Land Bank conference marks a milestone

The First Convening of Ohio Land Banks conference...

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and Western Reserve Land Conservancy co-hosted the first-ever state conference on land banking in downtown Cleveland on October 12, 2011. The First Convening of Ohio Land Banks conference provided an interactive forum to discuss tactics and strategies with county officials and others who are considering this tool to address urban blight.

 

Participants actively discussed how counties can use the county land reutilization corporation model to acquire, maintain, and demolish properties; they shared best practices existing land banks have found valuable; and they reviewed existing funding solutions and potential legislative opportunities.

 

Jim Rokakis, director of Thriving Communities Institute, and Paul Kaboth, vice president and community affairs officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, kicked off the inaugural conference, one that not only encouraged the launch of new county land banks throughout Ohio, but also will provide an ongoing forum for networking and progress.

 

Dan Kildee, co-founder and president of the Center for Community Progress, delivered the keynote speech. Kildee is nationally regarded as a pioneer in community development and neighborhood stabilization, having founded the county land bank model in Michigan. In 2007, Kildee's land bank program was named winner of the Harvard University/Fannie Mae Foundation Innovations in American Government Award for Affordable Housing. In 2009, he was named one of the "GOOD 100″ by the Los Angeles-based GOOD Magazine, recognizing him as one of the "the most important, exciting, and innovative people, ideas, and projects making our world better."

 

Kildee was impressed with the progress that Ohio has made on the land banking front. In fact, the Ohio land banking legislation, initiated by Jim Rokakis, has become a model for other states, such as New York and Georgia. Kildee said that Ohio has created land banks with "super powers."

 

Additional presentations were delivered by Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz; Trumbull County Treasurer Sam Lamancusa; Tom Fitzpatrick of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland; and Robin Darden Thomas and Ed Herman, both of Thriving Communities Institute.

 

Gus Frangos, Dennis Roberts and Cheryl Stephens of the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corporation, Ohio's first county land bank, were on hand to discuss topics ranging from land acquisition to demolition, maintenance, and rehabilitation. Thriving Communities' Darden Thomas said the "presentations by the Cuyahoga County Land Bank staff highlighted the potential of land banking to make significant changes in our neighborhoods."

 

She also noted that "the turnout for this First Convening of Ohio Land Banks was amazing. We were able share best practices among existing land banks and demonstrate the potential of land banking to counties considering them."

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.