Jefferson County commissioners seem likely to approve the formation of a land bank, which will have an impact on abandoned homes that are plaguing almost every community in the county.
The Ohio Legislature approved a land bank for Cuyahoga County in 2008 and then amended the law in 2010 to allow smaller counties to participate.
Vacant and abandoned homes can be bought during delinquent real estate sales by the county auditor or treasurer. But the purchaser faces tearing down the structure and liens on the property, making the investment too expensive.
The land bank can help with both problems. The county can apply for $500,000 for the land bank that can be used to tear down vacant homes. The land bank also can erase liens on properties.
The idea of the land bank is to stabilize neighborhoods. Vacant homes can bring down property values and are general eyesores. The vacant homes can be used as flop houses by drug addicts and are a danger to children playing inside.
The land bank can get properties from the delinquent tax rolls. There are banks and other financial institutions that are willing to give the land bank properties that were obtained through foreclosure. Neighbors complain the banks aren't maintaining the properties, especially cutting the grass during the summer.
The land bank can assess properties and can determine whether they can be fixed or have to be demolished. If the building can be fixed and a buyer is willing, the land bank can hold the title to the property until the new owner completes renovation.
There are now 18 land banks in Ohio, and 12 additional counties are considering the system.
The demolition of blighted houses has been shown to have a positive impact in the counties where a land bank is in place.
There are dilapidated houses throughout the county. There just isn't enough money to tear down the homes. Many communities use what state money is available to demolish the abandoned homes.
The land bank will be funded by taking 5 percent of the proceeds of properties sold at a treasurer's or auditor's delinquent tax sale. The various taxing districts, including school districts, will receive less money but the school districts are in favor of implementing the system, believing the property will be restored to the active tax rolls through a sale to a responsible owner.
The land bank offers a good avenue to allow for the demolition of houses that can't be fixed and for offering an avenue for other houses to be repaired.
Nothing will replace a responsible property owner who takes care of his or her property. But responsible property owners shouldn't have to put up with a vacant house next door.
The land bank is a good idea and should be implemented by the county commissioners.