By Nicholas J. Blaine, Project Coordinator Last week, on September 11, I attended the Thriving Communities Institute’s 4th annual Ohio Land Bank Conference in Columbus, Ohio. The event brought together experts in the field to discuss best practices and share successes from Ohio’s 22 land banks. As a new staffer for GOPC, I saw the event as a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the role of land banks in building a sustainable Ohio.
The morning began with remarks from Jim Rokakis, Vice President of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy and Director of its Thriving Communities Institute. The conference covered a wide range of topics, from the basics of vacant property management to how hemp can be used to promote sustainable growth.
The first breakout session I attended focused on the decision between demolition and rehabilitation that land banks face with virtually every property acquisition. The panelists Paula Boggs Muething, Frank Ford, Terry Schwarz, and Jeff Marks provided some excellent insights on how to weigh options and make the best decision in a variety of circumstances.
The lunch keynote address was delivered by Matthew Lampke, Mortgage Foreclosure Counsel for the Ohio Attorney General, and Jim Rokakis. They explained that more than 13,500 vacant and blighted properties have been demolished statewide through the Moving Ohio Forward grant program.
Following lunch, I went to a talk by Mara Hada and Lisa Patt-McDaniel about tax credit financing. I also had the chance to learn about the success of the Metro West housing development near the Hollywood Casino in Columbus from John Rosenberger. Finally, I attended a session led by Carlie Boos about the Ohio Housing Finance Agency’s Neighborhood Initiative Program, which receives technical assistance support from GOPC.
The conference was attended by approximately 275 people over the course of two days. Attendees represented a mix of land bank staffers, private sector lawyers and financiers, non-profits, and government representatives. This diversity embraces comments made by Lisa Patt-McDaniel, Director of Community Development for the Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing and GOPC Board Member, that housing solutions don’t happen in a vacuum, they happen in a community.