Euclid and County Landbanks partner to address foreclosed and vacant properties
A public hearing in Council Chambers March 14, 2018 focused attention on a stark reality facing Euclid as the number of empty lots throughout the City presents a growing challenge to the Administration. With empty properties scattered throughout the City and owned by Euclid, a presentation by Gus Frangos, President and General Counsel of the Cuyahoga County Land Bank (CLB), set the tone for discussions on what to do with empty and underutilized properties and owned by the City.
Frangos explained that 65-75% of the properties that end up in the hands of the CLB and ultimately owned by Euclid come from tax foreclosure. He then went on to explain the complex foreclosure process and the many hurdles involved before the CLB can take ownership of a property.
Frangos stated that to date there have been 78 home demolitions by the CLB in Euclid with most now in the Euclid landbank and ready for purchase. An additional 136 homes are in Deed to Escrow, which means that a house has been rehabilitated and sold, or is currently being rehabbed by an individual contracted to purchase the house when complete. Most of the 136 homes that Frangos mentioned have gone through the program and have gotten transferred. The number of active rehabbing properties is small at any given time, yet according to Paul Beno, Zoning Commissioner for the City of Euclid, these 136 homes are the success stories that the County landbank has effectively saved and gotten to owner occupants.
Euclid’s landbank, a separate entity from the CLB, holds 123 properties based on a list handed out at the presentation. However, the multitude of properties owned by the City, along with the continuing challenge of how to use or market these properties, represents a significant issue for the Administration and City Council.
City owned properties that represent a potential burden to Euclid typically fit into one of three categories:
- Foreclosed or abandoned homes or small lots between homes. Parcels zoned for business use that have come under City ownership are also included in this category.
- Large parcels bought or obtained by the City with hopes of future use. Sites like the former St. Roberts Parish and the former Russell Erwine School are examples.
- Odd shaped or otherwise difficult to use parcels that have been owned and maintained by Euclid for various reasons. These parcels have little marketable value.
All of these properties require maintenance in the growing season with an average cost of $300 per property for Euclid to maintain according to Beno. If not maintained these empty properties can become eye sores or dumping grounds. In addition, the City gets no property tax benefit from these properties.
One of the challenges Euclid faces is that the City owned properties are dotted all over the map leaving few opportunities for concentrated redevelopment efforts. There are some streets where multiple empty properties sit in the possession of Euclid’s Landbank, but these properties are seldom adjacent to each other. Beno stated that the City has sold 61 vacant lots and had 1 house built on a lot. Several council members pushed Beno to be more aggressive in the marketing of the properties, but he commented that developers and residents with adjacent properties are not approaching the City to buy empty lots. A small staff with limited resources has also resulted in minimal efforts to market the properties.
“We are definitely seeing the problem levelling off, and I am happy to report that we will entertain some new construction proposals at the Planning and Zoning Commission next month,” commented Beno.
In an attempt to get empty properties in private ownership, Euclid has a program where empty lots can be purchased at very low prices, including for as little as $1 in the case of yard expansion, property splits of empty lots between neighbors or on the condition of a home being built on the property. Unfortunately, Euclid has not seen strong demand for these empty lots as the City continues to wrestle with this issue.
The topic will continue to be explored as City Council considers modifications to legislation intended to make selling empty lots in Euclid potentially more attractive to potential buyers.
Someone who lives in Euclid, enjoys writing and wants to stay informed. My wife and I have two children and live in the northeast part of the City. We are active in many Euclid activities.