Congress Set to Give Detroit Demolitions a Huge Boost

Updated 12/18/15: The Detroit Free Press published an article titled Detroit-led blight fight may spur demolitions across U.S.

Link to Article

Industry Update
December 17, 2015

Spending legislation includes key measure from Michigan lawmaker plus proposals regarding Great Lakes, Asian carp

WASHINGTON — A massive federal spending bill expected to be passed this week includes a provision allowing the U.S. Treasury to transfer billions of dollars into a fund which has already sent or promised $130 million to Detroit to tear down thousands of blighted buildings and is expected to provide at least tens of millions more.

The U.S. House Rules Committee on Wednesday evening sent to the full chamber a so-called omnibus bill to fund government through the next fiscal year. And tucked into a section of the $1.15-trillion bill is a provision allowing Treasury to add up to $2 billion more for its Hardest Hit Fund, a $7.6-billion program which was set to expire at the end of 2017 but could, under the proposal, also be extended.

Michigan lawmakers were at the forefront pressing for the change. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan told the Free Press on Wednesday he expects, if the proposal is passed as expected and Treasury begins freeing up more funding for blight removal soon, the city’s efforts to pull down rundown, abandoned structures could continue at its current pace, with as many as 15,000 properties to be demolished by 2018.

“We’re optimistic we can get another two years of life out of this,” said Duggan, who noted that no city in America is pulling down blighted buildings as fast as Detroit. He said he approached U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., about the proposal two months ago and that she and others have been “relentless” about seeing it through since.

Duggan said the effort to win support for the measure — which takes unused funds from the Home Affordable Modification Program to help eligible homeowners rewrite their mortgage debt — saw Rock Financial founder Dan Gilbert and JPMorgan Chase head Jamie Dimon among others calling top legislative leaders to lobby for it on Detroit’s behalf.

“It was amazing,” said Duggan, noting that independent studies have shown that efforts so far to pull down more than 7,000 blighted buildings in Detroit have led to significant increases in property values. He declined, however, to say how much he thinks the city could get under the change, which will be up to the state and the Treasury Department.

While there is no way to know exactly how much of the funding will end up in Michigan and Detroit, it’s almost certain to: The extension would be limited to “current program participants,” which includes the state of Michigan, and no city in America has received as much funding to tear down abandoned, blighted buildings as Detroit, where there are still thousands marked for demolition.

Stabenow said she’d been working for weeks to cobble together a coalition to support the proposal which included several members of the Michigan delegation and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. She said she expects Detroit to see at least “tens of millions” more in blight removal funds and that the city’s already successful program to tear down buildings helped sell the change.

“The successful strategy (in Detroit) … has been instrumental in getting us the support we need. It’s working. We’re seeing property values going up and people investing in their homes again,” she said.

Blight removal “changes neighborhoods and communities and makes them safer,” said Stabenow, who several months ago was working to beat back an effort rescind unused portions of the Hardest Hit Fund, which has helped pay for blight removal across Michigan. “Certainly in Detroit, in Flint, in other cities in Michigan it’s about bringing them back to life. We made the case.”

The provision was included in a sweeping bill that, if passed by both the U.S. House and Senate as expected this week, will keep the federal government open through Sept. 30. It also includes several other Michigan-specific provisions, as well as U.S. Rep. Candice Miller’s proposal to tighten restrictions on 38 countries whose citizens are allowed to visit the U.S. without a visa.

For months, Duggan has been trying to drum up more funding to keep the program going. The city is already expected to remove more than 8,000 properties with the $130 million already committed to it via the Hardest Hit Fund program. But that is only expected to get it through next April, with thousands more buildings marked for demolition.

Meanwhile, some have continued to raise questions about the city’s bidding process, which Duggan defends as proper, and whether it reached unit-price agreements with contractors to speed up demolitions in a way that may have led to avoidable cost overruns. But the city’s per-property cost of about $14,000 is still well under the $25,000-per-property cap set by the Treasury Department, and, according to Stabenow, federal officials are impressed with Detroit and Michigan’s success.

Michigan in October got word that Treasury was allowing it to transfer another $32.7 million of its original Hardest Hit Fund award of $498 million to blight efforts in Flint and Detroit, which was set to the get the lion’s share of $21.25 million. So far, Michigan has committed about $208 million of its award to blight, including the $130 million earmarked for or spent in Detroit.

A key group of Michigan legislators supported the change, including Miller, a member of House leadership, as well as Democratic U.S. Reps. Dan Kildee of Flint Township, John Conyers of Detroit and Brenda Lawrence of Southfield. U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., was a key supporter as well.

Kildee, long a supporter of using blight funds in Michigan, noted that, “Getting rid of abandoned homes in cities like Flint, Saginaw and Detroit helps to strengthen neighborhoods and decrease crime.” Lawrence, noting the widespread presence of blight in Detroit and Pontiac, which make up parts of her district, said the money is needed to eradicate a problem “that has weakened too many neighborhoods and communities within our cities.”

As for Miller’s visa measure, it won overwhelming support in the U.S. House last week. It bars people who are dual citizens of Syria, Iraq or other nations linked to terrorism, or who have recently visited those countries, from visiting the U.S. without a visa.

By including the measure in the bill to pay for government operations, Congress gives the Senate a chance to concur in the proposal, which is all but certain to pass despite criticisms from some Michigan Democrats that it discriminates against dual nationals of Syria or Iraq who have become citizens of other nations the U.S. is allied with.

Miller has defended the bill saying it’s meant to keep the U.S. safe from potential terrorists who could try to use the Visa Waiver Program to infiltrate the nation. Dual nationals of Syria and Iraq could still enter the U.S. if they qualified for a visa as well, she has said.

Meanwhile, other parts of the 2,000-page omnibus legislation:

  • Directs the Army Corps of Engineers to move ahead with studying the prospects for blocking the spread of invasive Asian carp toward the Great Lakes at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam in Joliet, Ill., a proposal both Miller and Stabenow have been actively pushing, and ensuring there are emergency procedures in place to stop the fish species.
  • Increases from $250 million to $300 million annual funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which is used to clean up polluted areas, reduce runoff and restore fish and wildlife habitat. Said Stabenow: “Just like generations before us, it is our responsibility to protect and preserve the Great Lakes.”
  • Keeps in place $500 million for infrastructure investments known as TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grants, which in past years have helped fund the M-1 Rail project in Detroit – though Michigan received no TIGER grants this year. The overall funding level is $400 million more than the House’s proposal, but $750 million below what President Barack Obama proposed.
  • Includes $100 million to continue construction of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams at Michigan State University, which will allow researchers to study the properties of rare nuclear isotopes. Said Peters: FRIB will also “generate millions of dollars in economic activity for the Lansing area, create thousands of jobs and play a central role in training the next generation of nuclear physics researchers.” It is expected to be completed in 2022.

Source: Detroit Free Press



Alan Jaffa

Alan Jaffa is the chief executive officer for Safeguard, steering the company as the mortgage field services industry leader. He also serves on the board of advisors for SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Alan joined Safeguard in 1995, learning the business from the ground up. He was promoted to chief operating officer in 2002, and was named CEO in May 2010. His hands-on experience has given him unique insights as a leader to innovate, improve and strengthen Safeguard’s processes to assure that the company adheres to the highest standards of quality and customer service.

Under Alan’s leadership, Safeguard has grown significantly with strategies that have included new and expanded services, technology investments that deliver higher quality and greater efficiency to clients, and strategic acquisitions. He takes a team approach to process improvement, involving staff at all levels of the organization to address issues, brainstorm solutions, and identify new and better ways to serve clients.

In 2008, Alan was recognized by Crain’s Cleveland Business in its annual “40-Under-40” profile of young leaders. He also was named a NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® finalist in 2013.


Chief Operating Officer

Michael Greenbaum

Michael Greenbaum is the chief operating officer for Safeguard. Mike has been instrumental in aligning operations to become more efficient, effective, and compliant with our ever-changing industry requirements. Mike has a proven track record of excellence, partnership and collaboration at Safeguard. Under Mike’s leadership, all operational departments of Safeguard have reviewed, updated and enhanced their business processes to maximize efficiency and improve quality control.

Mike joined Safeguard in July 2010 as vice president of REO and has continued to take on additional duties and responsibilities within the organization, including the role of vice president of operations in 2013 and then COO in 2015.

Mike built his business career in supply-chain management, operations, finance and marketing. He has held senior management and executive positions with Erico, a manufacturing company in Solon, Ohio; Accel, Inc., a packaging company in Lewis Center, Ohio; and McMaster-Carr, an industrial supply company in Aurora, Ohio.

Before entering the business world, Mike served in the U.S. Army, Ordinance Branch, and specialized in supply chain management. He is a distinguished graduate of West Point (U.S. Military Academy), where he majored in quantitative economics.



Sean Reddington

Sean Reddington is the new Chief Information Officer for Safeguard Properties LLC. Sean has over 15+ years of experience in Information Services Management with a strong focus on Product and Application Management. Sean is responsible for Safeguard’s technological direction, including planning, implementation and maintaining all operational systems

Sean has a proven record of accomplishment for increasing operational efficiencies, improving customer service levels, and implementing and maintaining IT initiatives to support successful business processes.  He has provided the vision and dedicated leadership for key technologies for Fortune 100 companies, and nationally recognized consulting firms including enterprise system architecture, security, desktop and database management systems. Sean possesses strong functional and system knowledge of information security, systems and software, contracts management, budgeting, human resources and legal and related regulatory compliance.

Sean joined Safeguard Properties LLC from RenPSG Inc. which is a nationally leading Philintropic Software Platform in the Fintech space. He oversaw the organization’s technological direction including planning, implementing and maintaining the best practices that align with all corporate functions. He also provided day-to-day technology operations, enterprise security, information risk and vulnerability management, audit and compliance, security awareness and training.

Prior to RenPSG, Sean worked for DMI Consulting as a Client Success Director where he guided the delivery in a multibillion-dollar Fortune 500 enterprise client account. He was responsible for all project deliveries in terms of quality, budget and timeliness and led the team to coordinate development and definition of project scope and limitations. Sean also worked for KPMG Consulting in their Microsoft Practice and Technicolor’s Ebusiness Division where he had responsibility for application development, maintenance, and support.

Sean is a graduate of Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts and received his Masters in International Business from Central Michigan University. He was also a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force prior to his career in the business world.


General Counsel and Executive Vice President

Linda Erkkila, Esq.

Linda Erkkila is the general counsel and executive vice president for Safeguard and oversees the legal, human resources, training, and compliance departments. Linda’s responsibilities cover regulatory issues that impact Safeguard’s operations, risk mitigation, enterprise strategic planning, human resources and training initiatives, compliance, litigation and claims management, and mergers, acquisition and joint ventures.

Linda assures that Safeguard’s strategic initiatives align with its resources, leverage opportunities across the company, and contemplate compliance mandates. Her practice spans over 20 years, and Linda’s experience covers regulatory disclosure, corporate governance compliance, risk assessment, executive compensation, litigation management, and merger and acquisition activity. Her experience at a former Fortune 500 financial institution during the subprime crisis helped develop Linda’s pro-active approach to change management during periods of heightened regulatory scrutiny.

Linda previously served as vice president and attorney for National City Corporation, as securities and corporate governance counsel for Agilysys Inc., and as an associate at Thompson Hine LLP. She earned her JD at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Linda holds a degree in economics from Miami University and an MBA. In 2017, Linda was named as both a “Woman of Influence” by HousingWire and as a “Leading Lady” by MReport.


Chief Financial Officer

Joe Iafigliola

Joe Iafigliola is the Chief Financial Officer for Safeguard. Joe is responsible for the Control, Quality Assurance, Business Development, Accounting & Information Security departments, and is a Managing Director of SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Joe has been in a wide variety of roles in finance, supply chain management, information systems development, and sales and marketing. His career includes senior positions with McMaster-Carr Supply Company, Newell/Rubbermaid, and Procter and Gamble.

Joe has an MBA from The Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), and holds a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University’s Honors Accounting program.


AVP, High Risk and Investor Compliance

Steve Meyer

Steve Meyer is the assistant vice president of high risk and investor compliance for Safeguard. In this role, Steve is responsible for managing our clients’ conveyance processes, Safeguard’s investor compliance team and developing our working relationships with cities and municipalities around the country. He also works directly with our clients in our many outreach efforts and he represents Safeguard at a number of industry conferences each year.

Steve joined Safeguard in 1998 as manager over the hazard claims team. He was instrumental in the development and creation of policies, procedures and operating protocol. Under Steve’s leadership, the department became one of the largest within Safeguard. In 2002, he assumed responsibility for the newly-formed high risk department, once again building its success. Steve was promoted to director over these two areas in 2007, and he was promoted to assistant vice president in 2012.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve spent 10 years within the insurance industry, holding a number of positions including multi-line property adjuster, branch claims supervisor, and multi-line and subrogation/litigation supervisor. Steve is a graduate of Grove City College.


AVP, Operations

Jennifer Jozity

Jennifer Jozity is the assistant vice president of operations, overseeing inspections, REO and property preservation for Safeguard. Jen ensures quality work is performed in the field and internally, to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations. Jen has demonstrated the ability to deliver consistent results in order audit and order management.  She will build upon these strengths in order to deliver this level of excellence in both REO and property preservation operations.

Jen joined Safeguard in 1997 and was promoted to director of inspections operations in 2009 and assistant vice president of inspections operations in 2012.

She graduated from Cleveland State University with a degree in business.


AVP, Finance

Jennifer Anspach

Jennifer Anspach is the assistant vice president of finance for Safeguard. She is responsible for the company’s national workforce of approximately 1,000 employees. She manages recruitment strategies, employee relations, training, personnel policies, retention, payroll and benefits programs. Additionally, Jennifer has oversight of the accounts receivable and loss functions formerly within the accounting department.

Jennifer joined the company in April 2009 as a manager of accounting and finance and a year later was promoted to director. She was named AVP of human capital in 2014. Prior to joining Safeguard, she held several management positions at OfficeMax and InkStop in both operations and finance.

Jennifer is a graduate of Youngstown State University. She was named a Crain’s Cleveland Business Archer Award finalist for HR Executive of the Year in 2017.


AVP, Application Architecture

Rick Moran

Rick Moran is the assistant vice president of application architecture for Safeguard. Rick is responsible for evolving the Safeguard IT systems. He leads the design of Safeguard’s enterprise application architecture. This includes Safeguard’s real-time integration with other systems, vendors and clients; the future upgrade roadmap for systems; and standards designed to meet availability, security, performance and goals.

Rick has been with Safeguard since 2011. During that time, he has led the system upgrades necessary to support Safeguard’s growth. In addition, Rick’s team has designed and implemented several innovative systems.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Rick was director of enterprise architecture at Revol Wireless, a privately held CDMA Wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana, and operated his own consulting firm providing services to the manufacturing, telecommunications, and energy sectors.


AVP, Technology Infrastructure and Cloud Services

Steve Machovina

Steve Machovina is the assistant vice president of technology infrastructure and cloud services for Safeguard. He is responsible for the overall management and design of Safeguard’s hybrid cloud infrastructure. He manages all technology engineering staff who support data centers, telecommunications, network, servers, storage, service monitoring, and disaster recovery.

Steve joined Safeguard in November 2013 as director of information technology operations.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was vice president of information technology at Revol Wireless, a privately held wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana. He also held management positions with Northcoast PCS and Corecomm Communications, and spent nine years as a Coast Guard officer and pilot.

Steve holds a BBA in management information systems from Kent State University in Ohio and an MBA from Wayne State University in Michigan.


Assistant Vice president of Application Development

Steve Goberish

Steve Goberish, is the assistant vice president of application development for Safeguard. He is responsible for the maintenance and evolution of Safeguard’s vendor systems ensuring high-availability, security and scalability while advancing the vendor products’ capabilities and enhancing the vendor experience.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was a senior technical architect and development manager at First American Title Insurance, a publicly held title insurance provider based in southern California, in addition to managing and developing applications in multiple sectors from insurance to VOIP.

Steve has a bachelor’s degree from Kent State University in Ohio.