An Initiative A Day 3.3: Expand and coordinate existing land bank efforts to acquire, assemble, manage, and dispose of vacant properties throughout the region.

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board will be voting on the the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  With just under 40 days to the vote and 41 initiatives in the vision, we thought it would be good to create a countdown to the vote.  Everyday over the next 5 weeks,  we will be sharing an “Initiative A Day” with you so you can gent a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here Vibrant NEO_Recs&Init_010114.

Show your support for Vibrant NEO 2040 by adding your name to our Champions of Vibrant NEO 2040 list here!

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region.  The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.

Recommendation 3: Pursue the remediation, assembly, marketing, and redevelopment of abandoned properties at both the local and regional levels

Homeownership Zone: This neighborhood wide initiative has facilitated the assembly of single-family and multi-family lots that were vacant, abandoned, blighted or too small, in partnership between the local development corporation and the city land bank. The creation of a comprehensive neighborhood master plan re-envisioned the residential fabric by consolidating, re-subdividing and in-filling lots with new single-family homes and townhomes. Today the neighborhood is continuing to emerge as a diverse, mixed-income, compact residential community with access to transit, commercial amenities, institutions and green space.


Initiative 3.3: Expand and coordinate existing land bank efforts to acquire, assemble, manage, and dispose of vacant properties throughout the region.

WHAT THIS MEANS. Land banks are mechanisms for acquiring and holding chronically vacant land or buildings to prepare for resale to a private entity. The public identity of land banks has historically been as information clearinghouses, expanding in some cases to maintenance and marketing of properties under its stewardship. In recent years, land banks have offered expanded programming and support, in some cases taking on the role of developer and lender. Northeast Ohio is home to several land banks, including the Cuyahoga Land Bank (CLB), which is a practice leader among regional land banks. The distinguishing elements of the CLB’s approach to land banking include:

+        Strategic land assembly – rather than acquiring parcels in a scattershot manner, CLB intentionally seeks contiguous parcels to internalize some of the costs that developers or conservationists would face in acquiring and remediating parcels one at a time;

+        Deconstruction – CLB partners with experienced builders and recyclers to sell and reuse material salvaged from properties it demolishes;

+        Property rehabilitation – in addition to rehabilitating property through its own development arm, the land bank operates a “deed-in-escrow” program and low-interest loans targeted to small-scale home rehabilitators or homeowners without an extensive background in rehabilitation; and

+        Conservation and urban agriculture – CLB plays an active role in Cleveland’s robust urban gardening and agriculture movement, advising and making available parcels that are suitable for food cultivation.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT. The first county land bank, the Genesee County Land Bank in Flint, Michigan, was formed in response to the County Assessor’s awareness of the tremendous fiscal liability that chronically vacant land places on local governments’ balance sheet. In that case and others, land banks play an important function in the management of urban land when the market fails to deliver development outcomes, or when municipalities themselves do not have the capacity to manage or dispose of vacant properties. This intermediary role is valuable in preparing parcels for successive uses and absorbing some of the pre-development expenses that often deter developers. In Northeast Ohio’s legacy cities, removing unsound and unusable structures, measuring and possibly remediating contamination, and assisting with land assembly are all critical factors in encouraging redevelopment of vacant properties.

GETTING IT DONE. As land banks are typically creatures of county and municipal legislative action, these local governmental units must lead the way in evaluating and establishing land banks for their jurisdictions. Land banks should then be encouraged and empowered to coordinate across jurisdictional borders – particularly for areas identified as strategic investment areas and regional job centers – and to collaborate with regional economic development organizations such as Team NEO and the Fund for Our Economic Future to foster a more collaborative, regional approach to managing and repositioning vacant urban land.

TOOL: Thriving Communities Institute is lending its hand to transform vacant and unproductive properties into new opportunities to attract economic growth, to bring green space to our cities, and to support safe, beautiful neighborhoods. In working with community leaders in our region, they have learned that urban revitalization is a process, one with many steps supported by great partnerships. Thriving Communities is helping secure our cities’ vacant, unhealthy properties by establishing and supporting county land banks throughout our region.

County land banks, technically called county land reutilization corporations, provide our counties with much-needed ability to quickly acquire foreclosed and vacant property. These land banks can safely hold a distressed property, clean its title, and prepare it for a better day. The goal is to secure vacant properties – which would otherwise attract crime, lower neighboring home values, and incur public services costs – so that they can be put to better use in the future.



Nonprofit Organizations; Land Banks; Municipalities, Counties

Target Community

Strategic investment areas, asset risk areas

Implementation Complexity


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