OH HB 223 Advances to Senate for Consideration
On April 2, Ohio HB 223 was passed by the House and is now being considered by the Senate. On April 3, The Columbus Dispatch published an article titled Bill Would Help Columbus Address Blighted Houses.
Bill would help Columbus address blighted houses
Allowing hunters to use silencers and creating what one supporter called a “radical” program to deal with blighted, abandoned houses were among the bills that advanced in the legislature yesterday.
Arguing that government money alone can’t handle the problem of blighted houses that drive down neighborhood property values and drive up crime, the House unanimously backed a bill allowing three cities to send these abandoned houses to auction without conducting appraisals or requiring minimum bids.
The five-year pilot project would be available to the cities that have housing or environmental divisions in their municipal court: Columbus, Cleveland and Toledo.
“There will never be enough government money to deal with a fraction of this problem,” said Rep. Michael F. Curtin, D-Marble Cliff, who sponsored the bill with Rep. Cheryl Grossman, R-Grove City. “ So let’s see if the market can work.”
The idea to deal with what Curtin called “zombie properties” came from Columbus City Attorney Richard C. Pfeiffer Jr.
“It quite frankly frightened some people when they first heard about it,” Pfeiffer said. “But where we have these blighted neighborhoods and nothing is moving, we need to do something different.”
Under the bill, if a property meets the legal definition of a blighted property, a city can file legal action against the owner and notify all lien holders that if it’s not fixed within a certain period, the city will foreclose on it. Without an appraisal or a required minimum bid, it will go to sheriff’s sale and be sold to the highest bidder.
However, bidders must be approved by the city to ensure that they legitimately want to deal with the property. If bought, the house becomes free of all back taxes owed.
In the past two years, Pfeiffer said, government and bank-settlement money has been used to fund efforts to deal with blighted properties. “That money is going to dry up,” he said. “This is an attempt to see if the private market will come back into these neighborhoods.”
There might be no market for the properties, Pfeiffer said, but it’s worth a try.
“When you say you’re going to sell a property without an appraisal, that’s radical,” he said. “ But you have to go into our neighborhoods and see that we’ve got to do something radical to make this thing work.”
The bill, which now goes to the Senate, also would set up a new fast-track process for foreclosures on vacant properties.
The foreclosure process is not working, Grossman said, because it is too long and complicated. The bill, she said, clarifies procedures and timelines for foreclosure actions and sheriff’s sales, and it would eliminate the minimum bid at auction if the house fails to sell at an initial auction.
“Vacant and nuisance properties are like cancer,” Grossman said.
Please click here to view the online article in its entirety.
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