Challenge

The City of Cleveland and its surrounding inner ring suburbs were hit hard by the nationwide foreclosure crisis.  Cuyahoga County government looked to devise a new solution to the thousands of abandoned properties that attracted crime and impacted the value of neighborhoods.

The office of the County Treasurer sought to pass legislation authorizing the creation of a county land reutilization corporation in Cuyahoga County.  This “land bank” would assume, own, and eventually demolish abandoned properties to: (1) eliminate eye-sore properties; (2) create new green space; and (3) make possible redevelopment where warranted.  To create this land bank, the County Treasurer needed to change state law.

The Treasurer engaged LNE Group to lead state government advocacy efforts with the General Assembly and Governor to pass and sign enabling legislation.

Approach

There were two complicating factors involved with this task.  First, the work needed to be completed by the end of the “lame duck” legislative session, affording LNE Group’s state government relations team just five weeks to implement an intense advocacy campaign and pass the legislation.  Second, there was vigorous opposition to the legislation from a real estate owners group and large mortgage banks.

Because state government was split among a Democratic Governor, Republican Senate, and Democratic House, LNE Group deployed a bipartisan, consensus approach.  Working with Senate Republicans and House Democrats through an accelerated hearing schedule, LNE Group’s state advocacy team was able to get the legislation passed and to the Governor for signature in less than five weeks.  LNE Group effectively overcame the opposition by providing information to counter all claims.  LNE Group also worked closely with the Governor’s staff to ensure prompt signing of the bill.

Result

Language was added to the state biennial budget to authorize the creation of the first “Land Bank” in Ohio history.  After the state government provided the authority for the new Cuyahoga Land Bank, thousands of abandoned properties have been reclaimed and demolished, creating green space, reducing crime and rebuilding neighborhoods.  This land bank concept served as a model that attracted the interest of other states across the country, subsequently passing similar laws to deal with their own foreclosure problems.