A county land bank could help wipe out severely damaged and abandoned homes in communities and increase property values, Greene County officials said last week.
The county treasurer, Dick Gould, plans to host two public forums on Tuesday to discuss how land banks could revitalize neighborhoods in the county.
If the land bank takes possession of these blighted properties and turns them into tax revenue generating homes, the value of surrounding properties could increase and subsequently lower property taxes in the area, according to Gould.
“If everyone is paying, the overall burden is less on those who are paying,” he said.
The Greene County Department of Development is working with the county treasurer’s office to apply for a state grant that would help fund the land bank. Greene County commissioners approved an application for the Moving Ohio Forward Program on Aug. 28.
As of July, 80 counties in the state had applied for the Moving Ohio Forward Demolition Grant Program which is the result of a federal and state settlement with the top five mortgage services companies – Ally Financial Inc. (formerly GMAC), Bank of America Corporation, Citigroup, Inc., JP Morgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Company.
Some Miami Valley counties already have been awarded grants from the $75 million program. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office reported the following awards in July: Montgomery County; $4.2 million; Miami County, $575,536; Warren County, $1.2 million; Preble, $330,351; and Darke County, $245,004.
Greene County was one of six counties granted an application extension until Aug. 31.
The state attorney general’s office has allotted $727,796 for Greene County. Up to $500,000 of the money will not require a local match. Any money spent over that amount will require a dollar for dollar match by the community asking for additional project funding.
If the state awards the allocated funds, the development department will transfer the money to the land bank, David Kell, the county director of development, said during the commissioners’ meeting last week.
The county would put up $65,000 to match program funds.
The county is working with 23 communities in the area to participate in the program which would deal with properties which have been abandoned or destroyed.
According to information contained in the application the county submitted for the Moving Ohio Forward Program, 8 percent of the 68,241 housing units in the county are vacant. Greene County had 3,366 foreclosures during a three year period starting in 2008. Three communities with higher rates of foreclosures in the county include: Xenia with 926 foreclosures; Fairborn with 872; and Beavercreek with 675.
If awarded, the state program funds would pay for 66 properties that have been identified for demolition.
The land bank, which would not be considered a county agency, would be overseen by a board made up of a minimum of five members: two county commissioners; the county treasurer; a representative from the largest city in the county (Beavercreek) and a township representative. Gould also would like to see members from the different geographic regions of the county appointed to the board. The land bank would be operated by a director who would report to the board.
Greene County is one of six counties who have expressed interest in developing a land bank, according to information published by the Western Reserve Land Conservancy Thriving Communities Institute. Seven of the state’s 88 counties, including Montgomery County, have established land banks, and three are in some phase of the approval process for establishing one. Twenty-one additional counties, including Miami County, are eligible to establish a land bank.
“Land banks have been invaluable in many ways,” said Jim Rokakis, the vice president of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy and director of the Thriving Communities Institute. “In large urban counties, they help slow the flipping of properties which contribute to the destabilization of real estate markets.”
Rokakis, a former Cuyahoga County Treasurer, co-authored land bank legislation that helped counties deal with the issue of properties that were abandoned, destroyed or deteriorating.
In addition to helping to stabilize the real estate market, land banks also can be useful for aiding in the restoration of home values in a community, Rokakis added.
“Vacant properties are like a cancer,” Rokakis said. “If not dealt with properly, it will spread.”