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Ohio Senate Amends Proposed Foreclosure Expedition Bill

Ohio HB 223 Blight PreventionAn Ohio House bill that would have expedited the residential foreclosure and transfer process and taken steps toward eliminating blight and vandalism in foreclosed, vacated properties has been amended and was introduced in the Ohio State Senate Finance Committee Tuesday, a source close to one of the bill's sponsors told DS News.

Ohio HB 223 originally called for the launch of a pilot program in three counties in Ohio that would allow foreclosed homes to skip the sheriff's appraisal process and also to be auctioned with no minimum bid, thus significantly cutting the time that homes sit vacant and abandoned while the foreclosure process is being completed. Other states were already looking at adopting similar legislation using Ohio HB 223 as a model, according to one of the original bill's sponsors, Ohio State Representative Cheryl Grossman.

"It's a two to three year process in Ohio right now when dealing with these properties," Grossman said. "This bill will reduce the time down to between six and 12 months."

The amended bill, as proposed by members of Ohio's Senate Finance Committee, eliminates the pilot program – what the source referred to as the "meat and potatoes" of the bill – and calls for a study commission, ensuring that the lengthy foreclosure process will not be shortened anytime soon and vacant and abandoned homes will remain in that state, contributing to the spread of blight in Ohio neighborhoods.

"Earlier today, the Ohio State Senate rendered a bill impotent, a bill which would have taken steps to ensure that these magnets for crime would be more quickly rehabilitated and promote the safety of neighborhoods across the state," said Ed Delgado, President and CEO of the Five Star Institute. "A bill that could have become the template for a national policy on the treatment of vacant or abandoned properties. To say that today’s events are both short-sighted and disappointing would be a horrible understatement."

Grossman said the idea for the bill was first proposed by Columbus City Attorney Rick Pfeiffer, and it was introduced to the Ohio Senate in June 2013 by Grossman, a Republican, and Ohio State Representative Michael Curtin, a Democrat. It passed unanimously in the Ohio House in April 2014.

One of the main purposes of the bill was to work to eliminate blight, which Grossman called a "cancer in neighborhoods" and a "horrible problem. Nothing good can come from these homes." She said the longer they sit vacant, the greater the chance for more serious damage to the home will occur. Also, blighted properties often lead to vandalism and violent crime – and sometimes even tragic loss of life.

"Michaela Diemer, Mary Ellen Gutierrez, Jasmine Trotter, Anith Jones, Ahlyja Pinson … the list of names goes on," Delgado said. "These are just a few of the hundreds of women have been raped or murdered in or near a vacant and abandoned property. They’re ordinary people. People that were mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters.  The issue of vacant properties has become more than the expedient treatment of a distressed residential property. These shells have become a bastion for weapons, drugs, gangs, molestations and violent assaults. How many more must be harmed or tragically lose their life before a policy of common sense comes into play?"

The amended bill, introduced to the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday, will likely be sent to the senate floor for a vote on Wednesday, then to the house floor for a vote the following day. If it does not pass in both the house and the senate, it will go to a conference committee – but it is expected to pass in both, the source close to the bill's sponsors said.

The source close to sponsors of the original bill was disappointed that the bill was "gutted," but said of the amended bill that "something is better than nothing."

About Author: Brian Honea

Brian Honea's writing and editing career spans nearly two decades across many forms of media. He served as sports editor for two suburban newspaper chains in the DFW area and has freelanced for such publications as the Yahoo! Contributor Network, Dallas Home Improvement magazine, and the Dallas Morning News. He has written four non-fiction sports books, the latest of which, The Life of Coach Chuck Curtis, was published by the TCU Press in December 2014. A lifelong Texan, Brian received his master's degree from Amberton University in Garland.

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