Monday, July 16, 2012

Hamilton County land bank has new blog, better info

Just a couple of months after Hamilton County developed a countywide land bank, a new blog has been developed to make sure that properties lost to foreclosure end up in the hands of responsible owners.

The Hamilton County Land Reutilization Corporation (HCLRC) Blog, managed by the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority, highlights foreclosed upon properties that are being offered due to non-payment of property taxes, sold at the weekly Hamilton County Sheriff's sale, held every Thursday at 10 A.M. outside of Room 260 of the Hamilton County Courthouse, 1000 Main Street.

The idea of University of Cincinnati law student Billy Weber, the blog is meant to be a highly-visible clearinghouse for information that's currently hard to find.

As a result of that lack of information, Weber says, there are few bidders at the sales. Often, the only bidders are prospectors who buy the properties and try to flip them.

"Currently it is very difficult to determine what properties are actually being sold," Weber said. "The result is that the properties sit for a long time without anyone taking care of them, which leads to blighted and rundown properties."

Weber says that the hope is that the new website can break down that pattern, putting properties into the hands of people who care about the community – community development corporations, other nonprofits, or neighborhood residents.

"Since the HCLRC is charged with addressing blighted, abandoned, and vacant properties I thought this would be one method for us to divert properties from getting to such poor condition," he said.

The HCLRC is new, with only Weber and Executive Director Paula Boggs Muething, who helped develop the land bank as Cincinnati's assistant City solicitor.

"I am the only one working on this project right now, and will be coming in one day a week to during the school year to make sure it is up to date," Weber said.

The HCLRC, codified in Ohio Revised Code Section 1724, was enacted through Substitute House Bill 313, a bill granting land bank authority to 41 Ohio counties signed by then-Governor Ted Strickland in April 2010.

The land bank plan allows counties to sell bonds to buy properties' outstanding tax liens from the county treasurer, then to acquire the properties with a clear title. CLRCs would be self-funding, because program funding would be replenished through penalties and interest on delinquent taxes and assessments, the resale of properties to qualified buyers, and loans, bonds and grants.

Hamilton County will receive up to $5.8 million this year – pending local matches – from the recent $300 million foreclosure settlement from the five largest national banks to run the program.

The HCLRC is served by a nine-member board of directors.

Previous reading on BC:
Cincinnati council supports land banking (6/28/10)
Ohio land bank bill now law (4/8/10)
Cincinnati RoundTable focuses on land banking, housing court (3/31/10)
Ohio county land banking passes House committee (12/14/09)
28 Ohio counties could acquire land banking powers (10/29/09)