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.”

 

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

May 1st, 2015

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

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


Last Call for Greater Ohio Sustainable Development Award Nominations!

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


Interested in Sponsorship Opportunities?

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

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

 

Managing Distressed Properties at Wells Fargo Community Development

May 1st, 2015

Guest post by Lauren Martinez of Wells Fargo REO Community Development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Living Area Before

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Living Area After

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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.

GOPC Co-Hosts Roundtable on Rebuilding Neighborhood Markets

February 4th, 2015

This Tuesday, Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) co-hosted the Roundtable, “Rebuilding Neighborhood Markets: Strategies for Linking Small Business Support and Commercial Vacant Property Reuse in Ohio’s Communities” in partnership with the Ohio CDC Association and the Finance Fund. This Roundtable was part of ongoing work that GOPC will be conducting to promote the combination of small business support and commercial vacant properties in Ohio’s communities. We’ve included presentations and materials from the event below.

Introductory presentation by Lavea Brachman, Executive Director of the Greater Ohio Policy Center, framing the event:

Brachman introduced the discussion by demonstrating the need for further efforts to connect small business growth and commercial revitalization throughout Ohio.

 

Presentation by Mihailo (Mike) Temali, Founder and CEO of the Neighborhood Development Center in St. Paul, MN:

Temali presented the Neighborhood Development Center’s unique approach that involves training local entrepreneurs and redeveloping commercial vacant properties where their new businesses can locate.

Temali also provided the following materials:

 

Presentation by Kimberly Faison, Director of Entrepreneurial Initiatives for ProsperUS in Detroit, MI:

Faison discussed how they are adopting the Neighborhood Development Center’s model in Detroit by concentrating micro-enterprise development in low-income immigrant and minority neighborhoods.

Faison also provided the following materials:

 

Overall, this Roundtable provided an opportunity to discuss the merits of this model, relevant existing programs and practices in Ohio, and efforts needed for a potential longer-term effort that would connect small business growth and commercial revitalization throughout the state. We look forward to engaging further in this work!

 

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!

New GOPC Study Finds Strong Potential in Innovative Neighborhood Revitalization Pilot

January 14th, 2015

Greater Ohio Policy Center today releases an independent analysis of an innovative model for neighborhood recovery being piloted in a Cleveland neighborhood, finding promising results for this block-by-block holistic approach to revitalization that combines demolition and rehabilitation.

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Slavic Village, a neighborhood located 6 miles south of downtown Cleveland, represents many of the strengths and challenges that characterize our historic urban communities. An intact neighborhood with a rich cultural history and strong community institutions, it also experienced the highest foreclosure rate in the country in 2008, and increasing rates of poverty and unemployment.

Based on 2014 analysis, the GOPC study, Documenting the Slavic Village Recovery Project: An Early Review of a Model for Neighborhood Revitalization in Cleveland, Ohio, released in conjunction with the Slavic Village Recovery, LLC, (SVR) finds preliminary results for the SVR Project, including:

  • Sales prices of the initial homes reached the targeted amount necessary to cover rehab costs and make a small $5,000-$10,000 profit; received an appraisal value above the listed $60,000 sale price; and sold quickly.
  • Neighborhood morale is high and neighbors are positive about the project.
  • Investment is taking place in the neighborhood apart from direct involvement with SVR, suggesting, perhaps, that SVR’s private sector partners created market confidence for new businesses and city and regional governments.

The Study also noted several keys to SVR’s early successes:

  • A holistic approach to community development and a clear comprehensive plan, strategically linking demolition and rehabilitation.
  • A focus on properties with value and the strong relationships needed to acquire properties from REO lists and banks
  • A philanthropic mission paired with a for-profit approach in executing the mission

Based on the data available to date, GOPC finds aspects of this Project potentially adaptable to other neighborhoods in other cities, although the context for replication is important. Several key factors, such as a pipeline of available properties, must be present for replication and those interested in duplicating the model may need to take the time to get these factors in place first in order to be successful.

Recognizing the opportunity to stabilize and revitalize this still vital area, four partners—two non-profit and two for-profit organizations—came together in 2013 to create Slavic Village Recovery, LLC. SVR aims to eradicate blight entirely from a targeted area in the neighborhood and thus reach a positive tipping point one block at a time.  SVR combines strategic demolition with housing rehabilitation, as well as resident support services, with the goal of achieving comprehensive redevelopment.

For more information on the progress and impact of Slavic Village Recovery, please click here to see our full assessment.

A Lesson in Pivoting a Legacy City from the Hamilton Mill

January 8th, 2015

Guest post by Antony Seppi, Operations Director of the Hamilton Mill in the City of Hamilton, Ohio

The “pivot,” according to Merriam-Webster is the “action of turning around a point.” The legacy cities of Ohio and other Midwest cities need to be adept at making these “pivots” for the sake of their long-term survival. Hamilton is pivoting with significant downtown revitalization strategies that will reclaim our urban core. “The Mill,” as it is affectionately known throughout Southwest Ohio, is Hamilton’s small business incubator and is just one piece of the many exciting initiatives taking place in this rustbelt community. Our City’s Economic Development Department has been recognized on several fronts and the pieces are in place to carry the momentum forward. This is all after being dealt several crippling blows in the early 2010’s that included the shuddering of two paper mills, the loss of a major downtown employer, and the after effects of the Great Recession. This is all happening in a legacy city that was built on manufacturing – automotive, beverage, paper, and steel.

In July of 2014, the new and improved Hamilton Mill was unveiled. A new era of business incubation is taking place at The Hamilton Mill, which is conveniently located between Cincinnati and Dayton in the city of Hamilton, Ohio. We are Southwestern Ohio’s only small business incubator dedicated to green, clean, water, digital and advanced manufacturing technologies. We are leveraging the extremely progressive City of Hamilton utilities department that delivers gas, water, electric, waste treatment, and broadband services to our residents and businesses. The municipally provided utilities will be 75%-80% renewable energy when the Meldahl Hydroelectric project comes on-line in 2015. This revolutionary change is taking place now.

The Kauffman Foundation, one of the leading organizations promoting entrepreneurship and small business, has determined that younger firms are the job creators, and The Mill will be an important part of that going forward. We have succeeded in developing significant collaborations with organizations that share our passion for transforming the region’s innovation landscape. It is a formula that has proven itself countless times, and it is a valued principal that has come to define us, as well as the advancement of the region’s start-up community.

We are not new to the game, just more engaged with the regional entrepreneurial ecosystem and the needs of Southwest Ohio. The incubator has served Butler County and Southwest Ohio since 2003 and will continue to provide a home to high growth startups that are building things, specifically around manufacturing, clean technology, and digital applications. Below are some key metrics and awards that we have been recognized for since we began our relaunch initiative one year ago.

Mill-Stats

As you can see, our mindset at The Mill is all about innovation and making the swift, key pivots that are required from organizations to be successful. The Mill, in and of itself, is a start-up – just like the start-ups that we are mentoring and recruiting to be part of our journey.

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GOPC Participates in Conferences on Community Revitalization

November 3rd, 2014

GOPC has been keeping busy! Want to find out what we’ve been up to? Take a look at the events GOPC has been participating in:

CEOs for Cities

CEOs for Cities National Meeting
Nashville, Tennessee
November 4-6, 2014

Our Executive Director, Lavea Brachman, attended the CEOs for Cities National Meeting in Nashville this year. The meeting convened leaders from around the globe to learn the smartest ways to measure, benchmark and catalyze city progress, exchange best practices for cross-sector collaboration, and explore the smartest ideas for reaping dividends through targeted, measurable investments in economic growth and opportunity.

Participants explored what the city of Nashville has to offer. CEOs for Cities has also announced they will be releasing City Vitals 3.0 at the meeting. There are still a few slots open, so visit the website and register today to see what these city leaders have to say.

 

Ohio Housing Conference

Ohio Housing Conference
Columbus, Ohio
November 4-6, 2014

GOPC’s Associate Director, Alison Goebel, presented at this year’s Ohio Housing Conference, “United for Ohio’s Communities.” This meeting celebrated the impact that the Ohio Housing Finance Agency’s and Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing’s common mission of providing decent affordable housing has had on Ohio’s residents, communities and economy. Those who attended were able to converse with over 1,600 peers who are passionate about affordable housing and engage in over 50 sessions and workshops.

Alison’s first presentation, titled “Effective Partnerships: From Demolition to Development,” is included below:

Panel Description: This session will discuss a broad range of vacant property issues including how demolition funding is used by land banks to assist cities/towns to strategically target blight, and assist developers in effective redevelopment and long-term community stabilization. Who are the players and partners, (perhaps some you haven’t thought of) that can help? What are the roadblocks facing efforts to combat vacancy and blight? How can we develop partnerships to make the most impact from limited funding resources across the board – from demolition to development?

The panel also included:

  • Carlie J. Boos, Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA)
  • John Habat, Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity
  • Aaron K. Sorrell, City of Dayton

GOPC also presented on the “Legacy Cities” panel and gave the following presentation:

Panel Description: An overview of revitalization and preservation of the social aspects of neighborhoods including retail recruitment, public space, amenities for residents and priorities for pedestrians including bicycles and walkable neighborhoods.

The panel also featured:

  • Margo Warminski, Cincinnati Preservation Association (CPA)
  • Daniel J. Hammel, University of Toledo

 

Habitat

Habitat for Humanity of Ohio Conference
Columbus, Ohio
November 11-12, 2014

Alison Goebel presented at this year’s Habitat for Humanity of Ohio Conference on a panel titled “County Land Banks: Opportunities for Partnership in Neighborhood Revitalization” on November 12th. This session described what county land banks do in Ohio and how they operate. Then, panelists representing two different Habitat affiliates and a county land bank discussed how partnerships among land banks and non-profits can mutually benefit each organization and highlighted strategies and models that can be replicated in other communities.

Other panelists included:

  • John Habat, Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity
  • Amy Hamrick, Richland County Land Bank
  • Dawn Stutz, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Cincinnati