The financial crisis devastated homeowners and investors in Ohio and across the country. In the years since, we’ve made great progress but we know that the economy cannot fully recover until the housing market does.
Cleveland’s Thriving Communities Institute estimates that there are 50,000 abandoned properties in Ohio that have fallen into disrepair. Vacant properties lower surrounding property values and can increase the likelihood of crime within the neighborhood. Ohioans shouldn’t have to shoulder the burden of revitalizing these neighborhoods when big banks are to blame for the housing crisis.
In too many cases, banks generated billions in profits by disregarding the law and foreclosing on homeowners who were trying to pay their bills on time. When it came to light that the biggest banks had committed foreclosure fraud and used robo-signing practices that led to wrongful foreclosures, these large lenders agreed to pay more than $36 billion in retribution.
These funds won’t erase the housing crisis, but they can help reverse its course by providing critical resources for home rehabilitation, blight removal, and mortgage counseling.
Bank of America (BOA) recently reached a record-setting $16.65 billion settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which includes $7 billion in consumer relief. Ohio deserves its fair share of these funds. That’s why I teamed up with Senator Portman to urge BOA to work with the Ohio community groups that are leading neighborhood stabilization efforts as the bank distributes its settlement funds. By working with local partners who have been fighting to help homeowners and revitalize Ohio communities, the bank can ensure that funds will be immediately put to work to benefit the areas that need it most.
Ohio was hit hard by the foreclosure crisis. It began here before it reached many other parts of the country and, until 2012, Ohio had 14 consecutive years of increasing foreclosures. In 2009, at the height of the crisis, 14,171 homes in Cuyahoga County were in foreclosure. By 2013, that figure dropped to 8,829, but remains far too high. Ohio’s 22 land banks, local housing counselors, and groups like Thriving Communities Institute have worked tirelessly to help Ohioans recover. There’s still more to do, but these groups have a plan with proven results to use these funds to continue their efforts to revitalize Ohio neighborhoods.
I urge Bank of America to stand by their promise to aid the communities that they hurt so badly in the financial crisis, and invest these settlement funds in Ohio.