Engineers and Cuyahoga Land Bank Kick-Off Workforce Program

Demolition can be a very dangerous and complicated business – unless you know what you are doing! The folks at International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 18 (“Local 18”) know exactly what they are doing. Local 18 is dedicated to training future apprentices and journeymen in the operation of heavy equipment.  Its Trust Fund helps pay the students during their classroom training on equipment operation, OSHA compliance, safety and technical skills.

local-18-people“You know they are serious about training when they have gone above and beyond to create a Trust Fund, own their demolition equipment, and have invested in a facility for hands-on training,” said Gus Frangos, President of the Cuyahoga Land Bank. Frangos and Local 18 created a partnership where students could get on-the-job training on Cuyahoga Land Bank demolition sites while supervised by expert union heavy equipment operators. “This was a perfect opportunity for our students to get live demolition experience on Cuyahoga Land Bank demolition sites,” said Richard Dalton, Local 18 Business Manager. “We look forward to our continued partnership with the Cuyahoga Land Bank,” he added.

local-18-construction-siteThe Cuyahoga Land Bank will compensate Local 18 for its demolition work to help the union continue its program, maintain equipment and serve more students.  The Cuyahoga Land Bank will, in turn, expend less for each demolition performed under the partnership. Cheryl Stephens, Director of Acquisitions, Development and Disposition at the Cuyahoga Land Bank crafted the details of the program and identified a 12-suite condemned and abandoned apartment at East 105th and Lee Avenue as the first demolition site. Students will all be from Cuyahoga County with an emphasis on urban and minority communities.

Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish has strongly advocated for quality workforce programs. “Our administration has worked on numerous community development projects with the Cuyahoga Land Bank. We know that opportunities for young people and exposure to workforce experience is key to helping them develop the careers of their choice,” said Budish.

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A Lofty Idea

Kevin Malone Sr. worked as a construction contractor all of his life.  Working with his hands, he raised his family and sent them to college.  Kevin’s two sons, Kevin and Colin both graduated from college and entered the work force; one as a mechanical engineer and the other a sound engineer specialist.Land Bank Staff
As dad began to wind-down his career, his boys came to him and said, “Dad, we are getting tired of sitting in a cubical behind a computer trading time for money.  We want to get into the business with you!”  And so began a new partnership involving dad and his two sons who just completed their first “Loft Home” renovation in the St. Clair-Superior neighborhood.  “The house is simply beautiful. It is artful, it is quality and it isLand Bank Staff just plain cool,” said Cuyahoga Land Bank President Gus Frangos.
The single-family home was in the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s inventory slated for demolition.  Instead, the home will become a “quality rental product in the emerging St. Clair-Superior neighborhood” according to Real Estate Specialist Andrea Bruno of the St. Clair-Superior Neighborhood Development Corporation who helped recruit the Malones to the neighborhood.
The Cuyahoga Land Bank initiated “Loft Homes” as a pilot project to see if it could work.  While getting off to a rocky start with a prior contractor, the Malone Brothers have figured out how to turn these homes into quality lofted homes at an inexpensive price using recycled and existing quality materials from these older homes.  “Our business model is to create quality loft homes in a targeted area, rent to eligible tenants and create a market for future resales,” said Kevin Malone.  “I was about to ease up on my work schedule, but instead, I now have the joy of working eighty hours a week with my sons,” said Kevin Malone, Sr., the proud father.  “We are having a lot of fun doing this,” he added.
There are two other homes the Malone family will be completing in April or May.  The Cuyahoga Land Bank and the “Malone Maestros” have expanded the Loft Home pilot to include up to three more homes that were originally slated for the wrecking ball.

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Neighborhood Advocates Collaborate to Relocate Discovery Center

Three summers ago, Concerned Citizens, Inc. Director Anita Gardner took Cuyahoga Land Bank President Gus Frangos and staff on a neighborhood tour of Kinsman Avenue.  Many buildings had decayed and were abandoned in the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis post-2008.  One building had housed the small offices of a neighborhood child enrichment center known as the “Discovery Center,” run by Gardner.  “Our children need mentoring, job and citizenship training in order to be productive citizens wheLand Bank Staff n they grow up,” she said.  Gardner partnered with Shirley Ellington (who has since passed away) in serving children from the neighborhood at their small offices near East 138th and Kinsman.
Gardner and Ellington volunteered their time, efforts, and resources to help train and support children with community activities, arts, crafts and computer training. But alas, the offices suffered from a roof leak, building decay and vandalism which the owner would not fix.  As a result, the center closed.
Undaunted, the tour with Cuyahoga Land Bank staff resulted in a pact between Gardner and the Cuyahoga Land Bank that together they would find another suitable, safe and clean building to serve as a permanent home for “Anita’s kids.”
After reviewing vacant and abandoned properties for three years, a property on East 137th Street became available.  This was a large two family home with parking and plenty of space where children could engage in activities both inside and outside.
While the building was structurally sound, it needed significant renovation.  Cleveland Councilman Ken Johnson and Councilman Terrell Pruitt answered the call each by providing support to help in the renovation.  Additionally, the Cuyahoga Land Bank invested funds to complete the work.  The rehabilitation was completed by Beneficial Properties whose principal owner is Marvin Stover.  The property was finally finished in October, 2015.
“I cannot tell you how beautiful Mr. Stover made this building.  He went above and beyond in making this accessible to our kids including handicapped individuals.” said Gardner.  The finished property came equipped with a handicap raLand Bank Staff mp and customized renovations throughout the home.
At a recent tour of the building, Concerned Citizens, Inc. Board Member Jefferson D. Tufts praised the success of this project and the combined work of Anita Gardner, Cuyahoga Land Bank, Councilmen Johnson and Pruitt as well as the contractor Marvin Stover.  “This means a great deal to the children of this community,” said Tufts.
This spring, all of the children’s programming will once again begin but with enhanced activities such as entrepreneurship, community workshops, art festivals, educational tutoring and family support services.  “This is the kind of investment in our children that will help them make wise and healthy choices,” said Gardner. 
For Gardner, this is a dream come true.  It is a dream she refused to let die.  A grand opening for the new center will be announced in the Spring of 2016.

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Destination Cleveland!

What do you have when over two hundred and fifty people assemble at the Wyndham Hotel representing county land banks throughout Ohio? It’s the annual Thriving Communities Institute‘s Ohio Land Bank ConferLand Bank Staff ence.
This year’s sessions highlighted many nuts-and-bolts issues and operations for land banks, as well as new topics dealing with the environment, public records, communications strategies, and the role of county land banks in repurposing vacant and abandoned commercial and industrial properties.
Adding to the excitement of this year’s conference was that Ohio now has over twenty five land banks ranging from the fully operational Lucas County Land Bank and Cuyahoga Land Bank, to smaller land banks that only have a few employees. Thriving Communities Institute, Executive Director James Rokakis, opened up the conference with a report on the importance of land banks in stabilizing our communities and highlighted Thriving Communities Institute’s work throughout Ohio.
The keynote speaker was Cuyahoga Land Bank Board Chairman and Ward 12 Cleveland Councilmen Anthony Brancatelli. The Councilman gave both uplifting examples of the progress and extraordinary accomplishments of county land banks as well as examples of very sobering realitiLand Bank Staff es involving safety, crime and community destabilization associated with vacant and abandoned properties.

The Cuyahoga Land Bank this year was again involved in several conferences. Cheryl Stephens, Director of Acquisitions and Development, provided a detailed A to Z clinic on acquisition, demolition and environmental practices. Stephens continues to be a leader in the land banking field.
Dennis Roberts, Director of Programs, spoke on property sales strategies and renovation. His department has facilitated the renovation of over 1,100 homes since 2009.

Sarah Norman, Records Manager and Jacqui Knettel, Executive Assistant, presented on the importance of records retention for land banks.  The discussion provided both an entertaining and in-depth analysis of records management and retention since all land banks are subject to the Sunshine Laws and public records statutes.
Gus Frangos, President and General Counsel, conducted a conference session for the smaller and recently incorporated land banks to give them a perspective on how to start a land bank.Land Bank Staff
According to Rokakis, “These conferences provide a great opportunity for large and small, experienced and less experienced land banks to get together, share notes and assist one another with best practices.”
The statewide conference is an important tool to drive policy to help address the vacant and abandoned properties through out the state.  The Cuyahoga Land Bank has served as a policy leader in addressing these issues. We hope to see everyone at next year’s statewide conference that will be held in Columbus, Ohio.

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Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry Partnership to Serve Veterans

Three veterans will soon have a place to call home thanks to a new partnership between the Cuyahoga Land Bank and Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry (LMM). The Veterans’ Affordable Housing Initiative provides permanent affordable housing for homeless veterans living in Cuyahoga County, helping them achieve independence. The Cuyahoga Land Bank is committed to creating and furthering opportunities for veterans and actively seeks partnerships to address veteran’s housing issues. LMM’s Men’s Shelter at 2100 Lakeside serves 4,000 men annually with 600 of those being homeless veterans. The Veteran’s AffordableLand Bank Staff Housing Initiative is a result of these organizations combining their missions to provide assistance to homeless veterans, thousands of whom live in Cuyahoga County.
The first home completed as part of the Initiative is located in East Cleveland and can house up to six veterans. “This project is a win-win,” said East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton. “It provides an affordable permanent home to veterans that have sacrificed to serve our country and takes an old property and breathes new life into it at the same time. We are honored to have these veterans call East Cleveland home.”
After determining needed accommodations with the help of LMM, the Cuyahoga Land Bank identified the East Cleveland property, facilitated the transfer and hired King’s Sons 821, a local youth workforce development training program, as the general contractor who led the renovation construction. Thanks to generous support from several LMM donors, LMM was able to purchase the renovated property with a favorable financing plan from the Cuyahoga Land Bank. LandLand Bank Staff Bank Staff “Everyone deserves a safe, stable place to call home,” said Gus Frangos, President and General Counsel, Cuyahoga County Land Bank. “The Veterans’ Affordable Housing Initiative will get our homeless veterans into homes and help them regain their independence.”
The duplex has six bedrooms, giving each veteran a private space; and features a shared kitchen and living space on each side where the veterans can gather together. LMM’s Men’s Shelter coordinates the tenant screening, selection and placement while LMM’s Social Enterprise program will act as landlord and will coordinate ongoing tenant check-in and support services as-needed.
Land Bank Staff “LMM is committed to addressing long-standing problems with innovative solutions and the veteran’s housing partnership is a good example,” said Andrew Genszler, LMM President and Chief Executive Officer and a Navy chaplain. “Our homeless veterans have sacrificed much in service to our country and this partnership is just onLand Bank Staff e way that we can honor and serve these men; supporting them on a path to self-sufficiency.”
LMM is accepting donations of housewarming gifts, such as bedding, towels and other small household items, so that the veterans can feel at home. Anyone who would like to make a donation should contact Kelly Camlin, Associate Director of the Men’s Shelter, at (216) 649-7718 x480.
Both organizations are hopeful that the success of the East Cleveland home will lead to more homes being renovated and made available to veterans through the Initiative.

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Lessons From Cuyahoga County On Land Banking (WESA)

 

Since land bank legislation was adopted in 2009, Cuyahoga County has been working to create an effective process to deal with abandoned and vacant properties. Six years later, they’re taking in at least 100 properties every month while gradually eliminating blight in the region.  We’ll ask Cuyahoga County Land Bank President and General Counsel Gus Frangos how they’ve developed their model and what improvements could be adopted in the Pittsburgh area.

Listen to Gus’s interview from the source.

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Neighborhood Developer on a Mission

As a former U.S. Marine, local developer Daryl Anderson has been on many missions during his tour of duty in various countries. Daryl Anderson understands missions.
Anderson and his team at AP Business Solutions is now on a mission to help stabilize neighborhoods on Cleveland’s near west side.  Working with Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization and the Cuyahoga Land Bank, AP Business Solutions has renovated over a dozen homes on behalf of its real estate construction business as well as with partner investors who work with AP Solutions to renovate homes.
What is unique about this mission, is that AP Business Solutions works with Catholic Charities, US Together and International Services Center to provide quality housing for legal refugees relocating to Cleveland’s near westside.  Even more unique is the fact that many of Land Bank Staff the people that help renovate these homes include the very refugees that AP Solutions trains to provide housing.  The benefits to the community are many.
First, distressed homes are renovated and become occupied productive properties.  Second, by working with the refugee service organizations, properly screened refugees are repopulating the City of Cleveland.  These refugees have a high rate of employment, involvement in the community and appreciation for being in the United States coming from oppressive or war-torn areas throughout the world.  Third, many of these refugees are getting trained as skilled tradesmen in home renovation.
“I love this kind of work. It is very gratifying when you can tie your work to an important social contribution to the community,” said Anderson.
As a result the AP Business Solutions “business with a social conscience,” partnered with the Cuyahoga Land Bank to renovate several homes in their inventory.  Among some of the recent projects will be two multi-family small apartment buildings just outside the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood service area.  This is an area particularly desirable and affordable for those clients referred by the refugee service organizations.
One of these projects includes a four suite apartment building donated by Wells Fargo Bank to the Cuyahoga Land Bank which is very suitable for renovation.  “We asked Wells Fargo if it would contribute this foreclosed property in its inventory, and explained the purpose behind the donation. Wells Fargo honored our request and donated this property,” said President and General Counsel Gus Frangos.  Wells Fargo and the Cuyahoga Land Bank have had an ongoing cooperative relationship to re-purpose distressed properties.  For several years, Wells Fargo has donated properties in need of demolition, and has paid the full price for demolition.
Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization Director Jeff Ramsey acknowledged his work with AP Solutions and said, “I wish we had ten more such developers in our neighborhood. They do timely, quality work and maintain the properties in a professional manner.”
The Cuyahoga Land Bank will develop the Wells Fargo donated property in partnership with AP Business Solutions.
Cuyahoga Land Bank Board Chairman Anthony Brancatelli praised the work of the Cuyahoga Land Bank by noting that through the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s relationships, many creative collaborations take place.  “When you consider that the Cuyahoga Land Bank is able to identify quality developers through the CDC network and push banks to cooperate on donating higher value properties, this is a testament to the quality work and reputation of the Cuyahoga Land Bank,” said Brancatelli.

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Thriving Communities: And Then There Were Twenty-Five!

Incredibly, the smallest mustard seed can grow into one of the largest and most sturdy trees at full growth.  In 2009, legislation was passed in the State of Ohio for the creation of county land banks. This legislation planted the seed in Cuyahoga County and led to the growth of the Cuyahoga Land Bank.  Six years later, that seed has turned into a powerful and effective countLand Bank Staff y land bank movement throughout the State of Ohio thanks to the work of Thriving Communities Institute (TCI).  The Thriving Communities Institute, directed by the former Cuyahoga County Treasurer James Rokakis, has  helped counties establish their own county land banks, and facilitates training throughout Ohio.  There are now twenty-five land banks and four more on the way thanks to TCI’s work.
TCI is the convener of quarterly meetings held in different parts of the State where all county land banks come together, share best practices, address new issues and share success stories.
“The beauty of land banking is that one size does not fit all,” said Trumbull County Treasurer and Board Chairman Sam Lamancusa.  “We board-up, renovate, demolish and improve properties throughout the County in ways never before possible thanks to the creation of county land banks.”  That was the message at the most recent TCI land bank quarterly conference in Columbus in mid-June of this year.
Cuyahoga Land Bank President and General Counsel, Gus Frangos, Chief Operating Officer, Bill Whitney and Staff Attorney, Doug Sawyer, attended this quarterly meeting.  They discussed proposed legislative changes  to the tax foreclosure process and land banking statutes.  Doug Sawyer outlined some of the more important changes that were on the horizon.Land Bank Staff
Speakers talked about new greening techniques and progress with the Ohio Housing Finance Agency’s (OHFA) Hardest Hit Funds designed to assist with  blighted and vacant properties in communities.  Clark County Executive Director, Tom Hale, explained how the Clark County Land Bank is taking the lead on securing an Internal Revenue Ruling establishing special non-profit status for county land banks in Ohio.
Robin Thomas, Land Bank Program Director for TCI facilitated the meeting and reminded all those present of the upcoming Ohio Land Bank Conference this October.  Thomas explained that “the conference allows all land banks, city officials, elected officials and community development non-profits to come together and learn about some of the newest tools available for engaging in neighborhood stabilization and community development work.”  Just six years since county land banks first formed in Ohio, there are now twenty-five in total and Rokakis believes that by the summer of next year, nearly half of Ohio’s counties will have their own county land bank.

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Vacant Homes in Slavic Village Transform into Works of Art

With cleaned out vacant properties as their canvas, local artists transformed four homes in Slavic Village into spectacular temporary artLand Bank Staff  exhibits. The art exhibition was part of the second Rooms to Let: Cleveland held on May 16th and 17th.
Hundreds of people from the community and Greater Cleveland gathered to enjoy the free event. Members of The Cleveland Orchestra performed as Factory Seconds kicked off the live entertainment that included music, art activities and local food.
Slavic Village Development brought the event to Cleveland as a way to further the conversation about the foreclosure crisis and its effects on Cleveland’s neighborhoods. Participating artists were invited to visually interpret their views on the impact of the foreclosure crisis and the community’s path to recovery by using four Cuyahoga Land Bank owned homes to host their work.
“Seeing the transformation of these vacant properties, while temporary, is amazing,” said Cuyahoga Land Bank President and General Counsel, Gus Frangos.  “The Cuyahoga Land Bank is proud to participate in such an innovative event impacting our community.”Land Bank Staff
The vacant homes were a unique medium for the artists. “Each house and space within is original. There were almost no limits to what could be created,” said Dana Depew, an artist and one of the event curators.
The Cuyahoga Land Bank provided assistance to Slavic Village Development along with support from Cuyahoga Arts and Culture for the exhibition.

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NEON Collaboration Provides Housing for Veterans and their Families

A crowd of residents, local elected officials and community partners were welcomed last month to the launch of the Northeast Ohio Neighborhood Health Services (NEON) Veterans Housing Project by brightly colored green and blue balloons, garnishing project boards and a waving American flag.Land Bank Staff
NEON and the Cuyahoga Land Bank collaborated to launch the initiative to renovate ten residential units to provide permanent affordable housing for veterans.
The units are part of a row house and a four unit apartment building across the street from NEON’s Collinwood Health Center, off St. Clair Avenue and East 152nd Street.  This location allows for easy access to the health services that NEON will provide to future residents of the housing complex.
“Our veterans and their families deserve to live in a safe, supportive and healthy environment,” said Willie F. Austin, NEON’s President and CEO. “This project provides a holistic approach to housing. More than just a place to live, we will provide our residents with easy access to support and health services to improve their lives.”Land Bank Staff
The Cuyahoga Land Bank helped NEON acquire the properties that were vacant and abandoned for their development entity, Community Integrated Services which will renovate and manage the properties at a cost of more than five hundred thousand dollars.  The Cuyahoga Land Bank also invested fifty thousand dollars and is an equity partner in the project.  All of the homes will include green amenities, such as energy efficient furnaces, energy-saving double-pane windows and insulated doors.
“The men and women who serve our Country have made many sacrifices,” said Cuyahoga Land Bank President and General Counsel, Gus Frangos. “Providing veterans with affordable housing and support through programs like this is just one way of saying thank you.”

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Homes for Homeless Heroes

A new partnership between the Cuyahoga Land Bank and Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries will provide permanent affordable housing for the hundreds of homeless veterans living throughout Cuyahoga County. The Veterans’ Affordable Housing Initiative will “match” homeless veterans with affordable, renovated homes giving the veterans a permanent address and chance to live independently.
With help from the Cuyahoga Land Bank, Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries acquired a vacant East Cleveland home last year. The Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries ‘Old Timers’ veterans grLand Bank Staff oup made a major contribution in order for this initiative to launch.
The first home in the Veterans’ Affordable Housing Initiative was completed by, King’s Sons 820, a Christian based workforce development ministry that provides mentoring and construction training for young men and prison re-entry clients.  Six veterans will be welcomed in to the completed home this summer.
“The Veterans’ Affordable Housing Initiative is an excellent example of the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s mission in action,” said Gus Frangos, President and General Counsel of the Cuyahoga Land Bank. “Our homeless veterans deserve their independence and a safe, stable place to call home.”

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Land Bank, NEON partner for housing and health support for vets (Cleveland.com)

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Northeast Ohio Neighborhood Health Services (NEON) and the Cuyahoga Land Bank will announce Thursday the creation of a joint effort to provide housing and support services for homeless veterans.

The “Healthy Communities Initiative — Veterans Housing Project” involves the renovation of six, two-level row houses and a four-unit apartment building on St. Clair Avenue at Nye Road in Cleveland’s Collinwood neighborhood. The 10 residences are located near NEON’s Collinwood Health Center, and each has three bedrooms.

Gus Frangos, Land Bank president, said the project is “right smack in line with our mission of fixing a house to serve a need in the community — in this case veterans housing and access to health care for veterans.

“When you get something like this that all of a sudden transforms that corner, it not only fixes a building but fixes people,” he added.

“Sometimes transportation is an impediment to getting care, so this is a great strategic move on NEON’s part, Frangos continued. “They can say that not only do they have good health care available, but by golly, they have housing nearby, too.”

Frangos said the structures are vacant, and had been abandoned due to tax forfeiture.

He estimated that renovation of the buildings will cost about $500,000. “They’re not so dilapidated that they need to come down,” he said. “They have good bones on them, and all the basic systems are in place, or can be easily transformed.”

Frangos said NEON would be handling the reconstruction. Plans call for installation of new energy-efficient furnaces and/or heat pumps, appliances, double-pane windows and insulated doors.

Renovation should take about six months, and a completion date of May 2016 is scheduled, Frangos said.

In addition to the property, the Land Bank is providing $50,000 in equity for the project, and would become a minority partner with NEON in the limited liability company that would own and operate the rental units, according to Frangos.

The Land Bank has been involved in other housing efforts for veterans including a program offering property discounts to veterans.

Frangos’ son is serving in the Army, “so stuff like this has special meaning,” he noted.

Local agencies have estimated that there are about 1,700 veterans who are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless each year in Cuyahoga County.

As for additional veterans housing projects being developed through the partnership, “we are open to some kind of discussion regarding properties that are unproductive near (NEON) health centers, that they’re willing to rehab,” said Dennis Roberts, director of program and property management for the Land Bank.

Karen Butler, NEON chief operating officer, said the Collinwood project is the start  of a possible expansion of the concept, creating housing for veterans near NEON’s seven health centers in the county.

“This is first of what we anticipate to be replicated in other communities and neighborhoods that we serve,” she noted.

Support offered veterans and their families by NEON’s Collinwood Health Center covers what Butler described as “a comprehensive array” of services including adult medicine, optometry, a pharmacy, dental and behavioral health.

Butler said community groups in Collinwood assisted in the project, that will be funded through a variety of sources.

Announcement of the project will be made at 10 a.m. at the housing site, 15300 St. Clair Avenue, across from the health center.

NEON will work with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in selecting potential residents, Butler said. Rent, anticipated to be $800-$900 per month, would be largely subsidized through housing vouchers from the VA and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, she added.

“We want to help eliminate homelessness among veterans,” Butler said. “We believe all veterans should have a place to call home, as well as access to needed health services, and this project enables us to meet both of those goals.”

Read from the source here.

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Clearing Away Asbestos-Not As Easy As You Think!

When Kenneth Tyson left his job as Property Specialist at the Cuyahoga Land
Bank, he wasn’t leaving demolition work—in fact, he’s now working with demolitions more than ever.
This past fall the Cuyahoga Land Bank founded CLB Services, an environmental services company. Kenneth Tyson became Co-Founder and Executive Director of CLB Services. And for both Tyson and the Cuyahoga Land Bank, this new enterprise is a win-win situation.Land Bank Staff
“I’m an entrepreneur at heart,” he says.  Tyson was a business entrepreneur before coming to work at the Cuyahoga Land Bank.  The decision to start a new company was twofold – one part cost savings, one part problem solving.
Prior to creating CLB Services, the Cuyahoga Land Bank contracted with a dozen or so environmental services companies for asbestos survey work.  “They all did business a little differently, each having a different reporting format and varying turnaround times for completing surveys,” says Gus Frangos, President and General Counsel. “It raised the question: what if we (Cuyahoga Land Bank) worked with less companies? It would boost production and efficiency, and reduce costs for the Cuyahoga Land Bank. And that thought process led to conversations about creating CLB Services.” According to Frangos, the brain-child of CLB Services, this was a way to professionally do survey work and permit a residual profit from these services to flow back to the Cuyahoga Land Bank mission.
But starting a new company doesn’t happen overnight. Tyson had to undergo several weeks of field training, 40 hours of in-class training, and then pass an exam to obtain state certification, before he could complete his first asbestos survey.  Mr. Tyson first hired another former Cuyahoga Land Bank staff member, Matt Bobel, an asbestos analyst, who “spendLand Bank Staffs the majority of his time in the field,” Tyson says.
“Matt surveys each property by identifying all homogenous materials at the site.  He then collects samples of each material based on its condition and quantity.  Once all samples have been collected, they are sent to a lab for analysis.” says Tyson.
If the lab finds more than a one percent asbestos, he adds, “asbestos containing material must be removed prior to demolition.”
Later this year, CLB will begin offering asbestos removal services, streamlining the demolition process further.
The Cuyahoga Land Bank is CLB’s biggest client, and Tyson sees only room for growth. The City of Cleveland is also a CLB Services client. “The Cuyahoga Land Bank will partner with municipalities all over Cuyahoga County,” he says. “CLB Services would like to provide abatement services to all Cuyahoga Land Bank partner communities—and we know that cities in neighboring counties have similar challenges.”
“For now, our focus is on completing surveys and getting them to the City of Cleveland and the Cuyahoga Land Bank in a timely manner. That’s why this is a good marriage,” says Tyson.
If your organization or community is in need of asbestos surveys, please reach out to Kenneth Tyson, Executive Director, at 216-307-6001 or ktyson@clbservices.com for more details.

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Attorney General’s Moving Ohio Forward Program Supports 3,500 Demolitions

Land Bank Staff On February 27th, Ohio General Attorney Mike DeWine held a press conference in Columbus to announce the results of his Moving Ohio Forward (MOF) demolition program. From 2012 through 2014, this important statewide program resulted in 3,500 demolitions in Cuyahoga County. The Cuyahoga Land Bank received $12.8 million in MOF grant funds and this $12.8 million was matched with an additional $11.3 million provided through the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s normal operating budget and a $5 million grant from then County Prosecutor Bill Mason. The Cuyahoga Land Bank, in turn, granted $8.4 million of these funds to the City of Cleveland to support their demolition efforts.
Cuyahoga Land Bank’s Chairman Tony Brancatelli participated in the press conference, praising this much needed effort. “This program, coming when it did, was extremely vital to our communities,” said Brancatelli. The funds used for the MOF program were secured by the Attorney General from
legal settlements with five major national lenders. Through the strong advocacy of the
Thriving Communities Institute’s Director, Jim Rokakis, the Attorney General earmarked $75 million of the settlement dollars for demolition. The Thriving Communities Institute is an effort spearheaded by the Western Reserve Land Conservancy.
It is estimated that 12,000 abandoned structures not including larger multi-family and commercial properties in Cuyahoga County are still in need of demolition. While all the MOF dollars have been expended, much needed demolition activity continues, made possible through the continued strong  advocacy of Mr. Rokakis, along with the professional, efficient demolition work undertaken by both the CLand Bank Staff uyahoga Land Bank and the City of Cleveland.
In the words of Cuyahoga Land Bank President and General Counsel, Gus Frangos, “To rebuild our healthy communities, we first need to perform some painful root canal work. This important work helped increase housing values and the growth of strong communities throughout Cuyahoga County.”

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Randall Park Mall Demolition Clears Way for New Investment

In 1976, the newly built Randall Park Mall was bustling and busy, teeming with shoppers. The new mall featured 200 retail shops and at that time, was the country’s largest mall, known for its high-end stores. Land Bank Staff
Today shopping in the Village of North Randall is a distant memory. The once glamorous mall is being demolished to make way for a new industrial park which will house manufacturing and potentially a distribution center.
“The Village of North Randall, Mayor David Smith, saw this as a challenge to re-energize the community.  For several years, he doggedly met with development officials, County Development offices and staff at the Cuyahoga Land Bank in order to assemble the site and now Mayor Smith has finally succeeded,” said Gus Frangos, President and General Counsel, Cuyahoga Land Bank. “We must be about turning these situations into opportunities. This will now become the venue for jobs and renewed retail activity in our Village. Redeveloping the land will help North Randall meet a growing demand for industrial space, while benefiting the community both aesthetically and economically,” Land Bank Staffsaid Mayor Smith.
The Industrial Realty Group (IRG) is taking on the new development.  With the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s help, IRG acquired the former Dillard’s department store land parcel while IRG acquired the remaining mall parcels.
On December 29, 2014, IRG crews began demolishing the abandoned Dillard’s department store and its attached buildings. The demolition provided an instant face-lift to the area. According to reports, the full development site could involve more than seven hundred thousand square feet of construction and the approximate addition of one thousand new jobs.Land Bank Staff
“The redevelopment of this land is a new beginning for the Village of North Randall,” said Charles Horvath, Building Commissioner for the Village. “I am looking forward to the area’s transformation into a vibrant area of growth.” Demolition of the site will take several weeks.
Watch video footage of the demo on YouTube.
Check out our Facebook page for more photos.

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Plans for Greater Cleveland Fisher House rounding third (Cleveland.com)

The more than four-year effort to create a place where veterans and their families could stay for free while a vet is receiving medical treatment here, is rounding third and heading for home.

At least, “I hope so,” said Tom Sweeney, president of the Greater Cleveland Fisher House campaign.

The goal is to build a $6 million, 18-suite facility near the Louis Stokes Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center in University Circle.

The house would become part of a national and international network of 64 such facilities partially funded and built by the 25-year-old, nonprofit Fisher House Foundation, of Rockville, Maryland.

Thus far the local campaign has raised $2.3 million of its $3 million goal. The Fisher House Foundation would match that $3 million amount.

Financial support for the local campaign has ranged from gifts from such corporate donors as Lincoln Electric, KeyBank and the Eaton Corp., to small fund-raisers held by veterans service organizations throughout the area.

Sweeney said the need for a Fisher House here is well established. He noted that, “people from all over America are sent to Cleveland” because of the services offered by the VA’s medical center here – the third largest in the nation — and through its partnerships with other local hospital systems.

Susan Fuehrer, director of the Cleveland VA Medical Center, said about 520 veterans are referred here each year from outside the area to take advantage of treatment in such areas as open heart surgery, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injury and long-term care.

The VA has about 15-20 veterans or family members per day staying in a local hotel while a vet receives medical care.

“There is a demonstrated strong need for a Fisher House here, based on the number of vets and families who are here on any given day,” she said. “We have enough volume to satisfy two Fisher Houses.

“A Fisher House could be a huge benefit to veterans and their families, and a great thing for the city of Cleveland,” she added.

Rick DeChant, treasurer of the local campaign, remarked, “We have this great mosaic of care for veterans in Northeast Ohio. All it’s missing is one tile – a Fisher House.”

Putting that last tile in place has come down to site selection and a primary contender is a 2.5-acre mostly vacant lot on East 105th Street, between Lee and Orville avenues. The site is within walking distance of the VA medical center’s Wade Park campus.

The site is made up of several parcels owned by the city of Cleveland, the Cuyahoga County Land Bank, and the Famicos Foundation (a nonprofit community development corporation).

All of those lots would have to be brought together in a single parcel and donated to the VA before a Fisher House could be constructed on the site.

“It’s all in friendly hands. All of us are working together to see that this happens,” said Gus Frangos, president of the Land Bank.

Frangos said there are no tax liabilities attached to the parcels, no zoning problems and no need for action by Cleveland City Council to combine and donate the parcels.

“The next step is for somebody from Washington (the VA), as well as a national Fisher House representative, to take a look at it one more time to make sure it’s a desirable site,” he added.

He noted that the facility would not only be a good addition to the neighborhood, but the area is good for a Fisher House, offering a variety of nearby University Circle attractions for Fisher House residents to visit.

Once the site is selected and donated, project permits and architectural renderings will go before the city’s planning commission, according to Frangos.

“Generally speaking those things should not be impediments,” he said. “Everybody is just very excited about this.”

Ward 9 City Councilman Kevin Conwell is also a big fan of the project, and said it could spark economic and commercial development in the neighborhood.

“Once I know the project is moving forward, I’ll sit down and talk to other developers,” he said. “This could be a great shot in the arm to stimulate the economy in that area.”

Derek Donovan, Fisher House Foundation vice president of programs and community relations, said the ball is now in the VA’s court.

“We’re working with the VA to make sure everything is acceptable to the VA,” he said. “At this point in time the VA has a bigger say than we do.”

Donovan noted that a Fisher House in Cleveland would meet a pressing need.

“The Secretary of Veterans Affairs gives us a list of locations with the greatest need for family lodging at (VA) medical centers, and Cleveland is on his list,” he said. “It’s the VA’s choice.”

Currently there are 26 Fisher Houses on VA properties nationwide. There are three Fisher Houses in Ohio, one at the VA medical center in Cincinnati, and two at Wright Patterson Air Force base near Dayton.

Donovan said that as soon as a final site here is selected and donated, work can start on site preparation including environmental inspections and plans for utility connections.

Construction would take about 12 to 15 months, so even if the site was finalized this year, the Greater Cleveland Fisher House would not open until 2016, according to Donovan.

The $6 million price tag is on a par with the cost of similar Fisher House facilities.

Building the facility is not contingent on the local campaign meeting its $3 million goal. “When a site is ready for us to start building, we’ll start building,” Donovan said.

He praised the efforts of the local campaign. “They’re doing great. It’s a very passionate group, doing a great job not only just raising money, but raising awareness about Fisher House,” he said.

Once the Greater Cleveland Fisher House is built, it will be run and staffed by the VA. Donovan said operating costs can typically range from $150,000-$200,000 a year.

The foundation stays involved with its facilities in terms of providing possible assistance for repairs, or costs associated with rehabilitation.

A Fisher House also heavily relies on volunteers to help make residents comfortable, Donovan said.

The local campaign will continue to collect funds to provide money for resident family outings and “just to make these people feel comfortable in Cleveland,” Sweeney said.

According to Donovan, the benefits of a Fisher House here also go beyond the projection that it will provide nearly 6,000 nights of lodging per year, saving veterans’ families in excess of $500,000 annually that would have been spent on hotels, meals and other costs.

“One thing a Fisher House always shows these families is that somebody cares about their sacrifice, not just of a veteran but the sacrifice of a veteran’s family as well,” he said.

“That, in and of itself, does some pretty remarkable things for these families.”

Read it from the source.

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For Cuyahoga County demos, a strategic plan and code enforcement both needed: editorial (Cleveland.com)

Remember that $50 million demolition bond former Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald promised in his “State of the County” last February?

Well, thanks to some laudable examples of both bipartisanship and continuity, the administration of new County Executive Armond Budish – in cooperation with county council and the county Land Bank — has begun to roll out one of the most ambitious and comprehensive efforts to eradicate zombie properties in recent history.

Now the challenge must be to yoke those dollars to a carefully planned, strategic effort focused on neighborhoods where demolitions can make an immediate difference to property values and where properties can be bundled, either as mixed-use development, green space, urban farms or for another beneficial economic opportunity.

This program is also a time to take stock of deficiencies in local housing enforcement efforts to ensure that absentee owners keep their properties up to code and, if they don’t, that they are held accountable in Housing Court.

Last October, county council approved the Cuyahoga County Property Demolition Program. In December, council President Dan Brady created a Community Development Committee to oversee its implementation.

And on Monday — barely a month after Budish and many on county council took office — the first applications for demo dollars are expected to land at the county’s Board of Control, according to Gus Frangos, president of the Land Bank.

The Land Bank will be one of those applicants. The ordinance that describes the demolition initiative — underwritten by a county bond — provides three, one-time allocations of $3 million for the Land Bank. That money will be used to raze blighted properties the Land Bank received from Fannie Mae and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as from local tax foreclosures and tax forfeitures, Frangos said.

Frangos added that 16 municipalities already have contracted with the Land Bank to handle their demolitions — from Moreland Hills, Lakewood and Shaker Heights to East Cleveland. “Everybody has a little need,” Frangos said.

And some communities’ needs are bigger than others’.

Frank Ford, senior policy adviser at the nonprofit Thriving Communities Institute, broke down those needs for county council:

• Approximately 8,000 properties ready for demolition in Cleveland;

• An additional 1,013 properties in East Cleveland; and

• An estimated 1,000 properties in the rest of Cuyahoga County.

“We’re talking roughly 10,000 properties total,” Ford said.

The $50 million is not enough to tear down all of them. That would require $100 million — each demo costs about $10,000. But it will go a long way, as long as the money is spent wisely.

Even though Cleveland is home to 80 percent of the targeted blight, the money must also be aimed at achieving change on blocks or in neighborhoods where city and community leaders have documented both overriding need and urgency — and provided redevelopment plans that are funded and make sense.

How the demo money is going to be dispersed is still under review, said Budish for this editorial.

Obviously, cities should have to provide an economic development plan for the vacant land. But, Budish said, he wants to hire a deputy director of housing and community revitalization to oversee the process and work with communities to frame these projects in consistent and practical ways.

“If the county acts quickly and strategically some of these properties may be viable for renovation,” Ford said. “The issue isn’t that some of the properties can’t be rehabbed. It’s that the housing market is so distressed it’s not financially feasible to renovate them.”

Frangos agrees. “Once we start tearing down the worst of the worst, that’ll promote more rehabs.”

Cleveland city councilman Mike Polensek takes it a step further. “Why aren’t these slumlords in Housing Court for code violations? Hold them accountable. Enforce the code. Not everything needs to come down.”

That would be a good conversation for the new county deputy director of housing and community revitalization to have with municipal housing-enforcement officials.

Read it from the source.

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Children’s Museum of Cleveland gains control of Euclid Avenue mansion in $50,000 deal (Cleveland.com)

A quiet real estate deal that closed Tuesday augurs a second chance for a small Cleveland cultural institution and an expansive house on the city’s onetime Millionaire’s Row.

A company tied to the Children’s Museum of Cleveland paid $50,000 this week for the empty Stager-Beckwith mansion, which slipped into foreclosure in 2012. Now the historic home, at times a residence, a private club and a university, will enter yet another life cycle as a playground and classroom for infants and young children.

There are two story lines here, converging in new opportunities for a museum with growth aspirations and a troubled property that begs for care.

The house, built in the 1860s and long occupied by the private University Club, was renovated a decade ago for Myers University. Since 2008, when Myers went belly-up, the 66,000-square-foot mansion has been sitting vacant, deteriorating.

Then there’s the museum, crammed into an old Howard Johnson restaurant in University Circle, underperforming its peers in other cities and staring down a deadline to move. The museum’s current site, leased from nonprofit group University Circle Inc., could be cleared in mid-2015 to make way for a high-rise apartment tower.

“This location has always felt a little transient, a little like a temporary facility,” Maria Campanelli, the executive director, said of the museum’s longtime location. “We need to move this institution. We don’t have a lot of money. We have a very constricted timeline.”

Small museum thinks big

Marrying the museum and the mansion offers a creative — though still challenging — path forward. The nonprofit needs to raise roughly $8 million to renovate the house and build new exhibits, no small goal for an institution of its size. During the fundraising and construction period, the museum might have to move to short-term digs. Or close for a stretch.

“There is absolutely the potential that we may be without walls, but still may be able to provide a community and public benefit,” Campanelli said. “I don’t think the dark time is going to be years and years and years. We would like to believe that we could keep it at a year.”

Developer Michael Chesler, who has teamed up with the museum, said he’s exploring ways to tackle the mansion renovations in phases. That approach might allow the museum to move in sooner, even if the final project isn’t complete.

“Our idea is to try to keep their lights on,” said Chesler, president of the Chesler Group of Russell Township. “We’re working breakneck. … Our plan is to do some interim, stabilization construction within the next 90 days. Literally [Wednesday] morning, there are going to be men in that building.”

The museum, which focuses on children from birth to 8 years old, serves an average of 100,000 people each year at its building or through outreach programs. Demographic data show those children and families hail from a wide array of backgrounds, including many low- to middle-income households. Museum visitors are roughly split between east and west siders and between Cuyahoga County residents and people who live further afield.

Our plan is to do … stabilization construction within the next 90 days. Literally [Wednesday] morning, there are going to be men in that building.

With only 6,000 square feet of exhibit space in an 11,000-square-foot building, the museum is much smaller than its counterparts in Kansas City, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and other peer cities. Campanelli believes that, based on conservative estimates, the museum could increase traffic by 30 percent with a larger space, new exhibits and some marketing.

That’s where the Stager-Beckwith house, at 3813 Euclid Ave., comes in.

The museum could more than double its footprint, to 25,000 square feet, with nearly half of that allocated to exhibits and the rest for birthday parties, events and basic necessities, such as parking for strollers. Other parts of the building might be rented out to nonprofits or businesses focused on early childhood development.

Rocky road for gilded real estate

Cuyahoga County initiated foreclosure proceedings on the mansion in late 2012, after unpaid property tax bills piled up. The city of Cleveland, which lent money it will never recoup for the Myers project, tried last year to structure a deal involving Chesler and the museum.

But that plan fizzled after a pipe burst during last winter’s brutal cold snap. Water damage and flooding added to the renovation costs for the mansion and cut into the price the developer was willing to pay. An out-of-town investor looked at the building but didn’t make a compelling offer, said Tracey Nichols, the city’s economic development director.

So the foreclosure case moved along. And the mansion hit the auction block, with little fanfare, at two sheriff’s sales last summer. The minimum price was $750,000, but nobody bit. Blame the tax delinquencies, water damage, roof problems and a protective easement on the building that would prevent a developer from knocking it down or modifying the façade.

After the failed auctions, the property headed into forfeiture. The Cuyahoga County Land Bank, formally known as the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilitzation Corp., recently picked it up. On Tuesday, a for-profit company formed by museum board member Doreen Cahoon and her husband, Dick, acquired the mansion for $50,000.

That’s a far cry from the $1 million purchase price the city proposed in 2013.

“If you have to pay $1 million before putting a shovel in the ground, you’ve basically taken a hard project and made it into an impossible project,” said Gus Frangos, the land bank’s president. “The laws were designed specifically to allow land banks to act as this intermediary to make properties that are otherwise near-impossible become productive.”

Cleveland is out more than $4.5 million on the decade-old Myers loan. Cuyahoga County won’t see those back taxes. But the mansion, the only remaining 19th-century house of its kind on Euclid Avenue, won’t linger in limbo.

“The city is glad that this beautiful historic landmark may be saved and put to good use,” Nichols wrote in an email earlier this year. “While the city’s loan is a loss, our reserves will cover it. In the end, our goal has always been to restore the building and bring new jobs and vibrancy to the area.”

Timetable remains unclear

Campanelli wouldn’t put a firm timeline on the museum’s move. The museum still plans to work with Chesler to pursue federal and state historic-preservation tax credits for renovating the mansion – a process that takes time, since the state credits are limited and competitive. Cahoon and her husband have pledged $1 million to the museum’s campaign for its new space, but there’s a lot more fundraising to do.

“I feel confident,” said Cahoon, who lives in Cleveland Heights and has been involved with the museum for 14 years. “Until now, since we didn’t actually have the building, the best we could do was talk to people and say ‘If we did this, would you contribute?’ Once this happens, we can go back to everyone.”

Chris Ronayne of University Circle Inc., the museum’s landlord, said the nonprofit neighborhood group hopes to take possession of the current facility this summer. Local developers Mitchell Schneider and Sam Petros are working on schemes for an apartment tower that would replace the museum and occupy a 1.9-acre site at Euclid and Stearns Road.

“University Circle Inc. is very interested in making sure that the children’s museum has a suitable permanent home but also, if it seems appropriate, a swing space, an interim home,” Ronayne said, adding that empty space at the Western Reserve Historical Society might be a possible short-term location.

“We all know that the current facility doesn’t meet modern needs for a children’s museum, and everybody’s rooting for a children’s museum in Cleveland.”

Read it from the source.

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Advice for land banks from Cuyahoga Land Bank’s Gus Frangos (Community Progress Blog)

Our new report, Take it to the Bank: How Land Banks Are Strengthening America’s Neighborhoods, takes an in-depth look at how the Cuyahoga Land Bank serves the community in and around Cleveland, Ohio. It was established in 2009, has nearly 30 staff members and, as of March 2014, had more than 1,150 properties in its inventory. The Cuyahoga Land Bank’s operations — from robust data systems to efficient workflows to innovative homeownership programs – earn it the nickname “The Professional” in our report.

Those homeownership programs include the “Discovering Home Program,” which connects refugees to housing, and the “Homefront Veterans Home Ownership Program,” which helps veterans purchase rehabbed homes.

Strong leadership by President Gus Frangos has been a key factor in the land bank’s ability to establish a culture of efficiency and professionalism. In less than five years, despite working in one of the epicenters of the mortgage foreclosure crisis, Frangos has increased capacity from 8 to 28 staff members, established formal agreements with several major financial institutions to create efficient acquisition workflows, and has, on average, demolished more than 65 structures a month. In this excerpt from Take it to the Bank, Frangos shares advice with other land bank leaders:

– Stay on mission and execute in a professional, quality, and accurate manner

- Maintain a good and interactive office culture

– Deliver good customer service to the public, the land bank board, elected officials, and community stakeholders

- Be transparent and accountable

- Deepen public buy-in through communications, collaborations, and information

- Engage in statewide policy and advocacy efforts

- Engage in research advocacy

- Push the envelope and expand collaborations

Curious to know more about the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s story — as well as the stories of other land banks in the U.S.? Download Take it to the Bank: How Land Banks Are Strengthening America’s Neighborhoods here.

Read it from the source.

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County Council Takes a Bite out of Blight

Land Bank Staff Cuyahoga County made a strong statement in the fight against blight.  At the County Council’s October 28, 2014 meeting, it passed a broad ordinance authorizing a $50 million bond issuance to help fund the demolition of vacant and blighted structures.
The bond initiative was announced by County Executive Ed FitzGerald earlier this year.  The County Council, community stakeholders, the Cuyahoga Land Bank and County Administration staff worked together for the next several months to craft a flexible, yet targeted approach to blight elimination throughout some of the County’s hardest hit areas.  “We know how dangerous these abandoned structures can be.  Not only do they devalue a community, but serious criminal activity and arson occur in such structures,” said City of Cleveland Councilman and Cuyahoga Land Bank Chairman Anthony Brancatelli.
County Councilman Dan Brady was instrumental in shepherding the legislation through the County Council and garnering the needed community input and support to assure maximum community impact.  Cuyahoga Land Bank President Gus Frangos and Chief Operating Officer William Whitney also weighed in with the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s operational expertise to make sure the legislation was integrated with the work of the Cuyahoga Land Bank.  “We know that areas like Cleveland, East Cleveland and the inner-ring suburbs are the communities in greatest need of demolition dollars.  Because we work with all of them, this legislation allows us to continue our work uninterrupted throughout the County,” said Whitney.
The legislation calls for a $9 million allocation to the Cuyahoga Land Bank, with the remaining funds being available to Cleveland and surrounding suburbs.
The legislation calls for eliminating a large chunk of blight within roughly a three year period of time.  “By doing this, it will jump start real estate markets which have been hindered from growing due to the presence of blight,” said Nathan Kelly, Deputy Chief of Staff representing Executive Ed FitzGerald in the County’s development efforts.  “All of the studies show that this not only will increase property values but also lesson the rate of home foreclosures,” said Frangos who praised the County Council and County Executive Ed FitzGerald for supporting this urgent community development priority.

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cuyahoga county now the ‘gold standard’ for abandoned property reclamation (Freshwater Cleveland)

Some of the most significant strides in Cleveland’s renaissance come from the quietest corners, where people with rolled sleeves toil behind desks, taking on daunting challenges. While their accomplishments aren’t often regaled with flashy grand openings and popping champagne corks, their impact is unmistakable.

Hence, when the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp (or more commonly, the Cuyahoga Land Bank) quietly celebrated the passage of Senate Bill 172 earlier this month, few noticed. The legislation, which was authored by Douglas Sawyer, special projects and policy counsel for the Cuyahoga Land Bank and Gus Frangos, the organization’s president and general council, is an important link in an ongoing effort that has catapulted Cuyahoga County from the infamous “ground zero” of the foreclosure crisis to a nationally recognized pioneer in expediting and processing vacant and abandoned property.

“Cuyahoga County is considered the gold standard,” says Sawyer of the county’s reputation as a leader in the area of abandoned property reclamation. “It’s really a credit to the city and county. All of the different players realized how big the problem was here and have come together to try and tackle these problems.”

SB 172 improves and streamlines processes previously established in House Bill 294 (2006). That legislation included a nationally groundbreaking alternative to the traditional judicial tax foreclosure process for abandoned properties: the administrative tax foreclosure hearing. The administrative process, performed by the Cuyahoga County Board of Revision, takes between six and 12 months, whereas the customary judicial process can go on for one or two years. Once a property is foreclosed, it is essentially cleansed of delinquent taxes and other financial encumbrances, and can make its way into “someone’s hands that can do some thing good with it” by way of the land bank, says Sawyer.

The original 2006 legislation, however, allowed for any number of entities such as lien holders or banks to “move to dismiss”—essentially putting the kibosh on an administrative foreclosure—and sending the case back to the judicial system completely anew.

“That’s not good,” says Sawyer, noting that the county invests much preparation, due diligence and funding (approximately $1,500) into each administrative foreclosure case. SB 172 saves all of that, allowing the case to remain intact and simply transfer into the court system along with all the associated documentation.

Sawyer describes another thing he likes about SB 172. The legislation removes the obligation for a local municipality, county or county land bank to obtain permission from owners of properties that have been forfeited to the state–who are often difficult (if not impossible) to find–in order to assess those properties. He cites the tiny Village of Glenwillow.

“Glenwillow is getting onto a property that was forfeited to the state,” says Sawyer. “They’re doing some environmental testing and as long as there’s not something really really bad on it, they’ll pull it from the forfeiture list through our land bank and they’re going to do some good things on the property.” Without SB 172, he adds, “they wouldn’t have any ability to do that.”

Since its inception in 2009, the Cuyahoga Lank Bank has transacted 4,600 properties, demolished 2,960 and facilitated the renovations of 980. It currently holds title to 1,330 properties.

“We are really one of the leaders,” says Sawyer. “If you want to be doing this kind of work, this is a great place to be doing it. This is the cutting edge.”

Read it from the source.

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HUD, Cuyahoga Land Bank Renew Agreement – The Only One of its Kind in the US (Press Release)

In 2010, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corporation, commonly known as the Cuyahoga Land Bank, came to a groundbreaking agreement: HUD would transfer low-value, vacant and abandoned properties to the Cuyahoga Land Bank for $100.

The Cuyahoga Land Bank is proud to announce that for the fourth time HUD has agreed to once again renew the annual agreement, which is the only one of its kind in the country.

“We are excited that HUD has chosen to continue their relationships with us,” said Cuyahoga Land Bank President Gus Frangos.  “It means that we have been able to demonstrate a positive impact and that HUD continues to believe in the value of working with us to eliminate blight in our community.”

The properties that the Cuyahoga Land Bank acquires from HUD are lower-value properties appraised at $20,000 or below.  Such properties come under the ownership of HUD as a result of mortgage foreclosures guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

The partnership between HUD and the Cuyahoga Land Bank continues to be essential to the stabilization of the real estate market and the rejuvenation of Cuyahoga County’s neighborhoods through the repurposing of distressed properties, which often perpetuate the cycle of tax foreclosure and abandonment, from the speculator market.

Under the renewed agreement, HUD will continue to transfer HUD-owned properties in Cuyahoga County valued at under $20,000 to the Cuyahoga Land Bank for $100 after paying all current taxes.  Once acquired, the Cuyahoga Land Bank evaluates all properties, demolishes those that are beyond repair and preserves those homes that can be renovated.

Properties deemed eligible for renovation are available to private rehabbers that agree to meet the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s Housing Standards. To enforce these standards, the Cuyahoga Land Bank retains title to privately rehabbed homes until a final, satisfactory inspection of the renovation.

“At the Cuyahoga Land Bank, we understand that the impacts of the foreclosure crisis are too big to combat alone.  We must leverage partnerships and work together to stabilize and reimagine our communities,” said Frangos.  “The HUD agreement allows us to efficiently property and we are grateful to have the opportunity to continue the partnership.”

To date, the Cuyahoga Land Bank has acquired approximately 4,350 properties overall and has demolished nearly 2,800 properties.  More than 1,700 of the vacant lots created by demolition have been transferred to city land banks for neighborhood side yard expansions, community gardens, and economic development opportunities.  Additionally, the Cuyahoga Land Bank has also successfully facilitated the renovation of nearly 925 properties by private owners, using private dollars.

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Partner Feature: Mayfield Heights

 

mayfield heights logo

The City of Mayfield Heights is a vibrant community led by Mayor Anthony DiCicco and seven council representatives. The City, with a population of approximately 20,000, consists of 5,000 single family homes and a dynamic retail district located along Mayfield Road and SOM Center Road. The Mayfield Road/I-271 interchange access, major road improvements, and a vibrant business community all lend themselves to the city’s appeal and charm. Over 50,000 people access Mayfield Road and SOM Center Road on any given day. There are several office buildings located off of Lander Road that are generally filled to capacity and are the home to many recognizable businesses as well as world headquarters to several large corporations.
At the heart of the City are single mayfield_1family homes, and the high priority Mayfield Heights places on maintaining and exercising programs that support the Housing Code. The City has a Property Maintenance Program as well as Point-of-Sale and Rental License requirements. Property maintenance is vital to the well-being of the community and Mayfield Heights embraces a working relationship with the Cuyahoga Land Bank to support these efforts.
Like other communities, Mayfield Heights has been affected to a certain degree by the nationwide housing and financial crisis.“We are willing to go to any length to protect the homes, the environment of our residents, and the neighborhoods they live in. The Cuyahoga Land Bank is a tremendous asset to our community,” said City of Mayfield Heights Director of Building, Thomas Jamieson, who added “The City of Mayfield Heights is looking forward to the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s help in removing some long time vacant and blighted homes. The homes have been vacant anywhere from three to five years.”

mayfield_2

“Every community we work in is different and unique,” The homes have been vacant anywhere from three to five years.” “Every community we work in is different and unique,” said Cuyahoga Land Bank President Gus Frangos. “We are excited to enter into this relationship with the City of Mayfield Heights.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Senate Bill 172

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. The new bill was sponsored by Senator Tom Patton who was also the chief sponsor of S.B. 353 in 2009 which established county land banks. Frangos has written several bills since 2004 which have been enacted by the General Assembly. The Frangos-Sawyer collaboration was the first for Sawyer who has been an employee of the Cuyahoga Land Bank for four years, first as an intern and now as staff attorney.Together, they worked with the Ohio Legislative Services Commission in crafting new policies.“Through the excellent work of our staff, the Cuyahoga Land Bank has built up credibility with our General Assembly.” said Frangos. County Treasurers Wade Kapszukiewicz from Lucas County and Carolyn Rice from Montgomery County also attended the signing with Governor Kasich. Rice pointed out that the Cuyahoga Land Bank continues to provide leadership for all the land banks statewide when it comes to resolving policy issues and its familiarity with the legislative process. Frangos stated “it is great to be able to work with such a skilled lawyer” referring to Sawyer. So what’s next? According to Frangos and Sawyer, they said “stay tuned.”

 

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Neighborhood Initiative Program

NIPLogo_HiResThe Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) facilitates the development, rehabilitation and financing of low- to moderate-income housing. The Agency’s programs help first-time homebuyers, renters, senior citizens, and others find quality affordable housing that meets their needs. Formerly a division of the Ohio Department of Development, OHFA became an
independent state agency on July 1, 2005 through Amended Substitute House Bill (HB) 431. OHFA funds competitive fixed-rate mortgage loans and provides financing for the development and rehabilitation of affordable rental housing through the Housing Tax Credit program, issuing tax-exempt mortgage revenue bonds, and other affordable housing programs.
In 2010, OHFA became the agency in charge of administering Ohio’s portion of the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Hardest Hit Fund (HHF).  HHF provides funding for state housing finance agencies to develop locally-tailored foreclosure prevention solutions in areas that have been hard hit by home price declines and high unemployment. From its initial announcement, this program evolved from a $1.5 billion initiative focused on five states with the steepest home price declines and the vast majority of underwater homeowners to a broader-based $7.6 billion initiative encompassing 18 states and the District of Columbia.
In response to the statewide need to address vacant and blighted residential property, OHFA launched the Neighborhood Initiative Program (NIP) using HHF in 2014.  NIP is an exclusive partnership between OHFA and Ohio Land Reutilization Corporations like the Cuyahoga Land Bank.
“OHFA is tapping into Ohio’s robust land bank network to implement the NIP Program and Cuyahoga Land Bank is a prime example of land banks’ versatility in addressing neighborhood needs,” said OHFA’s Neighborhood Initiative Manager Dave Gulden.
By partnering with land banks, OHFA seeks to reduce foreclosures by eliminating blight in residential neighborhoods.  Furthermore, this can be achieved by leveraging land banks’ real estate abilities and demolition expertise.
Cuyahoga Land Bank was awarded an initial allocation of $10,118,750 – the largest award to any of the Ohio land banks  and another $1,221,525 in the second round. More than 145 vacant and blighted properties have been demolished and paid for under this program.  In addition, the Cuyahoga Land Bank identified and is implementing strategic blight demolition in 46 target areas that includes all of the City of Cleveland and several east side inner ring suburbs.  A key element in NIP is that the land bank must own the vacant and blighted housing prior to demolition and it must continue to own it for at least three years after demolition.  In certain circumstances, land banks can transfer the NIP property for an eligible use including a side yard to a neighbor, a public infrastructure project or a community garden.  OHFA’s NIP partnership with the Cuyahoga Land Bank extends through 2016.
“We are proud to be a part of the Neighborhood Initiative Program,” said Cuyahoga Land Bank president Gus Frangos.  “Through this partnership with the OHFA, we hope to determine better ways to improve our strategies for eliminating blight and restoring Cleveland’s neighborhoods.”
It is anticipated that this partnership will reveal best practices for strategic blight elimination and vacant land re-use in conjunction with foreclosure prevention and the restoration of equity for existing homeowners.

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Cuyahoga Land Bank awarded an additional $1.2 million from OHFA for demolition

This spring, the Cuyahoga Land Bank was awarded the largest portion of $49.5 million in federal Hardest Hit Funds (HHF) by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) for the demolition of blighted vacant properties.  OHFA recently followed up with a second round of funding, distributing more than $10 million to 15 counties with established land banks in Ohio.  The Cuyahoga Land Bank received another $1.2 million, bringing the total 2014 allocation to the Cuyahoga Land Bank to $11.3 million.

 

According to OHFA, the HHF funds, which were made available through the Neighborhood Initiative Program (NIP), were awarded to applicants that are focusing efforts on target areas in which the demolition and greening of abandoned properties will help prevent further reduction in property values and stem further foreclosures.

 

“Foreclosures result in distressed sales that further depress property values and continue the downward spiral, too often resulting in vacant and blighted homes,” said OHFA Executive Director Doug Garver in a press release.  “NIP is a critical component to stabilizing home values and preventing foreclosure.”

 

The $60 million of HHF distributed by OHFA this year are part of $570.4 million in HHF awarded to OHFA in 2010 to administer the state’s foreclosure prevention program, Save the Dream Ohio.  Any funds not spent by the fall of 2016 must be returned to the US Treasury Department.

 

To date, the Cuyahoga Land Bank leads efforts to put this year’s funding allocation to use. Since mid-March, the Cuyahoga Land Bank has spent more than $1 million of the awarded funds to demolish more than 100 properties.

 

“We are working hard to take advantage of this funding by removing blighted homes from our community,” said Cuyahoga Land Bank President Gus Frangos.  “Demolition of dilapidated structures that are beyond repair is an essential element of revitalizing our neighborhoods.”

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Making Beautiful Music with the Cuyahoga Land Bank

Aside from a few copper pipes and perhaps some nice woodwork or windows, demolition contractors for the Cuyahoga Land Bank do not often come across valuable treasures in houses scheduled for demolition. Until recently, that is, when demolition contractors discovered a Wurlitzer Baby Grand Piano in an abandoned home, just waiting for someone to rekindle its keys!
That someone would be Lafayette CarPiano_movethon, musician extraordinaire whose musical partners have included Celine Dion, Paula Abdul and the immortal Michael Jackson! Carthon has played piano, keyboards and synthesizer, directed choirs and handled remixing on various albums for many famous artists. A native Clevelander, Carthon founded and now directs the
Carthon Conservatory, which provides after-school music training and life skills development for kids and teens, as well as  parent empowerment classes and music lessons for seniors.
Carthon was already working with the Land Bank when the piano was found. “We are trying to secure a second site for the conservatory, to expand our services,” he says. So when the demo team found the Baby Grand, Land Bank staff knew the conservatory would give it a loving home.
“Saving this piano means so much more to us because we often see items that are too damaged and beyond salvage,” says Rosemary Woodruff, Property Specialist for the Cuyahoga Land Bank. “And knowing that this piano will be helping young musicians learn and grow gives us all a big morale boost.
Carthon has found a specialist to restore the piano and when complete, the Wurlitzer will be used for piano lessons and practicing.
“It’s a very, very welcomed gift,” he says. “We work with low-income students and people just trying to advance their musical skills.  Not a lot of them have instruments at home. Here we have an actual grand piano for them to practice on. It’s so exciting!”
Another piano also was found in the abandoned home, but unfortunately, it was deteriorated beyond restoration.

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Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries Celebrates New Urban Garden

On a bright, beautiful Saturday summer morning, staff and residents of Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries (“LMM”) came together with the Cuyahoga Land Bank, Campus District, Inc. and the Kent State University’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative to put into reality the vision that was set in motion two years earlier between the Cuyahoga Land Bank and LMM.
LMM provides quality transitional housing for men including armed forces veterans at 2100 Lakeside Avenue.  Over two years ago, LMM and the Cuyahoga Land Bank began discussing ways in which the vacant abandoned building next to LMM’s facility could be acquired and used for an urban garden for the residents.  After dealing with a number of lengthy and complicated title issues, the property was finally donated to the Cuyahoga Land Bank.  The Cuyahoga Land Bank demolished the blighted building to create garden opportunities for LMM’s residents.
LMM enlisted the services of the Kent State University’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, headed by Terry Schwarz, who managed a number of students and put together an incredible design for the gardens. 
Group_PhotoSchwarz said that this project provided the Kent State students with an experience in a real time setting, and that the mission of LMM made the effort that much more rewarding.
LMM’s Vice President of Housing & Shelter Mike Sering greeted the Saturday morning crowd and thanked them for volunteering their time and efforts to make the beautiful garden a reality for the LMM residents.  LMM residents prepared and worked the site weeks in advance of the ground breaking.  Sering also thanked the Cuyahoga Land Bank for acquiring the property and demolishing it for LMM.  “We could not have done it without the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s expertise and sticking with us on this project.”
LMM is located within the Campus District, whose Executive Director is Bobbi Reichtell – also a Board member of the Cuyahoga Land Bank.  Reichtell worked alongside the residents of LMM throughout the day and said, “I am proud to be a member of the Land Bank Board because of projects just like this, which help people.”
Cuyahoga Land Bank President and General Counsel Gus Frangos also attended with his daughter Joy and made remarks to the crowd congratulating them for their success and their passion for helping transition residents into independent living.  “This was one of our first collaborations with a social service agency.  It is very gratifying to see our first collaboration become a reality.”

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Did You Know?: Cuyahoga Land Bank Receives Eagle Award from County Prosecutor

In May 2014,  the Cuyahoga Land Bank was recognized by Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty for the Land Bank’s leadership during the acquisition and demolition of convicted kidnapper and rapist Ariel Castro’s property on Cleveland’s west side last summer.  Despite the tragic circumstances, we were honored to be recipients of the Eagle Award as recognition of our strong partnership with the County Prosecutor. 

 

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The Cuyahoga Land Bank Goes International!

In May, 2014, a delegation of representatives appointed by the embassies of Mexico, Macedonia, Maldives, Turkey and Haiti visited the Cuyahoga Land Bank.  The purpose of their visit was to study economic development trends and housing development in the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis.
The delegation was hosted in the United States by the Cleveland Council on World Affairs.  Their travels took them to ClevelandWorld Affairs, Washington D.C., Seattle, Pensacola, New York and other stops as part of their investigation.
Of particular interest to the group was how the Cuyahoga Land Bank was working to improve housing development and the housing market generally in the Midwest where the foreclosure crisis hit the hardest. The Land Bank staff did not disappoint.  The delegation was treated to an array of successful housing projects and collaborations as well as the success of the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s deed-in-escrow program which has facilitated nearly 900 home renovations throughout the County.
Many of the delegation members were amazed to learn that properties could be acquired inexpensively from the Cuyahoga Land Bank, provided the buyer renovated and stabilized the home by complying with the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s renovation specifications, acquiring permits and placing the property back onto the tax rolls.
The group quickly discerned that these home renovations are what is necessary to stabilize urban areas.  In fact, many at the meeting indicated their interest in bringing international investors to Cuyahoga County possibly to undertake renovations, repair and investment in properties.
Although Land Bank President, Gus Frangos, cautioned that no properties could be transferred unless and until fully renovated, the Land Bank was nevertheless open to all qualified buyers, even international buyers.
Amanda McCoy who accompanied the group said after the meeting that the group was very engaged and found the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s presentation one of its most interesting meetings along the international trip.

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The Cuyahoga Land Bank Celebrates Five Years!

Land Bank Staff

 It was June 1, 2009 when a group of eight newly hired Land Bank staff sat in a semi-circle in the unfurnished new office space of the Cuyahoga Land Bank at 323 West Lakeside Avenue.  “You are the A-Team.  You are the pioneers,” said Cuyahoga Land Bank President and General Counsel Gus Frangos to his new staff at the Cuyahoga Land Bank.  This was to be an incredible experiment with a newly formed type of corporation with newly enacted statutory tools to address vacant, blighted and abandoned properties, and to work to stabilize the County’s residential tax base. Over 900 renovations later, 4,500 property acquisitions and 2,600 demolitions of blighted properties throughout the County, the Cuyahoga Land Bank has exceeded all expectations.  So much so, that it is viewed as the national model of land banking.
Concluding its fifth year in existence, the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s achievements and collaborations were recently published in its report entitled “
A Successful Stabilization Response for the Present, A Strategic Redevelopment Catalyst for the Future.”
The Cuyahoga Land Bank has worked with and assisted nearly every municipality within the County helping to make properties productive.  Additionally, the Cuyahoga Land Bank works with every major community development corporation throughout the County as well as numerous human services agencies ranging from veterans, refugees, transitional housing organizations to work force development, re-entry and disabilities organizations.
“What makes the Land Bank special is its highly skilled and professional staff,” said Bill Whitney, who was the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s Chief Operating Officer from the very start.  “It is also a great environment to work at. Our staff is highly motivated and takes ownership of the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s mission.”
Currently the Cuyahoga Land Bank employees administer the acquisition, maintenance and disposition of thousands of properties. “They took the mission of this new enterprise, became creative and made it into an exceptional example of efficient and effective community development,” said Frangos, referring to his original and now expanded staff.
Gina Johnson, one of the Land Bank’s originals, remembers that first day on the job.  “I remember being told that we were to be the ‘A-Team’ and we took that very seriously and we became the A-Team.  I am very proud to work with so many professional and friendly peers at the Cuyahoga Land Bank,”  said Johnson.
In the five years since opening up shop, the Cuyahoga Land Bank has become a leader in research, policy and legislative initiatives that have advanced land banking practice, tax foreclosure and land stabilization throughout the State of Ohio.  The Cuyahoga Land Bank’s directors are frequent speakers and panelists at national conventions and conferences dealing with land re-use and community development.

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Fun Fact!: Landbankers On The Run!


Landbankers Michael Schramm, Anurag Saxena, Stephen Love and Cuyahoga Land Bank President, Gus Frangos (before the race) hit the ground running in the 38th Annual Cleveland Rite Aid Marathon last month participating in the 10K and full marathon.  Next year we will be challenging all Land Bank staff to be up and running on race day for the 10K, half marathon and for the brazen few, the full marathon!

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Partner Feature: Cuyahoga County Council

Cuyahoga County Council maintains an important partnership with the Cuyahoga Land Bank.
Currently, County Council Member Pernel Jones, Jr. (D-8) serves as the Vice Chair and the County Council RepresentativeCounty Councile on the Board of Directors for the Cuyahoga Land Bank, a position previously held by County Council Member Dan Brady (D-3).
“As the County Council Member who serves on the Cuyahoga Land Bank Board, I am proud of the work to reduce blight throughout the County, make vacant productive, and increase neighborhood green space,” said Councilman Jones. “The Land Bank is a win-win for everyone.  They have been able to get families into their first homes, increase property values throughout the County and improve the overall quality of life for County residents.”
Dedicated to stabilizing and strengthening the County’s housing market, the Council has provided strong support through championing the Land Bank’s efforts, providing guidance and Board leadership.
Most recently, County Council Members Jones, Sunny Simon (D-11) and David Greenspan (D-1) joined the Cuyahoga Land Bank to announce the launch of the HomeFront Veteran’s Program which offers a discount of up to 20% off the purchase price to Veterans interested in purchasing either a move-in ready or a to-be-renovated home from the Cuyahoga Land Bank.  This discount is possible thanks to a $100,000 grant from the Cuyahoga County Council, which the Cuyahoga Land Bank matched with another $200,000.
“Council is proud to have contributed to this program,” said County Council Member Greenspan.
“This collaboration also promotes the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s efforts to bring vacant and abandoned properties in Cuyahoga County back to productive use,” said Cuyahoga Land Bank President Gus Frangos.
“The Cuyahoga Land Bank does more than just help stabilize the housing market within the County, it helps individuals and families reconnect with the American dream of home ownership and helps clean up the vacant and abandoned foreclosed houses that some neighborhoods struggle with on a daily basis,” said County Council Member Simon.
As one of the lead sponsors to provide funding for the HomeFront Veteran’s Program, Simon also added “It’s important that we not only provide veterans with well-deserved homes through the Homefront Program, but to show our appreciation for them in a tangible way…a home!”

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Celebrating the HomeFront Program

 Home is where the heart is! For the American soldiers who risk their lives every day to protect our freedoms, home is a cherished memory and something they dream about coming back to.  The Cuyahoga Land Bank has made this dream a reality with the HomeFront Veteran’s Home Ownership ProgramVeteran.  On Friday, May 23, 2014, the Cuyahoga Land Bank held a Memorial Day event commemorating U.S. Army Specialist Holden Gibbons for purchasing and renovating a home through the HomeFront program.
Gibbons served in Afghanistan from 2012-2013, earning two Afghan Campaign Stars, an Army Achievement Medal, a NATO Medal and a Good Conduct Medal.   He chose the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s program because he decided he wanted to own his own home instead of paying rent.  HomeFront offered affordable payments and discounts for the first-time homebuyer.  Gibbons chose the City of Euclid for his home because of the proximity to downtown Cleveland and University Circle.
“This is a fantastic program that makes it so much more possible to own a home without getting into a huge loan,” said Gibbons. “Working with the Land Bank was such an enjoyable experience because of the people.  You feel like you’re dealing with family at every stage of the process.”
At the celebration, Gibbons stood with his father, local veterans in uniform along with Cuyahoga Land Bank President Gus Frangos and Euclid Mayor Bill Cervenik.  Cervenik welcomed and honored Gibbons for his service.
“The City of Euclid welcomes US Army SPC Gibbons to our community,” said Cervenik.  “We see the immediate results of working with the Cuyahoga Land Bank to attract interest in the purchase and renovation of formerly vacant, abandoned properties in our community when we gain new residents like Mr. Gibbons.”
The event was held not only to commemorate Mr. Gibbons and Memorial Day, but also to raise awareness among veteran’s organizations of the options they have when it comes to home-buying.
More information on the program can be found at
www.cuyahogalandbank.org/homefront.
“I would recommend this program for all vets,” said Gibbons.  “Even for those who aren’t vets, I would recommend the Cuyahoga Land Bank because they are extremely flexible and want to help the community.”
The Land Bank is very proud of this program and its ability to help those who help us.  To Holden Gibbons: Welcome home, Soldier.

Watch Highlights of the Homefront Press Conference Event on YouTube

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Cuyahoga Land Bank helps U.S. military veteran purchase Euclid home at greatly discounted rate (WEWS NewsChannel 5)

There was a popular song during and after the American Civil War which was sung on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.

“When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again” was a song of welcome for soldiers who had fought on both sides of the war. It was a song of welcome for soldiers returning to their hometowns, intent on picking up where they had left off … if they could again.

“When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again” was not sung in Euclid, but its essence was there in the welcoming home of a veteran of the U.S. Army who had served in the war in Afghanistan. Waiting for former Specialist Holden Gibbons was a house which he purchased at a greatly discounted rate.

The program comes out of the Cuyahoga Land Bank. Veterans interested in purchasing a home for renovation or a renovated move-in-ready home are eligible for discounts of up to 20 percent of the purchase price. Gibbons was presented the keys to his new home in Euclid. “I came to them with a game plan and told them I would like to purchase a duplex,” said Gibbons. “I’d like to live in the bottom and rent out the top and they said, ‘Okay, that makes sense financially.’”

So a deal was made. The Cuyahoga Land Bank has been making these deals for many months. It received a $100,000 grant from Cuyahoga County last year which the Land Bank matched with a like amount. With the money, the Land Bank is able to offer homes at discount rates for returning U.S. military veterans.

With a veterans’ unit in uniform standing with him and Euclid Mayor Bill Cervenik speaking, there was a formal presentation. Gus Frangos, president of the Cuyahoga Land Bank also spoke.

“We wanted to provide housing that would create true wealth so within four or five years, this home would be paid off and the veteran would have equity and it would be affordable during those five years that he’s paying it off,” said Frangos.

The veteran must live on the property as his or her primary residence for at least two years and agree to several points required by the Land Bank. If the veteran does some of the rehab work, the vet can save even more money.

“Primarily, I’m doing the fixtures, which I’m still working on,” beamed Gibbons on a tour of the house. “I’m doing the painting work and I’m doing the floors,” he added, pointing to the hardwood floors of which he was proud.

Gibbons was all smiles as he stood next to a veterans honor guard who applauded his service in the Army and were part of the welcoming ceremony at Gibbon’s new house. Workers were still making repairs on the duplex and they seemed excited to be a part of such a project. At the front door was an American flag, symbolic of the contribution Gibbons made in the military.

It was a fitting tribute on the Memorial Day weekend where a soldier who has come home from war was welcomed with open arms, strong praise from the mayor of the community, and the keys to a new house where the vet can begin building equity.

As the old song lyrics have it, “When Johnny comes marching home again,” there is a refrain. “Hurrah, hurrah.” For former Army Specialist Holden Gibbons and for the Cuyahoga Land Bank: “Hurrah, hurrah.”

Read and watch it from the source

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5PM: Cuyahyoga Land Bank helps U.S. military veteran purchase Euclid home at greatly discounted rate (WEWS NewsChannel 5)

Here is video footage of the Cuyahoga Land Bank Memorial Day event featuring Holden Gibbons and his home purchase through the Home Front Program.

 

Watch it from the source here

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PRESS RELEASE: Cuyahoga Land Bank celebrates Memorial Day by honoring Afghanistan Veteran US Army SPC Holden Gibbons, a HomeFront – Cuyahoga County Veteran’s Home Ownership Program Participant

 

The Cuyahoga Land Bank, Euclid Mayor Bill Cervenik and members of the Veteran’s community gathered together today to honor U.S. Army SPC ­­Holden Gibbons, who is currently renovating a home in Euclid through the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s HomeFront – Cuyahoga County Veteran’s Home Ownership Program.  While in Afghanistan from 2012 to 2013, worked with local indigenous people to build ties. Gibbons earned two Afghan Campaign Stars, an Army Achievement Medal, a NATO Medal and a Good Conduct Medal.

 

HomeFront – Cuyahoga County offers assistance to eligible veterans interested in purchasing either a renovated move-in ready home or a home that will be renovated with the assistance of the Cuyahoga Land Bank.

 

“This is a fantastic program that makes it so much more possible to own a home without getting into a huge loan,” said Gibbons. “The single biggest factor that I can point to as to why dealing with the Land Bank was such an enjoyable experience was the people.  You feel like you’re dealing with family at every stage of the process.”

 

Veterans interested in purchasing a home for renovation or a renovated move-in ready home are eligible for a discount of up to 20% of the purchase price. All homes meet the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s Housing Quality Standards and all applicable point-of-sale requirements and the Cuyahoga Land Bank is paying closing costs.

 

“This program is an opportunity for us to give back to the men and women that have risked their lives for our country,” said Cuyhoga Land Bank President Gus Frangos.  “We are able to provide a chance for veterans to own a home on very flexible terms as well as to establish immediate equity.”

 

Veterans who may not yet be bankable but have had steady employment for at least one year, may qualify as lease-to-own buyers. The Cuyahoga Land Bank will work with these veterans to promote home ownership through lease-to-own options.

 

“The City of Euclid welcomes US Army SPC Gibbons to our community,” said Euclid Mayor Bill Cervenik.  “We see the immediate results of working with the Cuyahoga Land Bank to attract interest in the purchase and renovation of formerly vacant, abandoned properties in our community when we gain new residents like Mr. Gibbons.”

 

The Cuyahoga Land Bank received a $100,000 grant from Cuyahoga County last year, which the Cuyahoga Land Bank matched with $100,000 of its own funds in order to create a revolving loan fund.  Because of this structure, Homefront is a self-sustaining program that allows the Cuyahoga Land Bank to help veterans achieve the dream of homeownership on an ongoing basis.

 

In order to renovate a home through the Homefront Veterans Program, the veteran must:

  • intend to live in the property as their primary residence for at least two years;
  • agree, at minimum, to renovate the property according to the specifications

provided by the Cuyahoga Land Bank and satisfy all municipal Point of Sale requirements, if the property requires renovation;

  • provide satisfactory documentation to the Cuyahoga Land Bank that shows they have 

    The Cuyahoga Land Bank, Euclid Mayor Bill Cervenik and members of the Veteran’s community gathered together today to honor U.S. Army SPC ­­Holden Gibbons, who is currently renovating a home in Euclid through the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s HomeFront – Cuyahoga County Veteran’s Home Ownership Program.  While in Afghanistan from 2012 to 2013, worked with local indigenous people to build ties. Gibbons earned two Afghan Campaign Stars, an Army Achievement Medal, a NATO Medal and a Good Conduct Medal.

     

    HomeFront – Cuyahoga County offers assistance to eligible veterans interested in purchasing either a renovated move-in ready home or a home that will be renovated with the assistance of the Cuyahoga Land Bank.

     

    “This is a fantastic program that makes it so much more possible to own a home without getting into a huge loan,” said Gibbons. “The single biggest factor that I can point to as to why dealing with the Land Bank was such an enjoyable experience was the people.  You feel like you’re dealing with family at every stage of the process.”

     

    Veterans interested in purchasing a home for renovation or a renovated move-in ready home are eligible for a discount of up to 20% of the purchase price. All homes meet the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s Housing Quality Standards and all applicable point-of-sale requirements and the Cuyahoga Land Bank is paying closing costs.

     

    “This program is an opportunity for us to give back to the men and women that have risked their lives for our country,” said Cuyhoga Land Bank President Gus Frangos.  “We are able to provide a chance for veterans to own a home on very flexible terms as well as to establish immediate equity.”

     

    Veterans who may not yet be bankable but have had steady employment for at least one year, may qualify as lease-to-own buyers. The Cuyahoga Land Bank will work with these veterans to promote home ownership through lease-to-own options.

     

    “The City of Euclid welcomes US Army SPC Gibbons to our community,” said Euclid Mayor Bill Cervenik.  “We see the immediate results of working with the Cuyahoga Land Bank to attract interest in the purchase and renovation of formerly vacant, abandoned properties in our community when we gain new residents like Mr. Gibbons.”

     

    The Cuyahoga Land Bank received a $100,000 grant from Cuyahoga County last year, which the Cuyahoga Land Bank matched with $100,000 of its own funds in order to create a revolving loan fund.  Because of this structure, Homefront is a self-sustaining program that allows the Cuyahoga Land Bank to help veterans achieve the dream of homeownership on an ongoing basis.

     

    In order to renovate a home through the Homefront Veterans Program, the veteran must:

    • intend to live in the property as their primary residence for at least two years;
    • agree, at minimum, to renovate the property according to the specifications

    provided by the Cuyahoga Land Bank and satisfy all municipal Point of Sale requirements, if the property requires renovation;

    • provide satisfactory documentation to the Cuyahoga Land Bank that shows they have the ability to finance, at minimum,  the cost of acquiring and renovating the property or have the ability to obtain financing within three years;
    • agree to follow all the rules and policies as promulgated by the Cuyahoga Land Bank;
    • sign a Cuyahoga Land Bank purchase/renovation/lease-to-own contract;
    • have a minimum credit score as determined by the Cuyahoga Land Bank;
    • have been employed for at least one year; and

     

    All properties in the Cuyahoga Land Bank inventory are available to veterans via the Homefront – Cuyahoga County, a Veterans’ homeownership program.

     

    More information on Homefront – Cuyahoga County is available on the Cuyahoga Land Bank website at: www.cuyahogalandbank.org/homefront.

    the ability to finance, at minimum,  the cost of acquiring and renovating the property or have the ability to obtain financing within three years;

  • agree to follow all the rules and policies as promulgated by the Cuyahoga Land Bank;
  • sign a Cuyahoga Land Bank purchase/renovation/lease-to-own contract;
  • have a minimum credit score as determined by the Cuyahoga Land Bank;
  • have been employed for at least one year; and

 

All properties in the Cuyahoga Land Bank inventory are available to veterans via the Homefront – Cuyahoga County, a Veterans’ homeownership program.

 

More information on Homefront – Cuyahoga County is available on the Cuyahoga Land Bank website at: www.cuyahogalandbank.org/homefront.

Read our Memorial Day Home Front Release

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Cuyahoga Land Bank helps veterans find homes (News-Herald)

As a way to give back to the community and local veterans, the Cuyahoga Land Bank has created a unique program that helps veterans achieve home ownership.
The HomeFront Veterans Home Ownership Program works with veterans to find renovated homes or homes that can be renovated.
The Cuyahoga Land Bank is a nonprofit organization that acquires foreclosed properties and returns them to productive use, which improves quality of life and increases property value, according to the organization’s website.
“There is a great need to help our veterans,” said Gus Frangos, president and general council of the Cuyahoga Land Bank. “Our objective is to get homes into productive peoples’ hands … and veterans are so worthy.”
The program began on Veterans Day in 2013, and since its inception, the land bank has helped seven veterans find homes.
On May 23, the land bank will host an event to celebrate Memorial Day in Euclid with U.S. Army Spc. Holden Gibbons, an Afghanistan War veteran who is renovating a home through the land bank’s HomeFront program.
“I’m a first time homebuyer … (and) I settled on the land bank because I am going back to school on the GI Bill and I didn’t want to pay rent,” Gibbons said. “I am excited to own a piece of property and do my part. I have seen other military flags on the street, so I am excited to meet my neighbors and hear their stories.”
He said he picked Euclid because of its proximity to University Circle and downtown Cleveland.
Gibbons has chosen a home on East 221st Street in Euclid, and Frangos said this program can help not only the veteran, but also the community.
“It really helps to integrated the veteran into the community because he or she is being welcomed and honored,” he said. “This also helps to give back to the community because it is fixing up a home … which keeps property values up.”
The land bank changes inventory every month, with homes across Cuyahoga County, typically in the inner-ring suburbs.
“(Gibbons) picked a home from our inventory and we worked to create a spec,” Frangos said. “We will help him finance the home, with reasonable payments, which is what our vets need. He will build equity, pay off his home in four to five years and get something in return for serving his country. We don’t want our vets in debt for 30 years.”
He added that the payments on the home will not be over 30 percent of the veteran’s income, and the program also offers renovated or to-be-renovated homes at 20 percent off the purchase price with a lease-to-own option available as well.
The program is made possible through a $100,000 grant from the Cuyahoga County Council’s Veterans Services Fund last year, and a $100,000 matching grant from the Cuyahoga Land Bank, HomeFront — Cuyahoga County Program.
“We decided to develop this program as a revolving loan, which could end up taking a couple hundred thousand and turn that into $1 million in home ownership,” Frangos said. “It started as an offshoot of our Deed-In-Escrow Program, where investors or owners agree to rehab the home and once the work was done, we would deed the property to them.”
The event is hoping to create awareness with veterans organizations and other local veterans about this program, as well as let them know the options they have.
“This isn’t a giveaway and we noticed that vets don’t want to giveaways, they want to be involved in the (homebuying process), but they need access and help getting there and we want to help fill that gap,” Frangos said.
Gibbons, who served in the Army for about 3 1/2 years, said his home should be completely renovated and move-in ready in two weeks. The home was gutted and completely redone except for the roof, he said.
“I would recommend this program for all vets,” he said. “Even for those who aren’t vets, I would recommend the land bank because they are extremely flexible and want to help the community.”

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Thriving Communities – Land Banks Gear Up for OHFA Stabilization Dollars

At its April, 2014 quarterly meeting, Thriving Communities Institute (an outreach of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy), county land bank representatives and county treasurers met to discuss best practices, new land bank legislation and emerging guidelines to the Ohio Housing Finance Agency’s (OHFA) recently announced plan to utilize Hardest Hit Funds (“HHF”) for demolition of vacant and abandoned structures.
Cindy Flaherty, OHFA’s Director of Homeownership, explained the program and answered important questions on program implementation.Thriving Communities
Thriving Communities Director James Rokakis played a central role in advocating to the U.S. Treasury Department and the Northeast Ohio congressional delegation to make these funds available.  “As the studies clearly show, targeted demolition not only promotes increased property values and neighborhood stability, but also lessens home foreclosures,” said Rokakis.
Cuyahoga Land Bank President Gus Frangos also updated his statewide land bank counterparts on legislative changes under the recently passed Senate Bill 172 which facilities land banking practice.  Trumbull County Treasurer Sam Lamancusa announced that he was hosting treasurers and prosecutors to observe the Trumbull County process for Board of Revision tax foreclosures.  “The nice thing about the new law is that it can be used by big and small counties based on the priorities and capacity of each county,” said Lamancusa.
Thriving Communities Institute has provided extensive training to new land banks which it helped set-up, and continues to provide technical assistance when needed, and through its quarterly land bank meetings.

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Westlake Church on the Rise volunteers start work on Cleveland house for homeless family (Cleveland.com

All the neighbors were curious when a team of volunteers from Westlake’s Church on the Rise descended on a vacant house in Cleveland’s Old Brooklyn neighborhood on Saturday

The team tore out drywall, cleaned up landscaping and generally prepared for a renovation that will create a home for a now-homeless family.

The church is partnering with the City Mission and Cuyahoga Land Bank to provide permanent housing for families ready to leave Laura’s Home Women’s Crisis Center, a City Mission program. Church on the Rise is the first of what organizers hope will be many congregations that join the New Horizons effort.

Paul Endrei, senior pastor of the Westlake church, said he now has 80 volunteers signed up to work in shifts at the house, which he expects to have ready for its new occupants this summer.

The New Horizons partnership pools the resources of the Cuyahoga Land Bank, which provides a heavily discounted house and technical assistance, and the City Mission, which will continue to provide case management, job placement, mental health care and other services to the families.

Gus Frangos, president of the Cuyahoga Land Bank, said New Horizons is a chance to “turn lemons into lemonade” by giving new life to vacant properties and addressing human needs. He said that by working with various development partners, the land bank has spurred the rehabilitation of more than 800 properties.

Once the first house is ready, the family to move in will be chosen by City Mission, which will continue to provide support services. During a one-year “proving period,” Endrei said, the family will have to demonstrate it is ready for homeownership by doing such things as paying the utility bills and maintaining the home.

If that goes well, the family will get a no-interest loan from the church. The loan will be based on the church’s costs, not the higher, actual value of the house.

Endrei is hoping that other congregations will join his in the New Horizons program. “I think we can do 100 houses a year if we work together. I don’t think it’s a pipe dream,” he said on Saturday. “I think it’s a vision.”

Anyone interested in volunteering with the Church on the Rise team is asked to call 440-808-0200 for more information.

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