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Counties Move To Set Up Land Banks And Fix Blight

Thriving Communities Institute's Jim Rokakis, with a map showing current and developing land banks (pic by Brian Bull)
Thriving Communities Institute's Jim Rokakis, with a map showing current and developing land banks (pic by Brian Bull)

Lake County's Deputy Treasurer, John Rogers, says they're getting a $50,000 grant from the Cleveland Foundation, and working towards a 50/50 matching grant for $25,000 drawn from the county's delinquent tax assessment and collections fund.

"So ultimately, the land bank - once the membership gets on board, the rules and regulations...have been developed, ultimately they decide…how do we best…when we acquire these properties, use those properties in such a way as enhancing the overall quality of life and value in our county."

Land banks are non-profit organizations that work with local governments to rehabilitate blighted neighborhoods, often by fixing up - or demolishing - foreclosed homes. Cuyahoga County has had one since 2009, which has already torn down over 700 vacant homes.

The Thriving Communities Institute is a group that helps establish land banks. Director Jim Rokakis says eight urban communities in Ohio have them, with Canton and Akron expected to have theirs within 60 days.

"But then we have Lake, Lorain, Richland, Butler, Green, Clark, and Allen counties," says Rokakis. "So there are a lot of other counties that are in the stage of formation. I haven't done the math, but there'll be at least ten up for sure by the end of this summer, and I suspect another three to four by the end of the year."

Rokakis says some rural leaders want changes made to a state law, to allow counties with populations under 60,000 to set up land banks. With Ohio's Attorney General putting up $75-million in mortgage settlement money for home demolitions, communities with land banks are expected to have an advantage in the application process --- over those that do not.