City leaders work to fight blight in Cincinnati - Cincinnati News, Weather, Sports from FOX19 NOW-WXIX

City leaders work to fight blight in Cincinnati

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) -

City council members are proposing increased oversight on blighted properties.

Council members P.G. Sittenfeld and Cecil Thomas say they will be joined by community leaders and advocates from Working In Neighborhoods and Legal Aid Society to announce a major pilot program to stabilize those Cincinnati neighborhoods hit hardest by foreclosures.

"Our efforts are all about demanding accountability," Sittenfeld said. "Banks and lenders must maintain the properties they own, just like the rest of us."

The press conference will be held outside a foreclosed home in College Hill. Sittenfeld's office says the property is owned by mortgage giant Fannie Mae, which they say has had 188 building code enforcement cases in Cincinnati over the last five years.

"I can remember growing up as a child and there were neighbors everywhere, people everywhere so it's a little shocking to see the neighborhood go down a little bit," said Tyrece Thomas who lives on the street where the press conference is being held.

He says the boarded-up houses reflect negatively on the whole neighborhood and is glad city leaders are attempting to tackle the problem.

"You get at us for not maintaining the grass or not fixing the gutters or what not so why not force them to be a little bit more proactive in the upkeep of it?" Thomas questioned. "How else are you going to sell the house if it's run down and falling apart."

Realtors like Mark Schupp say the blight is not just making it difficult to sell the rundown houses, but other houses in the area as well.  

"People beginning families look at that as a negative," Schupp said. "They envision themselves having a nice lawn party with their families and friends over and looking at the eyesore next door."

Schupp says the proposed changes are a step in the right direction.

"I think as soon as we can get some of the inventory moved, which would help if they looked a little better, a little more presentable I think that would definitely help stabilize the pricing," he said.

According to Sittenfeld's office, Freddie Mac has received complaints on Cincinnati properties 35 times in the last five years.

A spokesperson for Freddie Mac says they will not comment specifically on the newly proposed ordinance, but they did released a general statement on the issue:

Freddie Mac is committed to stabilizing property values and being a good neighbor. In fact, our properties nationwide on average sell at 94% of market value and two thirds of our homes are purchased by families who intend to live in them. For more information about Freddie Mac properties and sales promotions, please visit www.homesteps.com.

Sittenfeld said that too often foreclosed properties are left vacant, where they become targets of crime and sources of blight, and can ultimately end up in the hands of absentee landlords.

"This isn't just hard on people who are being foreclosed on," Sittenfeld said."This affects people's property values. It affects neighborhood quality of life. It affects neighborhood safety. If we can take efforts to hold those that now own those properties accountable it's going to go a long ways towards everybody's quality of life."

The key components of the legislation include a mandatory registry for vacant foreclosed properties; stiffer civil offense charges for properties not properly maintained; point of sale inspections prior to Sheriff's sales; and assessment of costs for code violation corrections to mortgages.

Sittenfeld says he is encouraged that a super-majority of his Council colleagues have signed on in support of the pilot program - which includes the neighborhoods of Westwood, Price Hill, College Hill, Mt. Airy and Madisonville.

"Individuals and institutions alike must each take responsibility for making Cincinnati a place we'll be happy and proud to call home," he said.

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