Land banks to spend $21M to raze blighted central Ohio homes

Banks that primarily finance transactions in real estate for Ohio's capital city and the surrounding county are planning to spend nearly $21 million to demolish more than 1,100 blighted homes before 2020.

The Central Ohio Community Improvement Corp., Franklin County's land bank, and its Columbus counterpart have already razed 346 properties The Columbus Dispatch reports ( ).

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"We're already chipping away at it," said John Rosenberger, executive director for the county land bank.

The banks recently bought 274 properties through tax liens. Rosenberger said they hope those homes will qualify for a special, speedier foreclosure process due to their blighted condition.

"This is the first test. If it proves successful, we'll do it again," he said recently.

They've acquired properties by tax foreclosures through the county treasurer. They also have acquired them if other potential buyers pass on the properties, and when owners end up in the county's Environmental Court and want to dump them.

The state Housing Finance Agency awarded $2.3 million in federal money to the county land bank in October, bringing the area's total to $20.9 million. The land banks have until the end of 2019 to spend the federal money they received through the Housing Finance Agency.

Dana Rose, Columbus' code-enforcement administrator, said 5,271 vacant structures remain in the city.

James Rokakis, executive director of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, said redevelopment won't happen if the land banks don't tear down vacant and abandoned houses.

"It's a cancer and it spreads," Rokakis said.


Information from: The Columbus Dispatch,