GOPC Staff Attends the 2016 Ohio Brownfields Conference

April 20th, 2016

By Lindsey Gardiner, GOPC Manager of Government Affairs

Earlier this month GOPC staff attended the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s 2016 Ohio Brownfields Conference. The two day conference included beginner-friendly and advanced presentations, making the event attractive to attendees from a number of different disciplines such as environmental consultants, economic development, brownfield and other municipal officials, state government officials, developers, and various nonprofit community organizations.

The Abandoned Gas Station Cleanup Fund Program was one of the headlining topics during the keynote portion on the first day. GOPC played an instrumental role during the creation of the program nearly one year ago. The program was designed to offer funding for the cleanup and remediation of abandoned gas stations and enable environmentally safe and productive reuse of the sites. The program was established in conjunction with the Ohio Development Services Agency (ODSA), the Ohio EPA, and the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Underground Storage Tank Regulations (BUSTR). For more information on the Abandoned Gas Stations Cleanup Program, please visit here

Brownfields Conf

Photo by Ohio EPA

The presentations throughout the conference offered creative ways to take the problem of brownfields, and utilize them so they are part of the solution for Ohio communities. Some solutions include building green infrastructure on contaminated sites to tackle combined sewer overflows in urban areas, or turning contaminated materials into value-added engineered materials. It is clear that leaders in the brownfield industry see these contaminated sites as opportunities for growth. Presentations from out-of-state industry leaders offered a valuable education to attendees about what has worked for their state, and how their rules and regulations compare to Ohio’s. GOPC looks forward to incorporating information gained from the Ohio EPA’s 2016 Brownfields Conference to create more opportunities for brownfield remediation in Ohio.

Water Quality Bill Released by Governor’s Office

April 14th, 2016

This week, the Governor’s mid-biennium review budget bill related to water systems testing was introduced.  HB512 (Ginther-R) focuses on four major reform areas.

 First, it proposes new and stricter guidelines for testing lead in drinking water.

 Second, it proposes to shorten the timelines for the Ohio EPA and water system owners to notify affected residents of test results.

 Third, it proposes to extend the maximum repayment schedule for loans taken out in service of renovating or constructing wastewater treatment systems to 30 years, making these loans more affordable; it also proposes to expand the types of projects eligible for financing through state programs.

 Last, it proposes to provide more grant dollars to be used to replaced lead pipelines in schools.

 GOPC applauds Governor Kasich and the Legislature for pro-actively offering more and stronger tools to Ohio’s local communities as they work to address lead in Ohio’s water systems.  Mitigating outdated and dangerous pipes are one important component reforming and modernizing Ohio’s water and sewer infrastructure systemsFollow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest updates on this bill and other legislation we are tracking.

Rising Rent in Ohio Cities Highlights Need for Affordable Housing

April 4th, 2016

By Sheldon Johnson, Urban Revitalization Project Specialist

According to a recent study released by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, there has been an unprecedented surge in rental housing in the US. In 2005 there were approximately 34 million families and individuals living in rental housing; by mid-2015 there were approximately 43 million. The increase of nearly 9 million rental households from 2005 to 2015 is the largest gain of any 10-year period on record.

This historic increase of rental households nation-wide has been coupled with rising rent as the share of households who experienced a rise in rent grew from 31% to 37%, which is the highest level since the mid-1960s. Of the 43 million families and individuals who rent, 1 in 5 are considered to be cost-burdened, meaning they pay between 31 and 50% of their income on rent. Additionally the number of severely cost-burdened renters, who pay more than 50% of their income on rent, increased from 7.5 million to 11.4 million from 2005 to 2015.

Ohio cities have not been immune to this nationwide trend. According to CBRE, a Cincinnati based commercial real estate firm, rent adjusted for inflation rose 7% in Greater Cincinnati from 2009 to 2015. The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) estimated that nearly 34% of the population in Greater Cincinnati are renters. While renters of all kinds are affected by increasing rent, low-income renters are most adversely affected.

Cleveland and Dayton 052

The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies reported that 44% of Cincinnati renters are cost-burdened and 24% are severely cost-burdened. An NLIHC study found that an individual working at the state’s minimum wage of $8.10 an hour would need to work 44 hours a week to afford a modest studio apartment at fair market rent in Cincinnati. They would need to work 55 hours for a one bedroom apartment, 73 for a two bedroom, and 101 for a three bedroom.

Low-income renters in other areas of Ohio also face difficulties paying for rent. The Urban Institute reports that Franklin County has 24 affordable housing units for every 100 extremely low-income (ELI) households— defined as a family of four making less than $20,000 a year. Columbus has more than 59,000 extremely low-income families, but only 14,000 available units they can afford.

It is clear that housing affordability is an issue that will be critical to the redevelopment of Ohio cities. Greater Ohio Policy Center is engaged in emerging conversations in local communities and statewide regarding potential solutions.

 

Ohio has reached its fullest potential

April 1st, 2016

On this first day in April, Greater Ohio Policy Center has determined that Ohio’s urban and metro areas are fully revitalized and that further progress is impossible. “It’s true, our cities are essentially flawless. GOPC’s work is done, and we have finally reached the phase Mission Complete” said Associate Director Alison Goebel. “We don’t have any data or anything to prove it, but it just seems like this is what has happened” remarked Project Associate Alex Highley. “This has all really come out of nowhere, but suddenly it appears that job openings are everywhere, city centers are booming, infrastructure is working, transportation congestion has been eliminated, and everything else has been solved that was once considered a problem.” This shocking news precludes the need for further updates, given that everything is perfect.

 

future city

 

GOPC Legislative Update March 2016

March 30th, 2016

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.

Bills Available Online at www.legislature.ohio.gov

Bills Available Online at www.legislature.ohio.gov

Updates on Key Bills:greater-ohio-flag

LEGISLATURE TAKES SHORT BREAK FROM ACTIVITY

The Ohio legislature took a short break from their regular schedule of committee hearings and voting sessions throughout the month of March. Legislators returned back to their home districts to complete any primary election obligations and to reconnect with other responsibilities closer to home. The Ohio House and Senate are expected to return to Capitol Square the first week of April. Due to this break in activity, GOPC’s March legislative bulletin will be unusually brief.

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

HB 482 is sponsored by State Representative Johnathan Dever (R-Madeira). HB 482, which was introduced March 3rd, proposes to change the calculation of the exempt value of improved property subject to a community reinvestment area (CRA) exemption, clarify the calculation of the exempt value of property subject to a brownfield remediation exemption, and to authorize the filing of a complaint with the county auditor challenging the assessed value of fully or partially exempt property.

GOPC is continuing to review HB 482 and will be monitoring the bill as it progresses through the legislative process.

 

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

GOPC Releases Memos Recommending Strategies to Reform Ohio’s Transportation Policy

March 15th, 2016

GOPC is a leading advocate for policy reforms that will support a diverse and modernized transportation system in Ohio.  To support GOPC’s most recent policy recommendations, GOPC has published a series of research memos that:

  • Analyze Pennsylvania’s 2013 comprehensive budget reform and identifies strategies that Ohio could replicate.  Undertaking a similar reform in Ohio could produce more resources and recalibrated funding to better fund all transportation modes, especially public transportation.
  • Outline the benefits of “flexing” $30 million of Ohio’s federal dollars to public transportation.  Ohio is the 7th most populous state in the country yet ranks 38th in state support of public transportation.  The allocation of existing federal funds to transit could support 370 new rural transit vans or 107 new full size buses per year.  Ohio currently has 275 rural vehicles and 900 urban buses beyond their useful life and 22 rural counties without any transit service.
  • Discuss the benefits of raising the state motor fuel tax, indexing it to inflation and removing, through statewide ballot, the constitutional provisions that restricts the gas tax’s use to highways.  By the Ohio constitution, the state’s gas tax can only be used for highway construction and repairs.  While increasing the gas tax is not a complete  solution, it is a longstanding resource that will remain so for Ohio.

To attract and retain businesses and residents, states across the country are investing in diverse, modern transportation systems that support all modes.  Ohio has a geographic advantage of being within 600 miles of over half of the U.S. and Canadian populations.  To leveraging this prime position, Ohio must invest in transit, bike/ped, rail, deep water ports, airports and highways. GOPC’s memos outline strategies to support and enhance all the modes that make up Ohio’s transportation system.

Click here to for more information and to access the memos.

GOPC Executive Director Expertise Recognized by Leading University

March 15th, 2016

Lavea Brachman selected from nationally competitive pool to serve as Fellow at University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics.

The Greater Ohio Policy Center is proud to announce that Lavea Brachman, Executive Director, will serve as a Resident Fellow at The University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics for ten weeks during the spring quarter, starting the end of March.

The University of Chicago Institute of Politics (IOP) Fellows Program provides opportunities for students to learn from practitioners about civic engagement, public service, and public policy issues.  Fellows, which include journalists, former elected officials, campaign strategists, and other experts in their field, “lead non-credit seminars on timely and relevant issues of national import.”

Lavea will teach a seminar that will focus on the challenges and future of older industrial cities.  During this time, she will have an opportunity to interact with other practitioners, academics and community leaders.

From March 28th until May 31st, Lavea will be in residence at the IOP and be taking a leave from her day-to-day responsibilities as GOPC Executive Director.  During this short absence, GOPC’s Deputy Director Alison Goebel will manage and oversee the organization’s day-to-day operations.  Lavea will remain available to staff throughout her two month Fellowship and will continue to advise on and contribute to certain on-going projects.

The GOPC Board and staff are thrilled for Lavea.  Her selection as an IOP Fellow is also a great honor for GOPC – reflecting on GOPC’s stellar work and expertise in this arena.

Connecting Neighborhood Revitalization to “Green” Water Infrastructure

March 10th, 2016

By Colleen Durfee, GOPC Research Intern

Stormwater runoff and Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) are primary concerns of Ohio’s industrial legacy cities. In the midwest, we have long depended upon natural water sources for city and metro water needs but severe weather patterns, decades of unsustainable development, aging infrastructure, and fluctuating populations damage natural hydrological systems by allowing human produced bypass and overflow to enter them without being treated. Because of this, many municipalities are faced with needing to upgrade sewer and stormwater infrastructure. Whether mandated by the EPA or adopted independently, stormwater and sewer infrastructure upgrades are extremely expensive. However, municipalities are finding incorporating green infrastructure allows them to cut costs while meeting desired stormwater and CSO capture. Green stormwater and CSO infrastructure often require making more porous surfaces, meaning the land can act as a sponge and absorb the first inch or so of water during a storm rather than flowing on impervious surfaces until reaching a sewer system that overflows into rivers, streams, and lakes. In legacy cities where population and income decline leave abandoned and vacant land in their wake, we find an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.

Click Here to Read Part I of GOPC’s Infrastructure and Brownfields Needs Assessment!

Repurposing vacant land for green infrastructure can also revitalize neighborhoods, attract populations, stimulate economic activity, and increase incomes and property values. In cities with brownfields and abandoned property, green infrastructure is a welcome alternative to letting the space remain unusable. Buffalo, NY is addressing the problem of population shrinkage by using abandoned and vacant land to “right-size”, incorporating green infrastructure into its urban core. In Ohio, Youngstown adopted a shrinking city policy as part of their comprehensive land-use plan, allowing them to incorporate porous surfaces and act as a location for wetland creation, fulfilling a need for companies to create wetlands under the wetland banking regulations. Cleveland, St. Louis, Milwaukee, and Cincinnati, are using abandoned lots for green infrastructure like rain gardens and storm basins as part of their overflow control plan.

Repurposing condemned and abandoned properties beautifies neighborhoods, decreases crime, enhances health, reduces urban heat index, and has long-term economic benefits. For municipalities riddled with abandoned properties –remnants of mid-twentieth century hay-day – opportunities to “right-size” while positively affecting stormwater runoff issues should be seized upon. Green infrastructure is not only cost effective but also efficient and adds benefits to the human experience, environment, and health far beyond fiscal viability. In the long term, green infrastructure upgrades will not only provide stormwater runoff and CSO benefits but create resilient and long-lasting communities that house more permanent residents, leading to economic, human, and environmental health.

Ohio Landbanks – An International Model

February 29th, 2016

By Addie DesRoches, GOPC Intern         

In 2008, when Ohio was just starting to experiment with land banks, there wasn’t a guarantee that benefits would come from the innovative idea.  Now eight years later, Ohio is being used as a national and international model.

The Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) had the pleasure of meeting with Dr. Nobuhisa Taira of Seigakuin University of Japan to discuss the opportunity of creating land banks in rural and urban areas of Japan.  Nationally, Japan’s vacancy rate is 10% to 15%, which is par with Ohio’s (which is about 11%).

Dr. Taira informed us about the multiple issues Japanese communities face with vacancy.  They often run into temporary vacancy because the owners are using the property for specific storage space or they are hospitalized.  This is a difficult issue because someone has ownership of the space but it is not their priority to take care of the property.  Ohio has similar issues, but Japan has implemented a system that allows them to track the owner or presiding decision-maker of the property.  Unfortunately Ohio does not have a statewide system that tracks property ownership.

Glue Cleveland Tour 122

Another example Dr. Taira stated is that every time a snowstorm hits a new vacant property, there is the potential for it to become a blighted property.  Another specific case is in a row house situation.  The houses are protected under historic preservation designations, but when a property in the middle of the structure becomes blighted, it affects the structure as a whole.  This not only causes property and revenue loss but the loss of the historical protection as well.  With the creation of land banks, land banks could work to take control of the problem property to then make improvements or prevent blight from occurring.  Additionally, a land bank could return the property to a desirable state for people and preserve the historical features.

GOPC is excited to see what advances come in Japan from Dr. Taira’s visit.  We are wishing him the best and hope he enjoyed his time in Ohio while gaining insight into some of the most efficient land banks in the nation.

GOPC Legislative Update February 2016

February 26th, 2016

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.

Bills Available Online at www.legislature.ohio.gov

Bills Available Online at www.legislature.ohio.gov

Updates on Key Bills:greater-ohio-flag

greater-ohio-flag  HB 182 UPDATE: HB 182 continues to move smoothly through the legislative process. On February 10th, the bill, which proposes to allow local governments to establish Joint Economic Development Districts (JEDDS) for development purposes, unanimously passed out of the House. Since then the bill has been introduced in the Senate and referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee where it will receive final review. GOPC expects members within the Senate will aptly receive the bill.

greater-ohio-flag  HB 233 UPDATE: Since our last report, HB 233 received its customary third hearing within the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The bill, which proposes to authorize municipal corporations to create downtown redevelopment districts (DRDs) and innovation districts for the purposes of promoting the rehabilitation of historic buildings and encourage economic development, had several witnesses attend committee to offer support earlier this month. Proponents of HB 233 included Chillicothe Mayor Luke Feeney, the Ohio Municipal League, Heritage Ohio, the Springfield Port Authority, and Greater Ohio Policy Center. GOPC suspects HB 233 will receive a fourth and final hearing before being sent to the Senate Floor for third consideration.

greater-ohio-flag  SJR3 UPDATE: Senate Joint Resolution 3, which is one of numerous efforts geared towards addressing Ohio’s “clean water” issue, received its very first hearing on February 10th in the Senate Finance Committee. The bill’s sponsor, Senator Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) offered testimony asking the committee to consider his plan to expand sewer and water improvements for municipalities, counties, townships, and other government entities. During the hearing Senator Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green), who is also Chair of the Lake Erie Caucus, told Senator Schiavoni that he agrees that the state needs to tackle this issue and that SJR3 could be part of the strategy.

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

HB 463 is sponsored by State Representative Johnathan Dever (R-Madeira). This bill proposes to establish expedited actions to foreclose mortgages on vacant residential properties. You may recall our coverage on another bill (HB 134), which offers similar reformative measures to the foreclosure process. HB 463 does indeed amend sections of the Ohio Revised Code akin to HB 134, but there are variances. HB 463 is distinctive in three ways: 1) proposes to allow judgement creditors the right to elect a public selling officer (county sheriff) or a private selling officer to sell the property; 2) orders the state to create and maintain a statewide sheriff’s website where auctions can be managed and conducted; 3) allows a person not in possession of an instrument the right to enforce the instrument if there is proof of entitlement.

Representative Dever’s approach to remedy the issues that exist within the current mortgage foreclosure process pushes the foreclosure process to become more modernized via the creation of an online website. GOPC is continuing to review the potential consequences of the bill, , but we are fully supportive of the principle and overall objective of expediting mortgage foreclosure on vacant and abandoned properties.

 

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