YNDC’s New Small Business Loans

September 5th, 2014

By Octavious Singleton, GOPC Intern

Photo of small business support at YNDC by Marianne Eppig

Photo of small business support at YNDC by Marianne Eppig

The Youngstown Neighborhood and Development Corporation (YNDC) is promoting growth in Youngstown, Ohio by supporting local businesses. The non-profit will grant equipment loans ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 to companies whose applications are approved. While any type of business can apply, the criteria they must meet include: 1) the company must be located in the city, 2) the owner must be a resident, and 3) the company must have five or fewer employees. To further narrow the selection of businesses, YNDC will consider whether the owners are low-income individuals, if they are hiring, and the likelihood that the business will prosper in the future.

The loan allows the companies the opportunity to obtain needed equipment for business expansion, which should ultimately generate economic benefits in the city. YNDC is only attaching a 2% interest rate to the loans. The YNDC will also be flexible on the amount of years repayment will take. This approach is set up to ensure small companies benefit from the aid.

Selected companies will be awarded loans in November. The loans will be a pilot program to determine whether YNDC expands its mission into micro-business support. Loan applications are available in YNDC office, at 820 Canfield Road, and by emailing Liberty Merrill at lmerrill@yndc.org.

For more information on this program, visit YNDC’s website.

See also: “YNDC Taking Applications for Small Business Loans” by Josh Medore for The Business Journal

Ohio Attorney General DeWine files lawsuit as part of Operation Mis-Modification

July 28th, 2014

By Alison Goebel, Associate Director

On July 23, 2014, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine joined fourteen other state Attorneys general, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in filing lawsuits against “foreclosure relief scammers.” Ohio’s lawsuit, filed against a Chicago Company, is one of forty-one companion lawsuits against a total of nine individuals or companies. The lawsuits are being dubbed “Operation Mis-Modification.”

The Plaintiffs allege these companies misrepresented their services or failed to perform services for consumers who were facing foreclosure and seeking assistance, such as loan modifications. According to the Operation Mis-Modification lawsuits, many of the defendants allegedly took advance payments in excess of allowable limits and/or received payment for services never rendered.

If Ohio’s lawsuit is successful, impact consumers may see restitution and the state may receive penalty fees. For Operation Mis-Modification, Ohio is joined by Attorneys general from Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Washington and Wisconsin.

The Operation Mis-Modification lawsuits are not like current “bank settlements” that are in the works, such as the settlement with Bank of America. The “bank settlements” are expected to include billion-dollar agreements with lending financial institutions. These settlements could benefit consumers, or go directly to states, as did the funding that supported the Moving Ohio Forward program. As more information is released on potential future bank settlements, GOPC will be sure to update its blog and social media channels.

Transforming Legacy Cities for the Next Economy

July 15th, 2014

On July 4th, GOPC Executive Director Lavea Brachman presented to La Fabrique de la Cité’s international conference, “Tools for Optimizing the City,” in Lisbon, Portugal.

Her presentation, titled “Transforming Legacy Cities for the Next Economy,” can be viewed right here:

Click the image above to be redirected to the video.

Click the image above to be redirected to the video.

Her slides from the presentation are available here:

In her presentation, Lavea cites several critical next strategies that can be used to transform legacy cities for the next economy, including:
  • Use economic growth to increase community and resident well-being
  • Build stronger local governance and partnerships
  • Increase the ties between cities and their regions
  • Make change happen through strategic incrementalism
  • Consider a special paradigm for smaller/medium-sized cities

For more information about Lavea’s trip to Portugal and what she learned while she was there, click here to read her blog post, “Presenting & Learning Tools for Optimizing Cities in Portugal.”

Government Growing Wild: Is Sprawl Exacerbated by Jurisdictional Fragmentation?

June 23rd, 2014

By Bryan Grady, Research Analyst at the Ohio Housing Finance Agency

An underappreciated element of what can make a location a good place to live – or not – is the regional governance structure: the number and configuration of counties, cities, townships, and special districts that comprise a metropolitan area. Across the country, there are substantial differences worth noting. I began looking at these issues when I was an intern at Greater Ohio ten years ago and now, as a doctoral candidate at Rutgers University and a research analyst at the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA), I am studying the impacts that these forces have on housing outcomes. I worked with Judd Schechtman, a land use attorney and colleague at Rutgers, on developing some preliminary findings regarding the role of fragmented local government in generating sprawl.

Maps illustrating the correlation between sprawl and government fragmentation. Darker hues represent higher values.

 

To operationalize such an amorphous topic, we employed data published in Measuring Sprawl and Its Impact, which defined sprawl as a lack of four characteristics – residential density, mixed-use development, strong economic centers, and connected streets – and computed an index that incorporated all four elements. (A newer version, based on similar methods, was published earlier this year.) With regard to measuring regional governance, we used the Metropolitan Power Diffusion Index (MPDI). In short, MPDI encapsulates both the density of governments (e.g. how many incorporated areas and districts exist for every 100,000 people) and their relative budgetary influence, with a value of 1 representing a unitary regional government and increasing values indicating more diffuse political authority. A handful of other variables were included in the work as statistical controls, including population, manufacturing employment, per capita income, and educational attainment.

A quantitative analysis across 77 regions nationwide found that fragmentation and sprawl were directly correlated with one another at a statistically significant level. This was particularly true when evaluating the residential density component of the sprawl index, as well as the economic concentration component. Why? As Judd and I wrote,

Exclusionary zoning, as practiced by small municipalities, is specifically conceived to limit residential density in order to keep home prices and tax revenues high; reduced fragmentation would seemingly reduce the incentives to maintain such policies. Similarly, every city in a fragmented metropolis attempts to leverage agglomeration effects in office space and retail to their own advantage, whereas a single municipality that dominates a region would be able to channel development into a smaller number of commercial centers.

In short, in a region where dozens of localities are left to zone with only their own constituents in mind, land use patterns that are economically and spatially suboptimal are the direct result. A more regional approach to land use planning is necessary to ensure that money and land are not wasted chasing artificially-created shortages of various types of development.

The full study is available here. If you have any questions, feel free to email Bryan Grady. Please note that any opinions herein are the author’s, not those of OHFA or the State of Ohio.

GOPC Presents on Historic Preservation in America’s Legacy Cities

June 12th, 2014

Last Friday, on June 6th, GOPC Executive Director, Lavea Brachman, and Manager of Research and Communications, Marianne Eppig, traveled to Cleveland to present at the “Historic Preservation in America’s Legacy Cities” conference.

Marianne moderated a panel about strategic incrementalism (a term introduced in the Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities report) and resource targeting for the revitalization of legacy city neighborhoods. She presented as part of the panel with Alan Mallach, Senior Fellow at the Center for Community Progress, and Paula Boggs Muething, VP of Community Revitalization & General Counsel at the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority. Her presentation is included below:

Click the image above to view the presentation.

Lavea was a plenary panelist with Dr. Clement Price, an expert on African American history, Councilman Jeffrey Johnson of Cleveland’s Ward 10, and Emilie Evans of the Michigan Historic Preservation Network and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Lavea presented on an integrated approach to stabilization and holistic preservation. Her presentation is below:

Click the image above to view the presentation.

In advance of the conference, Nicholas Emenhiser, an AmeriCorps Local History Corps volunteer for the Cleveland Restoration Society who was helping to organize the conference, asked Marianne a few questions about historic preservation in legacy cities.

Read on for the Q&A:

  1. How is revitalization different in larger Legacy Cities as opposed to smaller Legacy Cities?

Whether a city is large or small, access to and availability of resources is a key factor in revitalization. Just as important, the scale of vacancy and abandonment is a determining factor. That’s why we see such different outcomes between cities even when they are similar sizes, like Pittsburgh and Detroit. For cities of all sizes, revitalization requires a strategic, targeted approach to maximize available resources. The panel I’ll be on (“Strategic Incrementalism & Resource Targeting for the Revitalization of Legacy City Neighborhoods” on Friday at 1:30pm) will discuss how to target resources effectively to revitalize legacy city neighborhoods of all sizes.

  1. What kind of scale are we talking about with vacant and abandoned properties in Ohio? Surrounding states?

At the state level, Ohio has about 13% vacancy as of the 4th quarter of 2013. Pennsylvania also has around 13% vacancy and Michigan has around 16.5% vacancy. What may be more telling for states with legacy cities, though, may be vacancy in their major metropolitan areas. I’ve included a chart below that provides vacancy rates for counties containing major legacy cities.

Vacancy at the county level for legacy cities. Data source: US Postal Service, 2013 Q4.

  1. Are there any photos that best illustrate research and/or solutions that have come out of the Greater Ohio Policy Center?

That’s a good question. Instead of photos, I would actually point you to several of Greater Ohio’s recent reports (they include lots of images and charts!): “Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities” by Alan Mallach and Lavea Brachman for the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and “Redeveloping Commercial Vacant Properties in Legacy Cities: A Guidebook to Linking Property Use and Economic Revitalization,” which I wrote with Lavea Brachman and the German Marshall Fund of the U.S. These reports provide both the theory and the practical tools for revitalizing legacy cities – and they’re both free!

Lavea and Marianne greatly enjoyed the conference and want to thank Cleveland for being a wonderful host, as always!

13 Strategies for Rust Belt Cities

June 5th, 2014

By Marianne Eppig, Manager of Research & Communications

Rust Belt cities—like Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Warren, Youngstown, and Buffalo—have some of the most pernicious challenges facing urban areas today. Concentrated poverty, aging infrastructure, population and industry loss, swaths of vacant properties, and decades of underinvestment are just some of the issues confronting these cities. And yet, now more than ever before, these cities have an opportunity to attract new populations who crave vibrant places with character.

The question is, how do these cities strategically invest in their assets and tackle their obstacles to benefit from this renewed interest in urban living? How can they become great again?

As a graduate student in the City and Regional Planning program at OSU’s Knowlton School of Architecture, I started a yearlong independent study to attempt to answer these questions and to innovate solutions to Rust Belt city challenges. Twelve other masters students in the City and Regional Planning program signed up for the course, and together we spent the 2011-2012 academic year researching, brainstorming, and writing about potential solutions for the Rust Belt. As part of our research, we visited Pittsburgh, Youngstown, Detroit, and Flint during our Spring Break and spent time talking to local leaders and learning from grassroots efforts. By the end of the year, we created a publication compiling our articles on our individual topics and solutions.

The publication that we created is titled 13 Strategies for Rust Belt Cities, and you can download it for free here:

Each article in the publication presents an innovative strategy to address a Rust Belt challenge, such as:

  • Tax code to reduce the number of inner city vacant lots,
  • Chaos planning to bring life into urban cores,
  • Multi-lingual signage to accommodate diverse populations,
  • Policy to protect the Great Lakes,
  • Reuse of abandoned rail lines,
  • Free rent to incentivize migration back into the city, and much more.

Together, these articles paint a vision for what the Rust Belt could be within our lifetimes. By promulgating these ideas, we hope to contribute to the conversation about how to implement strategies for addressing the region’s obstacles and providing avenues to revitalization.

The Release of the Guidebook for Redeveloping Commercial Vacant Properties in Legacy Cities

May 6th, 2014

In the wake of the mortgage foreclosure crisis and the long-term abandonment of older industrial cities and their regions, communities and neighborhoods have been increasingly burdened with vacant and abandoned properties. Organizations and municipalities are now more systematically addressing vacant residential properties. However, for years there was very little guidance for the redevelopment of commercial vacant properties, which are equally prevalent — especially throughout older industrial regions.

Commercial and residential vacancy at the county level for legacy cities. Data collected on the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2013. Data source: US Postal Service. Data aggregates vacant and no-stat addresses.

 

Today, Greater Ohio Policy Center is releasing its new guidebook, Redeveloping Commercial Vacant Properties in Legacy Cities: A Guidebook to Linking Property Reuse and Economic Revitalization, which is the first of its kind to offer a comprehensive set of tools and strategies for redeveloping commercial vacant properties and business districts in legacy cities.

The guidebook, developed in partnership with the German Marshall Fund of the United States and with support from the Center for Community Progress, is designed as a “How To” manual for local leaders, identifying practices and policies that take advantage of the link between available commercial properties and needed economic re-growth strategies in legacy cities.

The tools and strategies provided can be used by local leaders and practitioners no matter where they are in the process of commercial property redevelopment, from data gathering and planning to real estate acquisition and redevelopment, and from tenant attraction and support to business district management.

The guidebook includes the following tools:

  • Guidance on planning & partnering for commercial revitalization
  • Methods for analyzing the market
  • Advice on matching market types & strategies for commercial revitalization
  • Legal tools for reclaiming commercial vacant properties
  • Funding sources for overcoming financial gaps
  • Menu of property reuse options
  • Ways to attract & retain business tenants
  • Methods and models for managing a commercial district
  • Strategies for building markets in legacy cities

While the tools, strategies, and policy recommendations within the guidebook are particularly relevant for legacy cities and their communities, they are also applicable to all cities and regions that seek to reuse commercial vacant properties with the purpose of enhancing community stability and economic development.

Click here for more information and to download the guidebook.

 

Revitalizing Ohio’s Vacant Properties

October 25th, 2013

We would like to thank all of those who participated in the 2013 Revitalizing Ohio’s Vacant Properties conference! We thought that the summit was a great success, thanks in large part to the cross-sector attendance and relationship-building that occurred over the course of the two days.

The conference speakers and breakout sessions facilitated the exchange of ideas on practices and policies that could be used to leverage vacant properties as opportunities for community revitalization throughout Ohio.

The following links offer materials and highlights from the conference:

Click here to view and download conference presentations

Click here to see highlights from the keynotes and breakout sessions

Click here to see photos from the conference

Click here to join the ongoing discussions in Greater Ohio’s LinkedIn group


EPA Releases New Toolkit for Greener Residential Demolition

October 4th, 2013

EPA Region 5—serving Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin—just released a new toolkit for cities, counties and land banks undertaking large-scale residential demolitions. The report, “On the Road to Reuse: Residential Demolition Bid Specification Development Tool,” includes valuable information on:

  • Environmental issues associated with residential demolitions, from pre-planning to demolition to site rehabilitation (e.g., hazardous materials abatement, fill material selection and placement, material recycling or deconstruction).
  • Specific practices that can be incorporated into the demolition contracting process to achieve better environmental outcomes.
  • Existing regulations and best management practices concerning residential demolitions.
  • Bid specification language that instructs contractors on the technical requirements of greener demolition projects.

The purpose of this toolkit is to assist cities, counties, land banks and other entities with the inclusion of greener practices in the demolition bid specification used during the contracting process. The use of environmentally beneficial demolition will result in better site conditions and will better prepare vacant lots for future reuse.

 

For more details on reclaiming vacant properties, make sure to check out our upcoming conference:

“Revitalizing Ohio’s Vacant Properties: Tools & Policies to Transform Communities”

October 22-23, 2013
The Westin Columbus
310 S. High Street
Columbus, Ohio, 43215

 

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.