By Marilyn McCauley
It is not news that Fairborn has a large amount of abandoned, blighted homes and business structures that need attention. While 54 homes (12 more in the que) and five business structures (eight more in the que) have been torn down to date there are so many more that need attention.
The council approved city funds to jump start the removal effort and city staff received thousands of dollars in grants for this purpose, but we need more. The State of Ohio is providing funds to help communities address the financial burden of blight through county land banks. Greene County does not have a land bank, so for now, those funds will not help Fairborn — or anyone in the county.
Senator Sherrod Brown reported that more than $570 million has been available to Ohio since 2010 for blighted properties but none was awarded to Greene County/Fairborn. Just think of how a fraction of this could have helped Fairborn.
On Feb. 19, 2016, the U.S. Dept. of Treasury announced that $97 million will be available to the State of Ohio in 2016 for helping communities get rid blight. Senator Rob Portman also announced that an additional $250 million is available for states through an application process.
Currently, Greene County and Fairborn will get none of the current funds. Remember, these funds only go to counties that have a land bank established. County officials have been discussing and working on the concept of a land bank since 2011. Fairborn City Council passed a resolution of support in 2012. If something doesn’t happen quickly, Fairborn, once again, will not receive any of the funds that have been identified for blighted areas in our cities.
A “County Land Bank” is the informal name for a land reutilization corporation (non-profit) established by Ohio Revised Code to be used for reclaiming, rehabilitation and reutilizing economically non-productive land. It helps communities recover from the foreclosure crisis.
The land bank takes ownership of properties and clears the title, assembles parcels for development, and manages properties until redevelopment can begin. The properties can be directly transferred to county land banks as a result of tax-foreclosure processes. Lending institutions transfer low-value properties to county land banks sometimes providing demotion funds. Properties also get transferred to land banks via private individuals and probate estates no long wanting the burden of owning worthless properties.
The land bank is established by county commissioners who authorize the formation. County land banks are independent non-profit corporations. After approval, the county treasurer files articles of incorporation with the Ohio Secretary of State. The county commissioners approve the corporation’s operating documents. The land bank board of directors operates the county land bank.
By statute, the board of directors must include at least two county commissioners, the county treasurer and a representative of the largest municipality. In Greene County the largest city is Beavercreek. A township representative also serves on the board. Four additional members can be included on the county land bank board. Both Fairborn and Xenia have requested a voting seat on the board but, to date, that has not been approved.
While Commissioners Alen Anderson and Tom Koogler have publically stated they are in favor of the land bank, they have not formed the land bank. Commissioner Bob Glaser has never announced his support for this tool to help our communities. All three commissioners disagree on how to fund the land bank even after their announcement of $26 million surplus.
There are many good reasons for a county land bank including helping communities stabilize the property tax base, reduction of “flipping” of low value properties and the economic and social damage caused by “flipping”. Communities can stabilize their housing base by eliminating blight and removing uninhabitable housing from the market. The land bank can help cities move beyond the foreclose crisis at a much faster pace.
As Fairborn improves, so does the county. I am asking the Fairborn citizens to contact our Greene County Commissioners and let them know we need a Greene County Land Bank to help Fairborn, to fund the operations from reserves and to place Fairborn on the board of directors.
Remember, without a land bank in place, Greene County and its cities will not be receiving their share of the $347 million that will be available in 2016 or soon after. Again, give them all a call to voice your concern.
Marilyn McCauley is a Fairborn City Council member and guest columnist for the Fairborn Daily Herald.