Abandoned homes and vacant lots are much more than an eyesore in major urban areas of Ohio -- a new study released Tuesday finds that they're costing city governments at least $64 million per year. The total is likely much more than that figure, according to a study by the Community Research Partners of Columbus, which said Tuesday that the cost may actually be 10 times greater once the costs to all cities and towns in Ohio are fully accounted for -- and if cities uniformly inventoried all of the vacant and abandoned property within their jurisdictions. CRP studied the effects of vacant housing in eight different Ohio cities -- Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Ironton, Lima, Springfield, Toledo and Zanesville -- and found more than 25,000 estimated vacant and abandoned properties costing $15 million per year in city services to maintain. Vacancies contributed to an additional $49 million in cumulative lost property tax revenue to local governments and school districts, the report said. CRP conducted the year-long work on behalf of ReBuild Ohio, a coalition of government, community, nonprofit and industry organizations funded by various industry participants. Some of the funding institutions behind the research include Fifth-Third Bank, Huntington National Bank, Keybank, JP Morgan Chase, National City Corp., and others. The research is being used by ReBuild Ohio to support a multi-faceted policy agenda to address the state's housing crisis. From the Columbus Dispatch:
The impact of abandoned and boarded-up properties is nothing new to Donna J. Hicho, who sees them every day as executive director of the Greater Linden Development Corp. "At the moment, we have probably close to a fifth of all Columbus vacant houses in the Linden area," she said. "It's not just a problem for people who live in houses and have closed them. … When we have boarded-up houses, that creates challenges for the other property owners on that street. They find it harder to sell their homes, to get renters and insurance."
In addition to the costs, the study found that many cities had a limited capacity to keep up with the volume of vacant and abandoned properties, in addition to an inability on their own track which properties were considered vacant. Cleveland in particular faces a costly problem; the study estimates that the city paid $4.5 million in services tied to demolition and boarding, and lost an estimated $30.7 million in foregone taxes. The study team, however, made one recommendation that should stand out to HW readers -- speed up foreclosures. It's a suggestion that seems at odds with most of the consumer-side thinking on foreclosure activity during the housing downturn, which has been focused on accomplishing the reverse. But it really shouldn't be all that surprising. If foreclosure-prevention efforts are increased earlier on for troubled borrowers, default and foreclosures assume their place as the last resort -- and speeding through the foreclosure process would reduce the possible amount of time a property may be vacant, lessening the likelihood that it enters into the vicious cycle of vacancy that can undermine an entire neighborhood's stability. Click here for an executive summary of the report. Click here for the full report (~20mb, so you'd better have broadband). For more information, visit http://www.communityresearchpartners.org.