Cuyahoga Land Bank reports progress in first two years

In the two years since its formation as a tool to battle the foreclosure crisis, the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corporation, commonly known as the Land Bank, has acquired more than 1,200 abandoned properties, forged innovative partnerships with Fannie Mae, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and leading banks, and has been recognized as a national model. In a recently published report, Dennis Keating of Cleveland State University details the progress made by the nonprofit community improvement corporation since since legislation enabling its creation was enacted in January 2009.

Funded primarily by penalties and interest paid on delinquent property taxes, the Land Bank’s acquires abandoned or neglected properties that blight neighborhoods and lower home values. Several hundred properties acquired by the Land Bank have been turned over to cities for redevelopment, and others have been or are scheduled to be rehabbed or demolished. Demolition has sometimes resulted in innovative land reuse through the creation of urban gardens, additions to neighboring lots or the assembly of properties for future development.

Besides removing eyesores that attract criminals, the Land Bank’s acquisition of properties helps thwart speculators who snap up foreclosed homes to “flip” them for a quick profit. Keating notes in the report that speculation was a major factor in the collapse of the local real estate market.

Fannie Mae and HUD are aiding in the Land Bank's effort to reduce real estate speculation, by turning over foreclosed homes for nominal sums, rather than making them available to flippers. Leading mortgage lenders Wells Fargo and Bank of America have also recently agreed to donate foreclosed properties to the Land Bank, based on the its demonstrated skill and capacity.

Since the creation of Cuyahoga County’s Land Bank in 2009, three Ohio counties--Trumbull, Mahoning and Lucas--have established land banks. Two others--Montgomery and Hamilton--are in the process of doing so, and local governments in other states have also looked to the Cuyahoga Land Bank.

In a foreword to the Keating report, Land Bank President Gus Frangos points to the organization’s achievements and concludes: “The Land Bank is a valuable tool in dealing with the fallout from the real estate market collapse. Our professional staff is making a difference.”

State Senator Tom Patton, a champion of the Land Bank in the state legislature, concurs with other civic leaders in commending the Land Bank for helping to combat the fallout from the foreclosure crisis.

The Land Bank serves all of Cuyahoga County but, in response to the great need, is most active in Cleveland and its inner suburbs. As of the end of 2010, the Land Bank had acquired 495 properties, more than 300 of which resulted in demolitions and 80 of which were transferred to municipalities or redevelopers. On average, more than 100 properties are acquired each month.

The Keating report is available online at  

Katherine Bulava

Katherine Bulava is president of Hatha Communications.

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Volume 4, Issue 9, Posted 11:36 AM, 08.09.2011