Dealing with what’s left

In Ohio there’s been a record-setting rise in home foreclosures every year, topping out at about 89,000 in 2009. The number breaks down to about 250 new foreclosure filings each day. If there are vacant or abandoned houses in your neighborhood your property value could take as much as a $19,000 hit.

Those imposing statistics weren’t the most daunting message of the 20th Annual Fair Lending Conference, held in Cleveland Friday.

Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis stripped it down to basics. “We have lost the foreclosure crisis. Now we have to deal with what’s left. “Abandoned houses are the dead after the battle.”

Rokakis said the County will have to borrow $15 million to keep up with the demand for demolition of foreclosed properties. His office funds demolition of 25-30 commercial and residential properties a week through Cuyahoga’s Land Bank. The program was formed to keep the land out of the hands of speculators, rehabilitate and resell the properties when possible.

The conference brought together state and national foreclosure and banking experts, activists and researchers to discuss next steps in dealing with the effects of subprime lending, foreclosure and unemployment. I was there as part of a consulting job as Communications Coordinator for Empowering & Strengthening Ohio’s People. Part of the event was a discussion about reinventing community organizing that  included Mark Seifert, ESOP’s executive director and Joe Mariano, the agency’s director of organizing. ESOP works on two fronts — they assist homeowners facing foreclosure with banks and organize community groups in distressed neighborhoods around issues of crime and neighborhood revitalization. I’ve been doing some part-time communications consulting at ESOP lately. The attached video includes Mariano’s experiences working with residents of the Mount Pleasant neighborhood, the community in which Anthony Sowell is alleged to have murdered 11 women whose remains were discovered in his duplex last year.

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