State Reps. Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) and Adam Miller (D-Columbus) today introduced legislation to clean up blighted properties in urban communities across Ohio. The bill comes as many communities struggle with the state’s ongoing opioid crisis, underemployment and an abundance of foreclosed and abandoned properties. The Columbus-area lawmakers say their plan would combat neighborhood blight and increase local property values.
“By holding property owners accountable, we can begin to clean up and rebuild many of the areas hit hardest by foreclosure, underemployment and addiction,” said Rep. Boggs. “This bill has the power to increase property values, strengthen communities and make Ohioans proud of their neighborhoods again.”
The bill would create a criminal penalty under existing littering laws for municipal property owners who fail to keep their property free of dangerous garbage and debris. Penalties for blighted properties would mirror existing littering laws, and courts would have the ability to order cleanup. Under the proposal, property owners would have the opportunity to clean up their properties before being penalized.
“Landowners have significant rights and freedoms, but they cannot create health and safety issues for their community by failing to keep their own property to a relative level of acceptability,” said Rep. Miller. “Their neighbors and their community have rights as well.”
Traditionally, Ohioans have had to resort to long, costly nuisance suits to clean up these types of blighted properties. Adding garbage and debris left by the landowner, tenant, or agent on their own property to Ohio’s already robust littering laws would expedite cleanup in areas of significant blight.
Community activist groups have long called for stricter laws and a more streamlined approach to urban blight—some taking neighborhood cleanup into their own hands. The South Central Hilltop Block Watch, for example, a community organization aimed at working together to keep Columbus’s Hilltop neighborhood safe and clean for more than 20 years, will be hosting its 17th annual neighborhood cleanup event Saturday, May 5, from 10:00am-1:00pm, beginning at Burroughs Park, located behind 551 S. Richardson Avenue in Columbus.
“For too long, we’ve left neighborhood groups to fight what has become a statewide issue,” added Miller. “By changing our laws to crack down on urban blight, we can begin to reclaim our neighborhoods and clean up our communities one block at a time.”
Upon numbering and referral, the bill will move to a House committee for its initial hearings.