Hamilton County leaders eye land banking as potential cure for area’s housing woes

Our nation’s housing crisis and subsequent economic recession has led to an enormous increase in housing vacancy, abandonment, and foreclosures across the country. Hamilton County is no exception; the crisis has left many in the region homeless and has put a fiscal burden on local governments across the region, leaving them with the multifaceted challenges associated with widespread vacancy.

In many cases, property vacancy creates a domino effect that leads to further desertion and vacant properties within a neighborhood. This not only results in less tax revenue for cities; vacant property can also lead to increased rates of crimes such as drug dealing, prostitution, and arson. Because vacant property damages are so extensive, it is becoming more and more important for a metropolitan area to have a mechanism in place to transfer vacant property to owners who can/will pay taxes and redevelop the property.

A land bank is a tool that is growing in popularity, and on Tuesday morning local governmental and nonprofit leaders met to discuss how a Hamilton County land bank should be formed, funded and operated.

In April, Ohio Sub House Bill 313 was passed, enabling Ohio counties to create a Land Bank/County Land Reutilization Corporation (CLRC). The purpose of the CLRC is to facilitate the acquisition, reclamation, rehabilitation, and reutilization of vacant, abandoned, tax-foreclosed, and other real property. While there are still many steps that need to be taken before the CLRC is fully functional, county officials are hoping to have the land bank chartered by the end of the year.

Although no specific funding decisions were made at the meeting, there are multiple ways the CLRC can be supported fiscally. For example, the treasurer could recapture penalties and interest on delinquent taxes and assessments on behalf of the CLRC, the group could generate revenue from the resale of rehabbed property, and/or the CLRC could be authorized to issue bonds, accept gifts, and apply for grants. The recently announced NSP3 dollars can also be used to acquire homes for the CLRC.

Not only will the land bank help to address vacancy problems regionally, it will also give local CDCs and nonprofits a chance to obtain blighted property before private out-of-town investors. With a broad jurisdiction, the CLRC will be able to acquire both mortgage foreclosed and tax foreclosed properties. Moreover, the legislation allows land banks to waive delinquent taxes owed in order to clear the title on the property. This tax abatement component is crucial because often the taxes owed on abandoned property are more than the property’s actual market value.

At Tuesday’s meeting, there was a clear consensus that the land bank not just be a pilot program, but instead be a comprehensive and wide-ranging tool that helps to alleviate one of our region’s most pressing problems.

“The Board of County Commissioners want to ensure that the way this is set up is consistent with the community’s vision,” Assistant Hamilton County Administrator Jeffery Aluotto stated on Tuesday. “Land banking holds a great deal of promise as a means of addressing the increase in vacant housing stock we have seen since the recession, and the direct impacts that those vacancies have on the quality of life and economic vitality of our communities.”

With successes in Cuyahoga County and Gennessee County, Michigan, local leaders have high hopes for the potential impact that the CLRC can have on our region.

UrbanCincy will continue to follow this story as it progresses in the coming months.

  • Robert B. Lane

    I believe the Land Bank Program is a variable tool to correct some of the housing ills in our communities. Another loan product that can help eliminate the blight, is the FHA 203K Streamline Program. The FHA 203K Streamline allow a family to purchase and renovate a house with one loan.

    The FHA 203K Streamline, allow a buyer or exsistent home owner to renovate a house up to $35,000.00, whether the house cost $25,000,00 or $250,000.00. Imagine in Hamilton Counties 100 communities X 100 houses, being repaired at $35,000.00 per house will generated $350 million dollars in construction. Add 5000 existant homeowner and you will generate $525 million dollars in renvoation, multiply $525 Million dollars by only six counties in Southwest Ohio and you will generate $3.15 Billion Dollars in construction in the regional.

    The ground approach to healing the devastation in the house market is the FHA 203K Streamline, in additon $3.15 Billion Dollar in construction will create 270,000 jobs and job opportunity. FHA 203K Streamline can Change one house and neigbhorhood at a time, without having to pass a ordiance or legislation or the need to increase the size of city or county budget. Check it out HUD.gov 203k Streamline.