EATON — During a meeting of the Preble County Land Bank Board on Friday, Oct. 14, David Mann, President and CEO of the Lucas County Land Bank and a member of the Ohio Land Bank Association presented information regarding the operation of a county land bank and what a land bank is.
Local officials from around the county were invited to attend this public meeting in order to learn more about what a land bank is and how they operate.
“The reality for land banks is that every single one of them is different, and they’re different because every community in Ohio is different and has different challenges. Now, we all have common threads that bind us. We all have common laws that we have to follow. We all have a common obligation to collect property taxes, whether they’re on time or delinquent and, and deal with problem property situations in our community,” Mann said.
“And the challenges that we have aren’t the same, exactly. But I think a good foundation on it can help to do that,” he noted.
According to Mann, a land banktackles the challenges of vacant, abandoned, & tax-delinquent properties with new tools and offers a dedicated funding source for these efforts; builds and grows community partnerships, and opens the door to federal, state, and private funding sources. A county land bank combines the private sector efficiency of a nonprofit corporation with the public purposes, powers and funding of a governmental organization.
A land bank has four statutory purposes in Ohio: facilitating the reutilization of vacant, abandoned, and tax-foreclosed real property; efficiently holding such property pending reutilization; assisting entities to assemble and clear the title of such property in a coordinated manner; and promoting economic and housing development.
Mann said a local land bank must build support among county officials like the commissioners, treasurer and prosecutor, auditor, clerk, sheriff, and engineer, as well as leaders in the major city and townships. Land banks must operate with transparency and predictability. County land banks are governed by a board of directors of up to nine members, and must include the county treasurer, two of three county commissioners, and a representative of the largest municipality and up to four other members with no set criteria. At least one board member must have private sector or nonprofit experience in rehabilitation or real estate acquisitions.
Potential property acquisition sources include tax foreclosures, forfeited lands, nuisance lien foreclosures, donations and purchases. According to Mann, tax foreclosures will be the primary way the land bank acquires properties.
These are initiated by the treasurer/prosecutor and filed in the Common Pleas Court, and may take between 6-18 months. Tax foreclosed properties are auctioned off by the sheriff at regular tax sales, separate from mortgage foreclosure sales, according to Mann.
Tax delinquent and abandoned properties are eligible for direct transfer to a land bank in lieu of a sheriff’s sale after foreclosure, according to Mann, but must be vacant land or an unoccupied structure (“abandoned”) and taxes must exceed the auditor’s value for the parcel.
“Forfeited land” is the end result of the tax foreclosure process in cases when sheriff’s sale results in a “no bid.” Land banks have the statutory authority to acquire forfeited land from the auditor at any time
According to Mann, forfeited land is often the most challenged, the most deteriorated, or the least marketable given prior title encumbrances and difficulties
Donations can be an alternative way to acquire property if other avenues are not possible, as long as the donor produces a clean, marketable title, he explained in his presentation.
Land banks may also purchase property outright.
“I think lots of communities have created county land banks in Ohio for a lot of different reasons. But fundamentally, tackling the challenge of vacant abandoned, tax delinquent and nuisance properties has to be first and foremost. So you’ve going to have some challenge with that. I don’t know that there’s any place in Ohio that doesn’t but you have to have some challenge with that to really make the most sense of a county land bank,” he said.
Mann shared information regarding some of the projects Lucas County has completed, and answered specific questions of those in attendance.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on Twitter @emowenjr.