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GOPC Testifies to New Jersey Legislature on Benefits of Land Banking

GOPC Testimony to NJ Legislature On Monday, GOPC Executive Director Lavea Brachman gave testimony to the New Jersey legislature Housing and Community Development Committee on the status of land banks in Ohio to help inform their consideration of proposed land bank legislation for New Jersey.

At the invitation of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, Brachman gave the following remarks (excerpt from testimony):

“Similar to New Jersey, Ohio’s cities have been hit hard by urban blight and decline, experiencing some of the highest foreclosure and vacancy rates in the country. At its height in 2009, Ohio’s foreclosure filings was almost 90,000 per year, and the vacancy rates have climbed to devastating levels of over 15% in such cities as, Cleveland, Youngstown and Cincinnati, and over 20% in Dayton and many other cities and towns around the state.   These vacancies have also cost municipalities exponential amounts in collateral damage, represented in the form of public safety hazards and decreased property values.

In 2008, in response to this unparalleled foreclosure and vacant and abandoned property crisis, the Ohio General Assembly, with bipartisan support, passed legislation creating Ohio’s first county land bank, piloted in Cuyahoga County (where Cleveland is located). In 2010, GOPC and a coalition of partners from around the state successfully advocated for passage of legislation that extended land bank authority to an additional 42 out of Ohio’s 88 counties (based on a population threshold), permitting these specified counties to create a hybrid organization that combines the private sector efficiency of a non-profit corporation with the public purposes, powers and funding of a governmental organization.

Ohio land banks are a welcome example of a state policy implemented with appropriate local control intervening effectively to jumpstart local market operations. While Ohio communities have a long way to go to return to economic and physical health—and while there is room for land banks to maximize further use of their tools to help individuals thrive and achieve community revitalization—many cities and counties are actively leveraging their land banks’ capabilities demonstrating that well-intentioned state policy interventions in combination with local capacity and oversight can work in tandem with market operations. They are working so well that a recent proposal floated by the county treasurers’ association to expand land banks to the rest of the counties in the state.”

GOPC applauds the New Jersey legislature for considering the merits of land banks, which have made significant strides in blight elimination and neighborhood revitalization throughout Ohio.