Cuyahoga County Considers Sweeping Housing Program to Stabilize Neighborhoods

Updated 1/8/19: Ordinance 02019-0001 was introduced by the Cuyahoga County Council and had a first reading. It has been referred to the Community Development Committee.

Link to ordinance text

Land Bank Update
January 4, 2019


CLEVELAND, Ohio – Cuyahoga County proposes to launch a $30 million, six-year effort to stabilize home values, eliminate blight and to encourage renovation and construction of affordable housing.

If approved by County Council, the Cuyahoga County Housing Program also would refocus the county’s land bank from demolition to rehabilitation. Legislation will be introduced Tuesday, according to a council agenda posted Friday.

The legislation is sponsored by Council President Dan Brady, Vice President Pernel Jones Jr. and council members Dale Miller and Cheryl Stephens. It was drafted in concert with the county land bank, formally known as the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corporation, and the county’s Department of Development.

Brady told that the program adopts recommendations from a 2016 housing study that suggested reinvestment in existing housing, and support for affordable housing countywide.

If approved, the program would begin in 2020.

What would the program do?

The aim would be to end years of disinvestment in some county neighborhoods brought on by aging houses, population decline and a foreclosure crisis that caused houses to be abandoned.

If approved as drafted, the program would address each of three housing needs in a county where 18,000 homes — over 4.2 percent of the county’s entire housing stock — are vacant.

The county land bank would oversee the renovation of homes and development of affordable and mid-level housing markets.

The Department of Development would provide loans, grants or technical assistance to homeowners for home repair, as well as assistance in obtaining mortgages.

Ninety percent of the money for home renovations would be used in either affordable or middle market neighborhoods.

How is this program different from others?

Brady said the new program would build on the work already completed by the county land bank and the expertise it has acquired.

Since 2009, has demolished more than 7,000 homes and rehabilitated about 1,800 others. It has also developed data, mapping and other techniques to improve neighborhoods by identifying homes for demolition or rehabilitation.

“Finding which house to improve to improve a whole neighborhood, to affect the valuation of the neighborhood most effectively — that’s where the [county land bank’s] strategy comes in,” said Kahlil Seren, research and policy analyst for Cuyahoga County Council.

Will the land bank stop razing homes?

No, but demolition will be greatly reduced. Cuyahoga Land Bank President Gus Frangos told that the time is right for his agency to begin pivoting to rehabilitation efforts because federal and county money for demolition is dwindling. Money already set aside for demolition will continue to be used for demolition and will not be affected by the housing program.

Frangos estimated that 3,000 to 5,000 homes are candidates for demolition in Cuyahoga County, down from 20,000 in 2009. He hopes more state money will be made available to continue demolition efforts. In the meantime, county dollars tagged for rehabilitation will drive the bulk of the county land bank’s work.

The housing program would require the county and county land bank to commit $30 million to rehabilitation, or $5 million each of the next six years. Most of the money, $21.5 million, would come from fees collected on delinquent property taxes. Another $5 million would come from the county’s portion of casino tax revenue, and $2.5 million would come from the county’s general fund.

Some money also might be generated by the rehabilitation of homes, or as the result of contributions from community development organizations, charitable organizations, banks, real estate developers or municipalities. Those profits would be reinvested into the program, Frangos said.

How would the renovation component work?

Homes in the county land bank’s inventory of vacant properties could be renovated by the county land bank, then sold to buyers, or could be renovated by the buyer.

The county land bank would identify properties suitable for a buyer to renovate, develop a renovation plan and post the property for sale. Prospective buyers would be screened to determine if they can handle the renovation. The county land bank would hold the deed in escrow until the buyer pulls permits and completes the required renovations.

What is the homeowner-assistance component?

Financial and technical assistance would be provided to current and potential homeowners who want to find affordable housing or maintain the housing they already have.

The financial assistance would be for home repairs, or mortgages of $70,000 or less. Banks often won’t give so-called smaller-dollar mortgages, even if the prospective buyer is creditworthy, Seren said.

The aim would be to making home ownership more accessible for lower- and middle-income people, young families, and first-time buyers.

What is the housing-market component?

Efforts to improve the housing market in county neighborhoods would be three-pronged: spurring investment in emerging markets, constructing homes on vacant lots, and laying the groundwork for investment in future markets.

For neighborhoods that are considered emerging markets, the goal would be to improve housing values and jump-start private development, in part by showing banks that an area can be worth investing in. The county land bank could do that by strategically choosing properties to rehabilitate, thereby creating comparable homes in the neighborhood and improving chances that private investment takes place.

The second part would involve constructing homes on vacant lots in neighborhoods with primarily older homes. Many buyers want newer homes with updated designs and modern amenities. In Cuyahoga County, that often means moving out of the city or inner-ring suburbs, where much of the land has already been developed.

“Those amenities are sometimes the reason people move to newer areas. In-fill construction will give choices to people who like the feel of an older neighborhood but want a newer house,” Seren said.

The final piece is the cultivation of future markets. Some neighborhoods are in such bad shape that groundwork needs to be laid before investment can occur.

The county land bank would prepare those areas through strategic planning, including the commissioning of feasibility studies, developing concepts for neighborhoods and piecing together parcels for future development. Such activities would be coordinated with the Department of Development, local municipalities, community development corporations and others.



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.