Oregon is working with the Lucas County Land Reutilization Corporation to rid neighborhoods of tax delinquent and bank foreclosed houses to reduce the risk of neighborhood blight and lower property values.
The land bank, a community improvement corporation, is designed to strengthen neighborhoods by returning vacant and abandoned properties to productive use.
“We’ve ended up with some properties that are bank owned and some properties that have been vacant that some of the neighbors have been unhappy with,” City Administrator Mike Beazley said to council at a Feb. 6 council meeting. “We’ve had success working with the land bank, which is in the process of taking title to five properties in Oregon. They’re trying to make sure that instead of sitting vacant and getting blighted, they’re getting title to most of them in the next couple of weeks. In several cases, they will be turned over to new property owners in Oregon.”
Targeted properties include a vacant house on Brown Road that has been a hangout for kids, said Beazley.
“A few months ago, the fire department came to me and said there were kids hanging around in it, starting fires, and if it caught fire one more time, they weren’t going to put it out. They were worried about holes in the floor, and kids doing damage. The land bank will be getting title to it this month. An Oregon family is going to take it over and fix it up so it will not be a blight to the neighbors anymore,” said Beazley.
“There’s a property on Arkansas that will probably end up as a significant blight problem that we’re trying to get title to in the next couple of weeks. There’s a property on Corduroy that’s almost right behind Clay High School that we’re in the process of getting title to. There’s a property on Taft that the land bank took title to, and we have a sale pending to an Oregon family that would move into it. It was foreclosed upon and sat vacant and was starting to deteriorate. We have a property on Bay Shore that we’ll begin that process on. If you drive past it, there’s a big sign that says `No Trespassing.’ It’s sitting empty and it’s boarded up. What we’re trying to do is make sure we don’t have surrounding properties lose value from these vacant properties,” said Beazley.
He asked council members if they knew of other vacant properties on which the land bank could focus its efforts.
“We want to make sure we take action quickly so we don’t hurt our surrounding properties by letting these properties sit empty,” said Beazley.
Council President Tom Susor asked what the city was doing about the burned out Golden Jade Restaurant, and Councilman Dennis Walendzak asked about a house that was partially covered by a tarp on Wheeling Street.
“We sent out 30-day orders to have them either repaired or demolished,” said James Gilmore, Oregon’s commissioner of building and zoning. “We always have to give the opportunity to repair, if they’d like to. But, most likely, both of those properties will be torn down.”
Councilman James Seaman blamed banks for allowing foreclosed properties to deteriorate.
“The banks have insurance for the mortgage, through PMI and other sources. The thing is, they don’t put it in the bank’s name after they foreclose on it. Then if the house is a nuisance or a problem, who has responsibility for it? It should be in the bank’s name, but the bank is not taking care of it. Of course, the person who got foreclosed on, they don’t feel any obligation. They lost their house, but it remains an eyesore, and it brings down the value of surrounding homes,” said Seaman.
“We might have 100 homes that are bank owned in Oregon right now, and it’s pretty typical for communities like us around the region,” said Beazley. “I’ve met with leaders of most of the local banks and have concessions in trying to deal with that issue. Our challenge is with the national banks.”
Beazley said he’s had a conference call with officials from Fannie Mae, which has several foreclosed houses in Oregon.
“They have a lot of properties they have on the books here that our local banks turned over to them. Maybe they were foreclosed on by Fifth Third, or Huntington. Then next thing you know, Fannie Mae has title because they had backed the mortgages initially. I had a good session with them last week, and we’re looking to schedule another one in the next couple of weeks. We want to make sure these properties get back into use. In Oregon, there’s demand. People do want to live in Oregon, and we want to make sure these properties get listed in an appropriate way instead of sitting.”
The land bank takes less time to get title to foreclosed houses, Beazley said after the meeting.
“The challenge is, sometimes it takes a property a long time to go through foreclosure. During that time, it’s sitting empty, losing value. So the city is working with the land bank to make sure that if we have a tax foreclosed property, the land bank has the best tools to get title quickly so we can get that turned over to someone who wants to live here,” said Beazley.