Ohio’s efforts to turn blighted buildings into usable properties has leaders from other states asking how they can start their own land banks.
Lawrence County Treasurer Stephen Burcham and Lawrence Land Bank Administrator Thomas Schneider both spoke about how the County’s successful land bank program has led to a flurry of interest in how it all works. They’ve heard from Carter County Kentucky, the West Virginia Governor, and even from as far away as Louisiana.
Schneider said the legislature for land banks in Ohio was first introduced back in 2006 and based on a similar concept in other states. But Schneider says Ohio took it further. “Our legislators realized it needed sharper teeth and more rows of it.” Originally intended only for counties with populations of 500,000 or more, it was 7 years before counties like Scioto and Lawrence were eligible to participate.
Land banks have the ability to seize blighted tax-delinquent properties, demolish or rehabilitate structures, and put the property up for resale. Ohio land banks go further. Not only does the land bank end all tax liability, but it also wipes out any mortgages, judgments, or liens. All liabilities associated with the property are gone. That includes environmental liability. This makes it possible for Ohio land banks to rehab old industrial sites and businesses such as gas stations and laundromats with no chance of the new owners getting hit with an unforeseen bill for cleanup.
Since 2017, the Lawrence County Land Bank has acquired 340 pieces of property and demolished 230 structures.