When residents think of land banks, they most often associate the institution with vacant properties and demolition. Here at the Heritage Home Program, we are hoping to change that by providing land banks with the opportunity to incorporate a rehab program into their offerings, and become associated with saving homes and strengthening communities.
The Heritage Home Program (“HHP”) is a unique, preservation based program for older homes. The program is comprised of two parts, free technical advice on maintenance, repair, rehab, or modernization issues for older houses and low interest funding. The two parts of the program can be used together, or independently to meet the needs of the homeowner. This approach to home improvement provides the home owner with specialized information to assist with renovating older properties, impartial advice and guidance throughout the construction process, and competitive financing that can help make the renovation project a reality.
The Cleveland Restoration Society developed the HHP over 20 years ago in two small targeted areas of the city of Cleveland that were in need of revitalization. Now the program is active in 42 cities and villages throughout Northeast Ohio. Owners of houses which were built prior to 1966 are able to contact CRS for a variety of technical assistance options such as having a preservation construction specialist conduct a site visit at the home to discuss projects in person, expert advice on materials, a list of contractors who work on older homes, and review of bids or estimates to assist in choosing the right person for the job. Home owners can also take advantage of a low-interest home equity loan, with fixed rates as low as 1.4%. This subsidized loan program is made possible through partners such as the Ohio Housing Finance Agency. The interest rate is lowered through a linked deposit, available from OHFA and, sometimes, the local county. It is the low rate that makes it feasible for homeowners to finance a project with affordable monthly payments.
Does this program sound like something your community can benefit from? David Mann, Director of the Lucas County Land Bank thought so and took steps in 2014 to bring the HHP to Toledo. The Lucas County Land Bank has licensed the HHP and has begun to market the program in select regions of the county. According to Mann, the mission of the land bank is to strengthen neighborhoods and preserve property values. The Heritage Home Program is a proactive way to begin stabilization before properties reach the point of being considered for demolition.
So far, the program has been met with much excitement in Lucas County. This is truly an opportunity for the County to show its commitment to the preservation of housing stock and work to strengthen its historic districts. Lucas County is leading the way to show other land banks that demolition should not be the only tool in the toolkit, but that additional programming is needed to strengthen communities. As Mann stated, “By making direct investments, partnering on renovation projects, and offering the Heritage Home Program, we hope we are setting an example for other land banks across the country that balance is key - and it’s not an either/or.”
The Heritage Home Program is happy to discuss how the application of this unique stabilization concept can be added to your land bank offerings and what a rehab tool can do for your community. Contact Tom Jorgensen at HHP, if you are interested, at 216-426-3108 or by email.