breaking news

Trump intends to declare NKorea a state sponsor of terror

Advocates: New law could improve blight, including in Springfield


Ohio has enacted the nation’s first statewide ban on mortgage lenders using plywood to board up vacant structures, which some local officials hope will help disguise and stop the spread of abandoned homes and blight.

Plywood covers the doors and windows of thousands of empty structures across southwest Ohio — including in Springfield — and has become a symbol of decay.

RELATED: Record number buyers investing in foreclosed Clark County homes

But moving forward, lenders will be required to use alternative boarding materials, such as a glass-like polycarbonate that is easier on the eye and doesn’t advertise that a home or building is vacant, supporters said.

Gov. John Kasich signed this month House Bill 463, which prohibits mortgage lenders from using plywood to secure vacated and abandoned properties they are foreclosing on.

Critics say plywood is ugly, easy to damage and remove and itself become an emblem of decay and disinvestment, which is often no better than the broken-out doors and windows they cover.

The law won’t affect Springfield or other municipalities that board up abandoned structures, Springfield Planning, Zoning and Code Administrator Stephen Thompson said. He believes the new requirements might improve blight in neighborhoods.

READ MORE: $630K grant will demolish up to 65 homes in Springfield

“I would hope so but it’s hard to tell what the real impact of something like this will be,” Thompson said.

Springfield has hundreds of boarded up houses across the city, Thompson said. However it’s hard to tell exactly how many because the city, the Clark County Land Bank and a number of mortgage lenders all secure structures, as well as what state they’re actually in, Thompson said.

The law, the first of its kind across the country, means mortgage service firms and others will have to stop using a product that contributes to deterioration of neighborhoods in favor of alternatives such as “clear boarding technology,” said Robert Klein, founder and chairman of Community Blight Solutions in Cleveland.

Klein’s company manufactures SecureView clear board products, which are a transparent material that’s a substitute to plywood.

Springfield uses a different type of engineered wood material — oriented strand board — to secure abandoned houses, which are then painted white with no trespassing markings, Thompson said. Last year, Springfield spent about $22,800 to board up 94 structures in the city.

If the law were to impact Springfield, it could raise its costs by nearly 10 times its current rate, Thompson said. Strand board costs about $10 for a 4-by-8 sheet, while clear board products costs about $90 for a similar piece.

“Our costs would go to about $200,000 to do the same type of work,” Thompson said.

Clear boarding products are shatter- and tamper-proof, preventing vandalism, trespassing, squatting and other crimes in vacant properties, said Klein, who advocated for House Bill 463.

Clear boards allow police and property owners to see inside buildings to make sure no intruders or other trouble is inside.

Most notably, clear boards tend to be indistinguishable from windows and glass doors, meaning they don’t publicize that a property is empty as plywood does, Klein said.

“You can’t tell a property is vacant,” he said.

Clear boarding products are more expensive than plywood. A 48-by-96-inch SecureView window cover runs about $115 per sheet. A SecureView security door costs about $395.

But plywood has a limited lifespan and may have to be replaced multiple times if a property sits vacant for an extended period of time, officials said.

Mortgage lenders will be most impacted by the legislation, but they often maintain their properties using conventional locking products instead of boarding.

Fannie Mae, one of two massive U.S. government-backed agencies to buy and guarantee mortgages, was an early adopter of clear board alternatives.

The housing finance giant started using polycarbonate coverings in 2013 to maintain its post-foreclosure properties in a handful of states, including Ohio.

By the end of 2014, Fannie Mae had implemented clear boarding across all of its markets.

Vendors and mortgage service firms hired by Fannie Mae have retrofitted 4,000 properties across the country using clear boards, and they also have placed polycarbonate covering on about 11,000 vacant properties in the last year and a half, said Jake Williamson, vice president of Fannie Mae’s distressed assessment fulfillment division.

Fannie Mae hires vendors and mortgage servicers to handle administrative work for the mortgages and managing vacant properties.

Fannie Mae also now allows and wants its vendors and mortgage servicers to use clear boards to secure vacant properties that are in pre-foreclosure status, Williamson said. The agency may retrofit more of its properties with clear boards.

“We feel the product is a bit safer and more secure than plywood,” he said.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Are you driving with a defective air bag? Takata recall far behind
Are you driving with a defective air bag? Takata recall far behind

Only 43 percent of 28.8 million Takata air bags recalled have been replaced, according to a new independent report issued last week. Recalls have been under way for more than 15 years but companies are on track to fall far short of a Dec. 31 goal of replacing 100 percent of older and more dangerous inflators in air bags, the Detroit News reported....
Man pleads guilty to gang involvement tied to 2 Middletown murders
Man pleads guilty to gang involvement tied to 2 Middletown murders

The last of three men charged in a Middletown crime spree last fall that ended in the slaying of two people, admitted to being part of a criminal gang today in Butler County Common Pleas Court. Charles Ray Graham, 28, of 2002 Pearl St. was one of three men indicted for crimes in late October and November 2016 in Middletown that ended with the deaths...
Find out what’s new at Springfield’s big Holiday in the City
Find out what’s new at Springfield’s big Holiday in the City

Santa Claus will rise to new heights as he ushers in Springfield’s holiday season this weekend the 17th annual Holiday in the City. The festival, one of the biggest events in downtown Springfield, will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 25, on City Hall Plaza. It’s free and will go on rain or shine. When the Chamber of Greater Springfield&rsquo...
Clark County Common Pleas Court cases
Clark County Common Pleas Court cases

17-DP-1004 - Deylon R. LeLewis II, Fairborn, v. CarrieAnn LeLewis, 132 Catherine St., petition for domestic violence civil protection order. 17-DR-1007 - Cassie Godfrey, 1531 Sunset Ave., v. Jason Godfrey, 1334 Lamar Dr., complaint for divorce. 17-DR-1022 - Jana D. Clay, 840 E. John St., Apt. A, v. Mohammad Kahn, 332 S. Wittenberg, complaint for divorce...
Storm Center 7: Thanksgiving travel weather outlook
Storm Center 7: Thanksgiving travel weather outlook

If your family is staying in or leaving the Miami Valley here's what you can expect on the roads.  Tuesday night a cold front will sweep through from the northwest to the southeast. There isn't much moisture with it but some showers will be possible in northern Ohio/Indiana by late afternoon. The showers will move south and east through the evening...
More Stories