Ohio Counties Cleared to Establish Land Banks, Buy Vacant Properties

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland signed a bill this week that allows 41 counties in the state to establish land banks in an effort to restore vacant and abandoned properties, under the auspices of government. The land banks would acquire vacant properties left behind after foreclosure. According to the Greater Ohio Policy Center, funding for the banks would come from penalties and interest on delinquent property taxes and another variety of sources. According to the Center, foreclosures rose to 89,053 in 2009 from 85,773 in 2008. Cuyahoga County, which incorporates Cleveland, formed a countywide land bank in April 2009 after getting approval from the state legislature in December 2008. Since it began operations in June 2009, the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp. acquired 170 vacant properties. “Land banking initiatives will enable our cities and suburbs to implement local solutions for finding new, productive uses for abandoned and deteriorating properties. I believe land banking can certainly help us tackle the problem of vacant foreclosed houses,” said Montgomery County treasurer Carolyn Rice. On a national level, the US Treasury Department released a second wave of the Hardest Hit Fund to particular state Housing Finance Agencies to aid borrowers with modifications, short sales, deeds-in-lieu of foreclosure and principal write-down programs. Ohio missed out on the first $1.5bn of funds, but landed $172m from the second wave. Several counties and the state received more funds from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program this year. The state of Ohio received $116m to buy-up vacant and abandoned properties through the program. Write to Jon Prior.

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