prosperity.

Greater Ohio Policy Center thanks state legislators for their leadership and commitment to helping Ohio’s communities manage abandoned and blighted properties, especially Rep. Scott Ryan (Newark),  Rep. Ryan Smith (Bidwell) chair of the House Finance Committee,  Sen. Tom Patton (Strongsville), and Sen. Dave Burke (Marysville) for their assistance.


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


Highlights from the 2015 Greater Ohio Summit

June 11th, 2015

Greater Ohio Policy Center would like to thank all the participants of Restoring Neighborhoods, Strengthening Economies for contributing to the Summit’s great success!

It was not missed that the Summit occurred while important discussions were taking place at the Statehouse about the future of financial tools for neighborhoods and cities throughout Ohio. Greater Ohio was able to testify while also hosting the Summit, and we will keep you updated on these ongoing legislative issues here on our blog.

We have included a recap of some of the highlights of the 2015 Summit below:


Coleman Calls for an Urban Agenda & Leading Mayors from Around State Discuss the Role of Cities in Ohio’s Future


As reported by the Columbus Dispatch, Mayor Coleman of Columbus gave the following remarks at the Summit on June 9th:

“We need a state legislature that understands cities are economic engines, not economic drains,” Coleman said during his keynote speech at the Greater Ohio Policy Center’s summit on urban innovation and sustainable growth.

Coleman wants to see better public transit — both within cities and connecting Ohio’s urban areas. He wants the state help to create more-walkable neighborhoods and fight blight, and he wants the legislature to renew a state fund to clean up polluted industrial sites so they can be redeveloped.

“We’ve come to the point where we need a statewide urban agenda,” he said at the Westin Columbus hotel Downtown.

The Summit closed with a plenary panel of leading mayors from across the state: Mayor Nan Whaley of Dayton, Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson of Toledo, Mayor Randy Riley of Wilmington, and Mayor John McNally of Youngstown. Highlighting recent successes in their cities, the mayors struck an optimistic tone on the future of cities in Ohio and each noted the unique relationship their city had with its surrounding region and the state. Discussing challenges facing their cities—including the difficulty of blight and connecting workers to jobs and opportunity—the mayors cautioned that the state of Ohio could do more to support cities.

Greater Ohio Policy Center has been leading the charge for a statewide urban agenda in Ohio and will continue to do so through the current state budget season and in the future. We believe that an urban agenda would support the revitalization of neighborhoods and cities throughout the state, help connect workers to employment centers, create vibrant communities of choice, and strengthen Ohio’s economy.


2015 Award Winners

2015 0610 Greater Ohio Policy Center-Catalytic Partner - Tom Wilke City of Kent  Kent Mayor Jerry Fiala  Kelvin Berry Kent State Univ  GOSDA Chair Chr

We would like to congratulate the winners of the first ever Greater Ohio Sustainable Development Awards! The awards recognize those who are working to create vibrant and sustainable communities, cities, and regions in Ohio.

Public Sector Leader Award Winner:
This Award recognizes a public sector individual or entity exemplifying outstanding leadership and innovation in advancing policies or programs that incentivize and enable community reinvestment and sustainable development in Ohio’s cities and regions.

Senator Bill Beagle is in his second term in the Ohio Senate, representing all or part of Darke, Miami, Montgomery, and Preble Counties, and is a recognized advocate for workforce development, community and economic development.

Private Sector Champion Award Winner:
This Award recognizes a private sector individual or entity that has demonstrated a commitment to and excellence in investing in existing communities and strengthening local economies in Ohio. Their contributions foster a holistic approach to sustainable development, leading to environmental, social, and economic prosperity.

The Model Group is an integrated property development, construction, and management company working Cincinnati. Partnering with a variety of funding sources, local municipalities, and community stakeholders, Model Group builds and redevelops housing and mixed-used developments that revitalize and transform urban neighborhoods.

Nonprofit of the Year Award Winner:
This Award recognizes a nonprofit individual or entity in Ohio that works with communities to identify local needs and addresses them with efficiency and effectiveness. Open to 501-c3 designated nonprofits and philanthropic institutions, this Award honors those organizations that are innovating community solutions and meeting local needs and opportunities with distinction.

University Circle, Inc. is responsible for the growth of Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood as a premier center of innovation in health care, education, arts, and culture.  Utilizing real estate development, business services, and advocacy, UCI has helped to create a vibrant urban district that is a national model.

The Catalytic Partnership Award Winner:
Communities are strengthened when sectors work together to meet common goals for sustainable development. This Award recognizes a cross-sector partnership that has had a measurable positive impact in a community or region in Ohio, and represents a model for creative and effective collaboration.

The City of Kent and Kent State University have brought together city, university, and business assets to catalyze economic revival in downtown Kent.  With the local Regional Transit Authority and private developers, the revitalization plan has attracted $130 million in investments.


Media Attention on the Summit

Illustrating the relevance of the speakers and topics covered, the Summit received a great deal of media attention! You can take a look at some of the articles about the Summit on our website here.

If you would like to see all the live tweets from the event, go to our Storify page here.


Presentations Now Available!

All the panel presentations are available for download via Dropbox here. Enjoy!



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.”


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

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