The Press Newspaper
Pilot project to inventory Birmingham properties
The Lucas County Land Bank increases property values by tearing down dilapidated homes with little value and turning homes with a tax delinquency to new owners for rehab.
Demolition removes properties of little value from the housing stock thus increasing the value of remaining properties. Increasing property values encourages other homeowners to invest because they eventually will recoup their investment.
In 2013, the land bank demolished 60 houses in East Toledo. There are typically at any time close to 100 homes in East Toledo identified for demolition.
Cindy Geronimo, land bank director, said “It’s a fluid list that keeps changing. Some may come off because of an appeal.”
Each home identified is inspected by nuisance abatement code enforcement officials from the city. Geronimo said even if a home is not slated for demolition, the homeowner will be cited for nuisance and she promises the land bank “will find out what’s going on with that property.”
Not all acquired properties enter the land bank’s demolition program. Others may be rehabilitated or entered into an urban gardening program.
The land bank also acquires and sells foreclosed tax delinquent properties without going through the long court process leading to a sheriff’s sale.
If you are a Lucas County homeowner who lives next to a vacant lot that shares a common boundary, you may be able to purchase that lot for $100 under its side lot program, as long as you are current in your taxes and meet other specifications. Otherwise, a property will cost at least $250.
If you purchase a home, Geronimo said you must show that you have at least $10,000 available for reinvestment. When the land bank acquires the property, all delinquent property taxes are waived, and when it comes to a new owner, it will have a clean title.
In July 2011, the land bank was awarded a $3.6 million grant from the Ohio Attorney General. With matching funds from the City of Toledo, the land bank has $6.8 million available through December 2013.
In partnership with the city, Geronimo expects close to 900 buildings city wide will be identified for demolition by the land bank each year, which is about half of the 1,800 vacant and abandoned homes that have become nuisance properties. She expects about 600 per year to be demolished, double the 300 per year the city was demolishing before the land bank was created. She said the city is still doing some demolitions, including fire and other emergency demolitions.
NeighborWorks economic specialist Bob Krompak says the land bank is actively involved in East Toledo’s Birmingham neighborhood with a pilot project that is getting residents involved.
“The land bank has chosen the Birmingham neighborhood as sort of the beta site for something — they are developing new software that, the best way I can put this, is the ARIES system on steroids. It’s going to have GIS layers, where you can actually color-code the condition of homes,” Krompak said.
NeighborWorks found 10 Birmingham residents and the land bank is teaching them to inventory properties. When that inventory is complete, the land bank will move on to other Toledo neighborhoods.
The inventory will help the organization identify problem properties earlier in the process, before demolition becomes the only option.
Geronimo said the land bank is also seeking out commercial properties for renovation or demolition. They also hope to tackle commercial brownfields.
“With any of the brownfields that exist, we’ve talked to the University of Toledo to do environmental remediation,” Geronimo said.
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