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On the Go: First Convening of Ohio Land Banks

Last week Greater Ohio was on the road to Cleveland to attend the First Convening of Ohio Land Banks, hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and the Thriving Communities Institute.  The purpose of the day-long gathering was to educate interested elected officials and civil servants on the possible ways a county in Ohio might establish their land bank.  The day heavily featured Cuyahoga County’s Land Bank (i.e. Cleveland area) as it is the oldest land bank in Ohio—since 2009—and is paving the way for many of the other lank banks around the state in terms of working out logistical kinks, as well as demonstrating the success of land bank property acquisition.

Two other land banks—Lucas County (i.e. Toledo area) and Trumbull County (i.e. Warren/Youngstown area)—were also featured.  These land banks were established under legislation Greater Ohio was heavily involved in writing and passing in 2010.  (Here is the actual the legislative language of Sub HB 313 and a layman’s explanation of the bill.)

The convening was extremely useful and for the 50 or so attendees and included practical advice for future land bank staffers (ex. this is how to interface with the EPA for asbestos removal), basic education (ex. what kinds of financial abilities HB 313 grants land banks), and presentations from established Land Bank officials from around the state.

Although Trumbull, Lucas and Cuyahoga Counties have all developed significantly different programs and aims within their land banks, the biggest concern raised consistently throughout the day was that land banks could be most effective if there was adequate funding for demolitions.  At this time, there are very few funding sources for demolition—the little money that land banks receive is often paid out to staffing and overhead, and title acquisition.

Greater Ohio is very heartened by the ongoing interest and development of county land banks as we believe land banks are a critical tool in helping cities stop decline and rebuild their urban cores.  We congratulate the land banks currently in existence and are excited for the creation of more.  In the two years since SB 353 passed (which allowed Cuyahoga County to create a land bank) and HB 313 passed (which allows an additional 43 counties in Ohio to create land banks), the land banks have achieved with great success.

Some impressive statistics shared at the convening:

  • There are four land banks operating currently: Cuyahoga, Lucas, Trumbull, Montgomery.
  • Another eight or so are in the process, including: Mahoning, Hamilton, Erie, Lake, Franklin, and Stark.
  • Additional counties interested in forming a land bank but are still in the early stages: Portage, Allen, Ashtubula (by way of comparison, Michigan has 37 established county land banks.)
  • Since 2009, Cuyahoga Co. has acquired 1196 properties and transferred 408 properties to developers or cities.  The county’s current inventory is about 788.
  • Since 2010, Trumbull Co. has acquired about 450 properties.  Four hundred properties are now owned by individual homeowners and are being repurposed as residential sidelots.  Forty remain on Trumbull’s rolls.
  • Since 2010, Lucas Co. has acquired 250-300 properties.  All but one have been moved onto end-users.