III. Quality and Sustainable Places

Quality and Sustainable Places: Stabilize & Strengthen Ohio’s Neighborhoods

This is the third section of the Cleveland Policy Platform

  • Target existing state and federal resources to support local strategies for neighborhood stabilization and market recovery. As the state considers strategies for better targeting its resources and investments, it may also consider long-range strategies that anticipate future potential investments in “non-targeted” areas, once the targeted areas exhibit signs of progress.  
    • Cleveland’s 2020 Citywide Plan is piloting the Model Block Program, which targets investments to physically upgrade viable neighborhoods to aid in the development of “neighborhoods of choice.”  To support this investment strategy, Cleveland needs the state to consider funding allocation formulas that target investments to offer greater returns than sparse distribution.
    • Neighborhood Progress Inc. (NPI), the Cleveland Housing Network, the City of Cleveland and six local community development corporations partnered with the Ohio Housing Finance Agency to revitalize several neighborhoods through the Opportunity Homes initiative.  Over the next three years, this program targets 750 homes in six Cleveland neighborhoods for foreclosure prevention, demolition or redevelopment. This collaborative effort will help restore market confidence, eliminate blight, preserve existing property values and enable a significant number of homeowners to avoid foreclosure.
  • Direct scarce state resources to encourage communities to tackle population shrinkage by prioritizing state economic development funding to jurisdictions with comprehensive plans based on creative and explicit strategies reflecting the realities of population loss.
    • The Re-Imagining a More Sustainable Cleveland plan takes into account Cleveland’s demographic trends, housing surplus and market conditions to design a city that is smaller in population but richer in quality. Comprehensive plans that are grounded in current social, demographic and economic reality are more likely to succeed than those that are not and should be encouraged through state funding.
  • Modify Ohio’s existing land bank law to allow all counties to use the authority on a permissive basis.  Other modifications to consider include a wider range of options for local land bank board composition and liability protection.
    • Cuyahoga County has led the charge in expanding Ohio’s land bank law to allow the county to use land banks more effectively to address the growing number of tax delinquent properties.
  • Design measures to protect homeowners facing the possibility of foreclosure.  Allow borrowers access to better information about their options including counseling, emergency assistance and loan modification opportunities.
    • Cuyahoga County’s 211 system and Ohio’s Save the Dream initiative both address this issue but need state and federal support to remain viable.
    • Expand the reach of the Ohio Home Rescue Fund, an initiative through NeighborWorks ® America’s NHS Cleveland and funded by the Ohio Housing Trust Fund and the Ohio Housing Finance Agency. This program should be expanded to a broader network of agencies and will need to be recapitalized in the near future. A possible funding source could be the enactment of a statewide foreclosure filing fee.
    • Set civil and criminal penalties to regulate predatory and fraudulent mortgage and foreclosure “rescue” practices.
  • Develop legislative and regulatory tools at the state and local level that discourage the emerging trend of “bank walk-aways” and hold financial institutions accountable for the physical condition of properties they take back after foreclosure.
    • Modify state law to hold foreclosing financial institutions accountable for property condition as soon as foreclosure is filed, similar to a recently enacted New Jersey statute.
    • Modify state law to require foreclosing financial institutions to proceed to Sheriff Sale after obtaining judgment, or forfeit their lien.
    • Clarify existing state law to provide municipalities with “super-priority” lien status for expenses incurred abating public nuisances at vacant and abandoned properties, so these properties can be foreclosed upon directly by the municipality or added to the tax duplicate.
  • Identify intervention mechanisms at each point in the foreclosure, disinvestment, vacancy and abandonment process.
    • Exempt homes that have been vacant for an extended time period from property taxes when purchased by a buyer who intends to use the property as his/her main residence.
    • Allow municipalities to use urban renewal bonds for the demolition of buildings located on tax delinquent property that constitute a public nuisance due to blight
    • Require lenders to take title at Sheriff Sale rather than through a separate process to ensure that the proper paperwork is filed and a responsible party is noted
    • Establish a fast-track procedure to expedite foreclosure of properties that have become vacant subsequent to the initiation of foreclosure proceedings.

  • Develop and implement a statewide integrated inventory system that would track information on vacant and abandoned properties.
    • Northeast Ohio Community and Neighborhood Data for Organizing (NEO CANDO), developed by Case Western University, offers information detailing vacant properties and other useful socio-economic data for Northeast Ohio. This data is a valuable resource for those working to mitigate the problem of vacant and abandoned properties and could act as a model for the creation of a statewide inventory system.

  • Expand the Ohio Department of Development’s Urban Development Division to include community revitalization and collectively identify opportunity neighborhoods where state and local resources can be strategically concentrated.

  • Partner with the private sector to create a housing program that will assist employers in helping their employees buy or rent homes close to work.

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