An update of the happenings at Cuyahoga Land Bank
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2014 Year End Review

Year in Reflection

Looking back on all the Cuyahoga Land Bank’sLand Bank Staff work, accomplishments and partnerships over the last year, it’s easy to overlook that we turned five (5) this past June!  At just 5 years old, the Cuyahoga Land Bank was described as the “Professional” in a survey of the highest quality land banks in the country published by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Community Progress.  “Professional” because of the best practices employed by the Cuyahoga Land Bank and the scope of our activities.
Not only has the Cuyahoga Land Bank professionally executed its core mission of removing blight, stabilizing property values and neighborhoods, and facilitating over 1,000 home renovations, but also administering millions of dollars of complex state and federal grants in a professional manner.
In addition to our core missions, word of the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s professionalism has spread near and far.  Delegates from all over the country, planners, media and academics from Japan, Canada, France and the Council on World Affairs have visited the Land Bank to get a taste of our unique community development role.  From our very first partnership with The City of Cleveland, we now have partnered with virtually every municipality in Cuyahoga County to address the needs and priorities throughout Cuyahoga County.
Our partnerships have since extended to all of our neighborhood CDCs, dozens of faith-based and social service institutions and regional governmental bodies such as the Port Authority, Council of Governments, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District and County Government itself.  Our County Council and County Executive deserve profound kudos for their vision, collaboration and support of our work!

2014 Funding Highlights

While the Cuyahoga Land Bank receives very important core funding annually from the County ($7 million in funding comprised of a percentage of the collected penalties and interest charged to delinquent tax payers), the number of blighted properties needing to be demolished seems endless. Fortunately, the Cuyahoga Land Bank has been extremely successful in obtaining very sizable grants that have allowed us to help remove many of these blighted, abandoned properties from our communities.
In 2014, the Cuyahoga Land Bank used most of the remaining demolition funds awarded under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2010 Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2 (NSP 2). From 2010 to 2014 the Cuyahoga Land Bank used about $3 million in NSP 2 funding for demolitions.
Fortunately, beginning in 2012, after the majority of NSP 2 demolition funds had been expended, the CCLRC received over $11 million in demolition funding from the Ohio Attorney General’s Moving Ohio Forward (MOF) program. Attorney General Mike DeWine distributed these funds, obtained through legal settlements with five major banks dealing with mortgage foreclosures, to all 88 counties in Ohio. Cuyahoga County’s allocation was by far the largest. This past year, the Cuyahoga Land Bank expended the final $2 million in MOF demolition funds.
In 2014, thanks to the advocacy by the Thriving Community Institute and other Land Bank advocates the U.S. Treasury approved the Ohio Housing Finance Agency’s (OHFA) request to use $60 million in federal Hardest Hit Funds (HHF) for demolition. Hardest Hit Funds had been awarded to Ohio and 14 other states hit hard by mortgage foreclosures and were initially used to try to stop foreclosures through loan modifications. OHFA awarded demolition grants to 22 Ohio County Land Banks under its Neighborhood Improvement Program. The Cuyahoga Land Bank again received the largest allocation, over $11 million.

Cuyahoga Land Bank Production Numbers

Production Type  2014 Count Through 2014
Total Property Acquisitions 1044 4767
Total Properties Sold 108 774
Total Disposed Properties 907 3450
Total Demolitions 803 3071
Total Facilitated Renovations 223 1009

Acquisition, Disposition & Development Highlights

Land Bank Staff

At the end of 2014, the Cuyahoga Land Bank demolition crews got to work on taking down a dilapidated 77,000 square foot structure to make way for a new Heinen’s food production plant in the City of Warrensville Heights. The demolition was the culmination of a $610,000 effort to remove the building, which included asbestos remediation, cleanout, fencing and debris removal. Heinen’s plan is to complete a $9 million, 70,000 square foot food production plant on the site. “The Cuyahoga Land Bank was instrumental in the acquisition and clean-up of this site, which is contiguous to our present warehouse,” said Heinen’s Director of Finance Daniel Musil. “The Heinen’s expansion project has been a top economic development priority that the City of Warrensville Heights has been actively facilitating for a long time. Heinen’s 40 year history in Warrensville Heights and Northeast Ohio demonstrates their commitment to revitalizing the region. Without the assistance of the Cuyahoga Land Bank, I can’t promise you this effort would have come to fruition as quickly as it did.” said Warrensville Heights Mayor Brad Sellers. Because of a team effort between the County Development Department, the City of Warrensville Heights and the Cuyahoga Land Bank, the year 2014 provided Heinen’s the opportunity to expand in Warrensville Heights, bringing in new jobs and reducing blight. Through a collective focus on jobs and economic development, this project is now a reality.

Cuyahoga Land Bank leads Small Business Development forward

Land Bank Staff In 2014, the Cuyahoga Land Bank contractors portfolio has expanded, which has created growth for small business enterprises throughout the County. The Cuyahoga Land Bank is what you would call diverse inside, out and everywhere in between! The Cuyahoga Land Bank’s largest operational expenditure is attributed to the cost of demolition and related demolition charges. Of the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s 30 plus demolition contractors, over 40% are Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) or a Female Business Enterprise (FBE). Of the contract dollars expended, over 50% of demolition dollars were awarded to MBE/FBE contractors in 2014. The Cuyahoga Land Bank work with outside partners and agencies throughout the County include all ethnicities, races and geographies.

Legislation Highlights

Land Bank Staff On June 5, 2014, Cuyahoga Land Bank Staff Attorney Doug Sawyer and President Gus Frangos travelled to Columbus to meet with Governor John Kasich for the signing of S.B. 172. The new law provided amendments to the land banking statutes which enhance the ability of courts, boards of revision and other governmental agencies to repurpose and eliminate vacant and abandoned properties throughout the State of Ohio.

Information Technology and Research Department Highlights

Land Bank Staff This past year, the Cuyahoga Land Bank collaborated with the first county land bank to license its Property Profile System (PPS). PPS is a property management software system that performs a variety of functions for daily Land Bank operations, analysis, program development and planning. The Cuyahoga Land Bank is currently in the process of developing a customized PPS 2.0 system for the Hamilton County Land Bank. “The product that Anurag Saxena and Michael Schramm have developed is an incredible product and this is the first step in introducing it to the world,” said William Weber, community revitalization associate for the Hamilton County Land Bank. This project highlights the large capacity and success of the Cuyahoga Land Bank's PPS system and its future potential to play a role in the leading the Land Bank industry. In 2014, the Cuyahoga Land Bank has expanded its GIS research and mapping capacity. The Cuyahoga Land Bank can now focus on using Case Western Reserve University's NEO CANDO Neighborhood Stabilization Team (NST) Web App Data and GIS more effectively to map target areas for property stabilization. Through the NST database the research team can quickly access and break down data on select target areas in order to show the current status of properties that may be in foreclosure, tax delinquent, or have building and housing violations. The NST is also used in Special Projects where staff can search for particular properties based on building criteria in order to identity particular property requests. These maps and research can assist with strategic plans for communities across the County and assist with taking action on vacant and distressed properties.

Program and Property Management Highlights

Land Bank Staff
The Cuyahoga Land Bank is well known for its ability to acquire vacant and blighted properties where the end result is typically demolition. However, an overlooked aspect of the Cuyahoga Land Bank is the amount of in-house renovations that occur. The Cuyahoga Land Bank began taking on the role of general contractor in 2010 to provide an additional avenue for homes to be renovated and placed back into the market. Our strategy is simple: manage risk and stabilize markets by stimulating real estate activity calculated to spur private investment.
In 2014, the Cuyahoga Land Bank In-House rehabilitation program reached $1 million in sales for properties that were sold and under contract! Since the Cuyahoga Land Bank inception in 2009, the In-house rehabilitation program has generated approximately $2.6 million in sales. Over the past year, The Deed-in-Escrow programs labor and costs taken on by the buyers resulted in nearly $3 million in reinvestment back into communities throughout the County.

Cuyahoga Land Bank paves the way for Veteran Housing

Land Bank Staff In 2014, the Cuyahoga Land Bank celebrated the sale of seven properties to area veterans. The sale of these homes was attributed to the Cuyahoga HomeFront Veteran Home Ownership Program; the only land bank in the nation that serves veterans in this unique way. This new 2014 initiative was made possible through a grant from the Cuyahoga County Council’s Veterans Services Fund. Awarded in January of 2014, the $100,000 grant was matched by the Cuyahoga Land Bank totaling $200,000 that was used to develop a revolving loan fund.
The Cuyahoga Land Bank is excited that this program has allowed it to meet its mission of returning vacant and abandoned properties to productive use, while at that same time assisting local veterans in achieving the dream of home ownership. In 2014, communities where veterans are now able to call home include Brooklyn, Euclid, Mayfield Heights and Garfield Heights. The Cuyahoga Land Bank has also opened the door to serve veterans who are interested in taking advantage of various leasing options. In one effort to meet the housing needs of such veterans, the Cuyahoga Land Bank was able to partner with the Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries to renovate two properties that will offer affordable rental units to veteran clients. Other veterans have utilized a lease-purchase options an endeavor to eventually become homeowners in 2015 or beyond.

Neighborhood Greening Improvement Program Launches

Land Bank Staff In 2014, utilizing demolition grant funds provided through the Ohio Housing Finance Agency’s Neighborhood Improvement Program the Cuyahoga Land Bank rolled out its first post-demolition greening program and completed its first four greening projects. Kicking the program off, the Cuyahoga Land Bank began offering an improved side yard purchase program allowing qualified neighbors to purchase properties next door to their home complete with landscaping, attractive lawns, and fencing. The Cuyahoga Land Bank's greening efforts will expand in 2015 to include more side yards, the beautification of high visibility vacant land and the addition of trees and gardens on select properties throughout the County.

Finance Department Highlights

Land Bank Staff
In 2014, the Cuyahoga County Land Bank has once again received a perfect audit recognition for the previous year from the State of Ohio Auditor, David Yost.  This marks the fifth straight perfect audit since the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s inception.  This is a result of excellent governance by the Executive Management, significant teamwork and effective communication in achieving  our organization's mission.

Publication Features 2014

Land Bank Staff
In 2014, the Cuyahoga Land Bank was one of seven Land Bank organizations featured in the report, Take it to the Bank: How Land Banks Are Strengthening America’s Neighborhoods, a publication from the Washington D.C. based Center for Community Progress. The report praises the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s “strong leadership” and professionalism. (Download the report)
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The mission of the Cuyahoga Land Bank is to strategically acquire properties, return them to productive use, reduce blight, increase property values, support community goals and improve the quality of life for county residents.

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