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Hamilton County Landbank Cares for Vacant, Abandoned Properties throughout Hamilton County Approximate Read Time: 3 Minutes

When the Hamilton County Landbank (Landbank) acquires a property, it is almost always vacant and severely blighted and usually has been for many years. The majority are dangerous and eyesores to their neighborhoods – often, the Landbank is contacted by neighbors or the community development corporation (CDC) because they want something to happen with the property. The Landbank was established in 2012 by Hamilton County under the Ohio Revised Code to create a mechanism for communities to deal with vacant and abandoned property after the Great Recession and foreclosure crisis.

"The Landbank is a property owner of last resort. We take on the worst of the worst properties and reposition them for new use. Our focus is to return vacant properties to productive use through our six disposition programs," said Jessica Powell, Vice President of the Hamilton County Landbank. "Our goal is to safely maintain the properties we acquire and to mitigate their blighted conditions until they are demolished, stabilized, or disposed to a new organization or owner."

What happens after the Landbank acquires a property?

Ron Shouse, Real Estate Facilities Manager for The Port and Landbank, evaluates each property and enters it into our database for tracking. The Landbank then assigns each property to a contractor who will cut the grass and email photos to the Landbank. If a property has a building or home on it, the Landbank secures windows and doors within 48 hours with plywood and padlocks.

Ron Shouse, The Port's Real Estate Facilities Manager, during a routine check of a Landbank property on Baymiller in the West End.

Ron visits the property soon after and shares Landbank literature, which explains the organization and has contact information, with neighboring property owners. "We want to be good neighbors to the people living next to our properties," shared Ron. "Our goal is to keep these properties safe and prevent anyone, especially children, from entering them as well as to prohibit criminal activity."

All shrubbery is removed from properties because it increases the visibility of the property. "Shrubbery can hide squatters and often leads to an increase in trash and dumping," adds Ron.

An example of dumping at a Landbank-owned property in Lincoln Heights shown before and after cleanup by the Landbank.

When the Landbank acquires a property, the City of Cincinnati Department of Buildings and Inspections is notified of the change in ownership. Pre-existing code orders transfer to the Landbank as the new owner, and we work with code enforcement to address and/or minimize violations.

“Code enforcement is extremely challenging when you have long-vacant blighted structures with absentee and unresponsive property owners. When the Landbank takes possession of one of these properties, it is a service to the City and its residents because we finally have a lifeline to an owner who is actively working to problem-solve the issues and is taking steps to secure the property, “ said Ed Cunningham, Division Manager over Property Maintenance and Code Enforcement at the City of Cincinnati Department of Building and Inspections.

How often are properties checked or visited?

Ron Shouse secures the lock on a Landbank-owned building in the West End during a routine visit.

The Landbank's contractors regularly visit each of the properties they are assigned and send photos from each visit to the Landbank staff. Grass is cut at Landbank properties beginning in April and May through November each year. Contractors and neighbors often report graffiti, dumping, broken doors, and windows.

"Our goal is to eliminate graffiti within 24 hours. We know it doesn't look good for the neighborhood, and it will likely lead to more tagging unless we remove it quickly," shares Ron.

The Landbank, at the request of Cincinnati Police, added fencing to secure the backyard of this Landbank-owned property in the West End following reports of criminal activity.

The Landbank team works with the City of Cincinnati and many CDCs to keep an eye on the properties to ensure they are secure.

What happens to Landbank properties?

The Landbank puts properties back to productive use through several programs and partnerships:

  1. Disposition Programs - The Landbank disposes properties to organizations, municipalities, and individuals with a vision and a plan. Programs range from multi-family/commercial rehab to single-family home development to yard expansion for adjacent property owners. The Landbank also partners with community development corporations (CDCs) and municipalities to acquire and hold properties in alignment with community plans
  2. Single-Family Home Rehab and New Build - The Landbank, through Rehab Across Cincinnati and Hamilton County (REACH), rehabs vacant structures or builds new infill homes on vacant lots. To date, REACH is active in Evanston, Walnut Hills, Price Hill, and Avondale.
  3. Historic Structure Stabilization - The Landbank works to preserve landmark structures throughout our community for future reuse and redevelopment by stabilizing and securing historic buildings.

In the next installment of "How Does the Hamilton County Landbank...?," we delve further into the application process.

Want to make an impact? We have properties available throughout Hamilton County waiting for someone to give them new purpose.