Two Cincinnati City Council members will unveil a proposal Wednesday to require banks to take better care of foreclosed properties.
Councilmen P.G. Sittenfeld and Cecil Thomas want city administrators to gauge the feasibility of launching a pilot program to improve vacant and blighted properties, which they said would help stabilize neighborhoods.
If ultimately deemed feasible and approved, the proposal would create a mandatory registry for vacant foreclosed properties and enact stiffer civil offense charges for properties that aren’t properly maintained. Also, it would require point of sale inspections prior to sheriff's sales, and assess the costs for code violation corrections to lenders.
The program would be tried on a one-year trial basis in Westwood, Price Hill, College Hill, Madisonville and Mount Airy. If successful, it could be expanded to other neighborhoods.
When foreclosed properties are left vacant, they often become targets of crime and sources of blight, and can ultimately end up in the hands of absentee landlords, Sittenfeld said.
"Our efforts are all about demanding accountability," Sittenfeld said. "Banks and lenders must maintain the properties they own, just like the rest of us."
He added, “We must all care about this issue because all of us are affected by it. If you live next to a vacant foreclosed house, your property values go down and your quality of life deteriorates. This pilot program provides an important step toward stabilizing our neighborhoods."
Sittenfeld and Thomas will formally announce the plan at a press conference Wednesday morning at a foreclosed home at 1540 Ambrose Ave. in College Hill. The property is owned by mortgage giant Fannie Mae, which has had 188 building code enforcement cases in Cincinnati during the past five years.
The proposal also has the support of Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and Councilmembers Chris Seelbach, Charlie Winburn and Wendell Young. That gives it enough votes for passage, which means administrators will report back to council on the costs for such a program and whether it would be effective.
Community activists and advocates from Working In Neighborhoods and the Legal Aid Society also support the proposal.
Cincinnati cyclists have been waiting for the arrival of bike lanes on Riverside Drive since summer of 2011, and patience is running thin. Yesterday, Cincinnati's Department of Transportation announced that it was considering "indefinitely postponing" the bike lane project because of possible future construction on I-471.
The plan was originally postponed because Duke Energy needed to perform some work in the area. Now, Cincinnati officials are concerned that the I-471 traffic could redirect to Riverside in the face of construction, meaning Riverside could become saturated with rerouted motorists. The bike lane project originally required a travel lane to be removed from Riverside drive to install bike lanes.
Nern Ostendorf, Queen City Bike's executive director, expressed disappointment with the decision. "We really have to stick to our plans and prioritize. If we keep being bullied [by the city], nothing's ever going to change."
Riverside Drive is currently a main thoroughfare for East End bikers who work downtown, but problems with speeding call for reform. "The road doesn't have the infrastructure that it needs right now for bikers to be safe," says Ostendorf.
She says that the installation of the lanes is crucial to Cincinnati's urban and economic development. "We need to change people's understanding of navigating space with things other than cars." Ostendorf says there's an immediate correlation between the installation of bike lanes and hikes in business in surrounding areas.
"1. There is no guarantee that substantial I-471 traffic would shift to Riverside Drive; 2. East End already deals with commuters speeding through their neighborhood on a daily basis. It’s time for DOTE to make Columbia Parkway the obvious alternative for motor vehicle commuters by going ahead with this project, which will reduce traffic and speeding in a residential area."
The post directs proponents of the bike lane installation to contact City Council members, along with Michael Moore, director of Cincinnati's Department of Transportation, to lobby for the reversal of the postponement.
Moore could not be reached for comment on Friday.
The wife of an Israeli diplomat in India and her driver were injured Monday when the car they were traveling in was bombed, while another bomb was defused outside an Israeli embassy in Tblisi, Georgia. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Iran, which he called “the greatest exporter of terror in the world.”
Cincinnati City Council is set to approve $960,000 to fund this year’s Summer Youth Employment Program, but the councilwoman overseeing the process wants to begin collecting data to track outcomes and increase efficiency.
Council’s Budget and Finance Committee this afternoon heard a presentation from city staffers about plans for the 2012 program, which is designed to provide employment and training for low-income youth.
Next month marks the fourth anniversary of a fire that destroyed parts of the historic Old St. George Church in Clifton Heights. But the structure remains vacant and building inspectors this week cited the owners for conditions at the site.
The city’s Property Maintenance Code Enforcement Division posted a citation Wednesday on the fence in front of the church. It was issued by Housing Inspector James Hatton, and states the building’s owner failed to comply with an order issued by the Buildings and Inspections Department on Aug. 31, 2010.