YNDC, Land Bank Partner on House Rehab Program

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio –Y oungstown Neighborhood Development Corp. workers toiled in the August heat Monday to get the house at 3215 Neosho Road ready for a new owner.

The house, in the city’s Indian Village Neighborhood, is the second one rehabilitated by a partnership between YNDC and the Mahoning County Land Bank. Under the program, the land bank takes a property through the legal process of clearing it of tax liens, mortgages or other liens that might be an obstacle to a new owner taking it over. YNDC then rehabilitates the house and sells it for market value.

Monday’s press event was to “highlight the partnership” and illustrate how it is “bringing vacant properties back to life,” said Ian Beniston, YNDC executive director.

“We’re not just tearing them down. We are creating new home ownership opportunities, working with the land bank to stabilize neighborhoods,” he said. “We have properties across the city going through tax foreclosure now for the purpose of renovation.”

One of the factors that keep houses out of reach for many people is that the properties are in financial distress from real estate taxes and other issues, said Debora Flora, executive director of the county land bank. The land bank’s role is to address the property’s tax delinquencies through the court process as well as “mortgages and other types of liens that are on property that could pass to new owners and make people want to walk away instead of reinvesting in a house like this,” Flora said.

The restoration of properties as well as demolition when it’s needed is important to both organizations, Flora said. “But we’ve always wanted to see more restoration of houses like these, especially in a neighborhood that has such historical integrity.”

To qualify to purchase a home through the program, a prospective buyer must be able to obtain bank financing and agree to occupy the house, Beniston said. There is no restriction on how long the owner-occupier must remain in the house.

The land bank-YNDC’s first such partnership rehabilitated a house at 778 Sherwood Ave., in the adjacent Idora Neighborhood. “It has resulted in a successful sale and an owner-occupant and that’s wonderful. We’re hoping for the same for this one and all the other properties,” Flora said.

Three additional properties are in the pipeline, Beniston reports, and he expects to have a few more by the end of 2015.

The Neosho land bank house will be marketed for $65,000, as will an adjacent house YNDC separately acquired from its owner and rehabilitated. YNDC views offering properties at market rate equally as important as affordability is because the organization is trying to establish “healthy neighborhoods of all types of people, not just neighborhoods filled with affordable housing for people of low income,” Beniston said.

“N neighborhoods that are the most successful are neighborhoods of all types of people, so that means all ranges of incomes,” he observed.

YNDC has rehabilitated more than 50 houses in Youngstown over the years, and that rehabilitated housing stock is drawing interest from a wide range of people, he reported. Purchasers include people from Pennsylvania, a retired couple that recently returned to the city after living in Geneva for several years, and people who grew up or lived in the suburbs making the decision to live in the city.

For prospective buyers interested in properties they intend to rehabilitate themselves, Flora says the land bank plans to make its “deed-in-escrow” program more public in the coming weeks.

Under the program, the land bank enters into an agreement with the prospective buyer to hold title to the property while improvements are made to bring the building back up to code. The inspector who generated the report on the property returns to ensure that the house is safe for occupancy.

“We’ve had a couple of trial runs now of offering houses and advertising them on our website with a code inspection report so that someone knows exactly would what would need to be done to make that house safe to live in,” she said. “For the person who’s able to do that with their own funds or with their own skills, then they’re able to buy that house at a greatly reduced price.”

Pictured: Ian Beniston and Debra Flora.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.