Don't forget potential of land bank

Media Reports News

Don’t forget potential of land bank

September 26, 2011 [Canton Repository]

The issue: Foreclosure crisis
Our view: Some Stark organization needs to lead exploration of possibilities

Cleveland and Cuyahoga County are aggressively trying to halt the housing blight that the foreclosure crisis has accelerated. As The Rep explained in a story a few weeks ago, the Cuyahoga County Land Bank has “virtually stopped speculators from buying abandoned, foreclosed properties for a few hundred dollars and then selling them for slightly more.”

But there’s still plenty of unfinished business for authorities to deal with, including criminal schemes that ravaged Cuyahoga neighborhoods before the land bank came into existence.

Last week, Cleveland authorities indicted 32 people in what they described as a $5.1 million mortgage fraud scheme. The defendants are accused of buying 44 houses at fire-sale prices at sheriff’s sales, among other sources, then taking out mortgages based on phony property values. After pocketing the money, the defendants allegedly abandoned most of the houses, which went into foreclosure.

This is a reminder that the trouble that afflicts neighborhoods when houses are abandoned doesn’t necessarily go away when the houses are sold. And it’s a reminder that land banks, through which public entities such as counties acquire properties and then sell or develop them, can be the additional dose of preventive medicine that communities hit hard by the housing crisis need.

Thanks to a revision of the law that allowed Cuyahoga County to set up a land bank, Stark and other larger Ohio counties can do the same. It’s a complicated process, and stakeholders such as school districts that stand to lose tax dollars need to be brought to the table. But a land bank could be a benefit to Stark County.

We hope not too much more time passes before some organization steps forward to lead an exploration of the possibilities for a land bank here.