County Land banks

Securing the Land

Like plants, humans and communities cannot not thrive in a toxic environment. The important first step in creating a healthy ecosystem is to secure our cities' vacant, toxic, unhealthy lands.


For Thriving Communities, this is the work of establishing and supporting county land banks throughout our region. We are convinced that this tool is an essential element in stabilizing our fragile cities. County land banks, technically called county land reutilization corporations, provide our counties with much-needed ability to quickly acquire foreclosed and vacant property. These land banks can safely hold a distressed property, clean its title, and prepare it for a better day. The goal is to secure vacant properties – which would otherwise attract crime, lower neighboring home values, and incur public services costs – so that they can be put to better use in the future.


Supporting the creation and networking of county land banks is a primary focus for Thriving Communities Institute. And, we are uniquely qualified to deliver this support. Jim Rokakis, director of Thriving Communities, served as Cuyahoga County Treasurer for 14 years and became nationally renowned for his work on urban housing and land issues. Jim was instrumental in creating the legislation that enabled this new type of land bank in Ohio and he founded the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp, the first county land bank in the state.


Jim reflects that "an important key to our region's health is its land and how we use it – and reuse it. In two years of existence, the Cuyahoga County Land Bank has demonstrated its value as the most effective and comprehensive program in the country to deal with vacant properties. One of Thriving Communities' top priorities is to facilitate the creation of more county land banks across the region."

In Cuyahoga County alone, there are 15,000 vacant properties and more on the way. The Cuyahoga County Land Bank takes in over 100 new properties each month.

As properties aggregate in county land banks, it presents an opportunity to recreate the future of our urban centers. Vacant land that was previously worthless can be aggregated so it is worth more, sometimes much more. City planners, developers, civic groups, and conservation organizations like Western Reserve Land Conservancy then work together to create something special out of the most strategic aggregations of land. Together, we create new parks, agriculture, and greens space woven throughout residential and retail hubs to boost community health and economic development.

This will not be an overnight solution. But, it is an important first step toward recreating our region's thriving communities.

Vacancy is Toxic

Vacant properties act like an infection in our body. If not treated, the disease spreads.

Consider this: One vacant house on a block destroys the value of nearby homes. Neighbors must then decide between paying high mortgages or walking away. This leads to more vacant homes in the area and soon an entire neighborhood is vacant or worthless or both. Soon the next street is infected and the disease spreads … predictably, relentlessly, and with devastating consequences.