The efforts have led other states to pursue similar laws to deal with their own foreclosure epidemics. New York passed a comparable measure this summer. Similar legislation is in the works in Georgia, Philadelphia and elsewhere.
Cleveland has found progress in the sliver of common ground between the land bank’s mission and the interest of financial firms, including some that helped fuel the housing crisis through risky loans and later botched paperwork in carrying out foreclosures across the country.
This collaboration was uncomfortable at first, said Gus Frangos, the Cuyahoga land bank’s president and one of the people behind the state law.
“Two years ago, when we started . . . it was difficult,” he said. “Everybody was guarded.”
After countless meetings, however, land bank officials and banking representatives shed their initial wariness of one another. Frangos made a simple pitch: We’re not here to point fingers. We’ll take your worst properties, the ones not worth keeping. Pony up for the demolition, and you’ll still come out ahead. Just don’t walk away from them.
Bank of America and Wells Fargo announced plans this summer to donate more than 100 properties to the land bank. J.P. Morgan Chase also has made regular donations, and several other banks have given sporadically. Fannie Mae, the massive mortgage finance company seized by the federal government three years ago, began donating properties early on and now hands over about 30 properties a month, Frangos said.