Frequently Asked Questions
A: After the passage of State enabling legislation, (S.B. 353, 127th General Assembly) the Cuyahoga County Commissioners authorized the incorporation of the Cuyahoga Land Bank as a nonprofit organization whose mission is to strategically acquire properties, return them to productive use, reduce blight, increase property values, support community goals, and to improve the quality of life for County residents.
A: "The costs of dealing with vacant and abandoned properties fall mainly to local governments, which are often unable to break the cycle of foreclosure to abandonment to blight. They are thwarted by heavy costs, the lack of a timely legal mechanism to acquire properties, liability concerns, and no overarching strategy to address the problems at a regional level. Land banks provide that mechanism." (Breaking the Housing Crisis Cycle: Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, 2008, pg. 18)
A: Unlike land banks that are programs within local governments, the Cuyahoga Land Bank is a County land bank, but administered by a separate nonprofit corporation with its own source of funding. While many city land banks will not acquire property with buildings, the Cuyahoga Land Bank may, after proper assessment, and based on funding capabilities, acquire these properties. The Cuyahoga Land Bank was designed by the Ohio legislature to operate efficiently and more like private enterprise, but pursuant to a public mission. Additionally, with tax foreclosure reform, County land banks are able to take low asset properties off the market and prevent a downward spiral of speculation and deterioration. Finally, County Land Banks have a reliable revenue stream that is identifiable, which allows land banks to plan ahead and act strategically
A: The three main sources of properties obtained by the Cuyahoga Land Bank are tax foreclosures, abandoned privately foreclosed properties from banks (REOs) and other lenders, Fannie Mae, HUD, Housing referrals, and occasional donations to the Cuyahoga Land Bank.
A: The Cuyahoga Land Bank acquires about 100 properties a month, which it assesses - after vacancy has been confirmed - in order to determine whether the property can be renovated or must be demolished. Assessments consider electrical, plumbing, HVAC, the roof and the foundation. If it is determined that a property can be rehabilitated, specs are prepared and the property is placed in either the Deed-In-Escrow, Occupant Buyer Advantage Program or Advantage Pluse Renovation Program. The Cuyahoga Land Bank also renovates some properties internally. A property marked for demolition undergoes and asbestos survey and any necessary remediation prior to demolition. Research has shown that the removal of blighted properties is having a positive impact on the surrounding community, increasing safety and property values. Additionally, partnerships with end users and institutions (churches, hospitals, private developments, NEORSD and agricultural cooperatives) have been forged to foster alternative reuses of once distress properties.
A: The Cuyahoga Land Bank has several programs for the purchase and renovation of properties in its inventory. The most popular program is the Deed-In-Escrow Program. An interested buyer is provided with a renovation specification. If a buyer can demonstrate the financial capability to acquire and renovate the property, then the Land Bank will consider the offer. The buyer has approximately four months to complete a renovation after their offer has been accepted. Once the renovation is complete, the Land Bank inspects it. A property that passes inspection has its deed transferred to the buyer. Sometimes the Cuyahoga Land Bank will renovate a property in house and place it on the market. In an effort to increase home ownership, the Cuyahoga Land Bank created the Owner Occupant Buyer Advantage Program that sets aside properties with $15,000 or less in estimated repairs for owner occupant buyers for 30 days.
A: The Cuyahoga Land Bank acquires about 100 properties a month, which it assesses - after vacancy has been confirmed - in order to determine whether the property can be renovated or must be demolished. If an assessment and team review determines that the property is too deteriorated to be renovated, it is slated for demolition. All these properties then undergo an asbestos survey and any necessary remediation prior to demolition. Once a home is demolished, the land can be taken by a neighbor as a yard expansion, utilized as an urban garden or for future economic development.
A: The Cuyahoga Land Bank often collaborates with outside agencies and governments. The Cuyahoga Land Bank reaches out to organizations who have a need for housing or land in order to fulfill their mission. For example, the Cuyahoga Land Bank partnered with the International Services Center (ISC) to provide housing for refugees; Purple Heart Homes to provide housing to Vets; Career Development and Placement Strategies Inc to provide workforce development training to formerly incarcerated fathers; and multiple other organizations that provide workforce development and training and can benefit from having their clients complete maintenance and repair tasks.
A: The Cuyahoga Land Bank has a several sources that fund its mission. At the most basic level, the Cuyahoga Land Bank will receive annually a certain portion of the penalties and interest that accrue on delinquent property taxes. To be entitled to receive this base level funding, the Cuyahoga County Treasurer (the Treasurer) must make early advances of these delinquent taxes to the taxing districts from his daily balances to the various cities, schools and special taxing districts in Cuyahoga County. To the extent penalties and interest from delinquent taxes are used to fund the Cuyahoga Land Bank, no direct or primary tax dollars are used. While the County is not prohibited from supporting the Cuyahoga Land Bank, it does not do so out of its general funds nor is the County liable for the obligations of the Cuyahoga Land Bank. Legally, the Cuyahoga Land Bank is a separate and distinct entity from the County government.
The Cuyahoga Land Bank is also authorized to receive tax foreclosed properties, most of them having negative equity, along with others having positive equity. Positive equity properties will be stabilized and resold where possible, the proceeds from which will be used to fund the continued mission of the Cuyahoga Land Bank, i.e., demolition, stabilization and rehabilitation of substandard properties. Additional outside sources of funding include, but are not limited to, gifts, grants and loans, including the issuance of its bonds.
A: The Cuyahoga Land Bank has an in-house database called the Property Profile System that contains current information on all properties in its inventory. This system is linked to www.cuyahogalandbank.org and accessible to the public. Contractors also have access to this system so that they can log in, fill out a form, submit pictures and verify they have completed their job. The Cuyahoga Land Bank also works with the Case Western Reserve University Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development and their data system - NEO CANDO - in order to monitor foreclosures, property sales, demolitions, sheriff's sales and other characteristics. Because of this tracking, we have a better idea of anticipating which properties are coming into our Land Bank inventory.
A: The Cuyahoga Land Bank is governed by a Board of Directors. Ohio law requires a minimum of five Directors, including the county treasurer and two of the three county commissioners, or in the case of Cuyahoga County, the appointed Treasurer, the County Executive and a County Council representative. The Code of Regulations of the Cuyahoga Land Bank requires two additional Directors from the municipality in the County with the largest population. The Board of Directors is authorized to employ an executive director who is be responsible for the daily management and operations of the Cuyahoga Land Bank.
A: Yes, as a quasi-governmental corporation, the Cuyahoga Land Bank, with minor exceptions, is subject to the Ohio Public Records and Ohio Open Meeting Laws.
A: The Cuyahoga Land Bank's Code of Regulations requires the Board of Directors to convene a regular meeting at least once every calendar quarter and to convene an annual meeting on the third Thursday of March in each year or on any date after that third Thursday, but in no event later than April 30th. Board of Directors' meetings are held in Conference Room 400 of Lakeside Place, 323 Lakeside Ave. NW, the building in which the Cuyahoga Land Bank's offices are located.
A: Although the bulk of the problems arising from the foreclosure crisis arise in the City of Cleveland and inner ring suburbs of Cuyahoga County, the Cuyahoga Land Bank is authorized to service all of Cuyahoga County commensurate with funding and priority of need.
A: No, Cuyahoga County is not liable for, nor obligated to pay the debts and contracts of, the Cuyahoga Land Bank. The Cuyahoga Land Bank is a separate corporation under Ohio law which can incur debts and borrow money under its own corporate name without expense to taxpayers.
A: The Board of Directors of the Cuyahoga Land Bank hires a President for the Cuyahoga Land Bank who in turn hires the Cuyahoga Land Bank's staff.
A: The Cuyahoga Land Bank has a publicly available Web site [www.cuyahogalandbank.org] on which periodic updates on programmatic operations are posted, along with information on the scheduled Board meetings. The Web site can direct readers to Cuyahoga Land Bank forms and programs as well.
A: No. City land banks have the first chance to acquire any property in their municipalities. The Cuyahoga Land Bank encourages a Memorandum of Understanding with each municipality to work out any desired protocols between them.
A: The Cuyahoga Land Bank takes many, but not all, vacant and abandoned tax foreclosed properties that do not contain unwarranted environmental risks. The Cuyahoga Land Bank determines what mortgage foreclosed properties it will acquire (typically $1.00) based on consideration of available funding, carrying expense, demolition cost, environmental risk, and strategic factors in cooperation with Cuyahoga County municipalities.