Impact: 15 Years Dedicated to Improving Cuyahoga County

 

Twenty twenty-four marks the 15th year of the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s existence.

The Land Bank’s journey began in 2008, when Land Bank President and General Counsel Gus Frangos and then Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis wrote, introduced and helped pass legislation to create Ohio’s very first land bank.

The stipulation on the bill’s passing was that Cuyahoga Land Bank, the inaugural Ohio land bank, had one year to prove its efficacy. If in that year an argument to fund land banks couldn’t be made, then that was it – all the hard work to craft and fight for this legislation would be for naught.

Here we are, though, 15 years, 70-plus Ohio county land banks and one state association later.

The mission of the Cuyahoga Land Bank has been clear from day one: to support community goals, reduce blight and increase property values by strategically acquiring properties and returning them to productive use.

Initially, this mission was accomplished through straightforward land banking programs, such as:

Deed-in-Escrow: This program is popular for owner-occupants and investors who want to renovate and own properties. Through Deed-in-Escrow, the Land Bank conveys renovation-worthy homes at a highly incentivized priced, provided the home is renovated to our housing quality standards.
Demolition: Properties beyond repair that contribute to blight are demolished (and sometimes subsequently transformed into usable side lots, gardens, community resources and more with professional specifications and quality standards.

However, new county-bolstering programs have developed thanks to the creativity, intuition, knowledge and passion of the Land Bank team. For example, our in-house real estate team has worked so collaboratively and frequently with Cuyahoga County cities and communities that it has become an expert on how best to develop new homes – and now we have a team dedicated to new construction. Another illustration of resourceful program development is our involvement with the Site Readiness Fund, an initiative committed to reducing blight, promoting sustainability and empowering residents by transforming vacant land into job-ready sites in the City of Cleveland. Finally, a program of true passion and care is Land Bank Charities. Established in 2019, the mission of Charities is to provide housing opportunities to vulnerable populations by working with organizations dedicated to serving these groups. Land Bank Charities offers vacant properties and, in most cases, grant support to help partner organizations build affordable housing.

In the same year Charities was founded, we celebrated our 10-year anniversary in a few ways. We created an Impact Analysis Report, which includes (though is not limited to) these important highlights, which Land Bank work catalyzed :

$1.43B total estimated economic impact in Cuyahoga County
$415.3M in increased home value from nearly 7,000 residential demolitions
$320.6M in increased home value from more than 2,100 programmatic residential rehabilitations
$13M tax from direct property sales
$18.5M in property tax revenue collected from Land Bank-influenced properties
2,114 jobs created from Land Bank budget expenditures between 2009–2019
$8 in economic impact for every $1 of Land Bank’s $178M expenditure

We also held the IMPACT!  anniversary event to honor and thank all our partners and supporters along the way, and we hosted a symposium where community development stakeholders joined local civic leaders and elected officials to discuss the findings of the economic impact study aimed at quantifying the tangible and measurable outcomes of 10 years of Land Bank activity.

Not only was 2019 a celebration of Cuyahoga Land Bank’s first decade of success, it was also an opportunity to reflect on the strides that had been made from the days of questioning if state land banks were even necessary! And now, in our 15th year, we are ready to take another look back, this time to understand the giant leaps the Cuyahoga Land Bank has taken in the past five years, as well as a look forward to identify all the ways we hope to continue growing.

Our 15-Year Impact activities will include:

A 15-Year Impact Report
A symposium hosted at the Cleveland Foundation’s new headquarters
A celebration at the newly transformed Majestic Hall
Production of a documentary detailing our 15 years of work
An overall brand refresh, honoring our past and moving the Land Bank into the future

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