The Dispatch Ran A Lazy Hit Piece On The Columbus Land Bank Program And Is Getting Called Out For It

Drama:

Here is the article being referenced, featuring all the greatest hits, including “some people say”:

The city says it is holding onto the townhomes and hundreds of other properties for nonprofits to rehab or for demolition, both of which take longer than some people would like.

Yet some investors and real-estate experts say the properties illustrate a glaring problem with the city’s land-bank program, a 23-year-old outlet for acquiring vacant or abandoned buildings to sell or demolish.

Instead of being part of the solution to urban blight, they say, the land bank has become part of the problem.

Does the Dispatch exist mostly to carry the water of developers and the local real industry industry?

I have heard some people say that.

Moving on, how about listening to a local real estate developer complain about a “large, beautiful brick home” being torn down this year despite “10 investors who would have easily given the city $60,000, even in the shape it was in.”

The house was actually torn down in 2012:

Regarding 922 S. 22nd Street, the reporters implied that the property was recently demolished and stated that the “city gave it away.” In fact, the building was demolished in 2012.

Mark Ferenchik and Jim Weiker, two journalists who usually do a better job than this (although I’m now reconsidering past articles in a new light) need to at a minimum respond to the Land Bank’s statement on this portion of the article, because this is one of the most amateur things I have ever seen in journalism if the Land Bank Program’s statement is accurate:

South Ohio Avenue

The city occasionally hosts open houses for land-bank homes, but no one from the city showed up at the open house recently scheduled for a home on South Ohio Avenue, preventing potential buyers from touring it.

The Land Bank response:

Most egregiously, the article stated ”no one from the city showed up at the open house recently scheduled for a home on South Ohio Avenue, preventing potential buyers from touring it.” When we called Mr. Weiker to inquire about this, he said that he and a photographer went to a land bank property at 899 S. Ohio Ave. between 2:00 and 2:30 on November 17 based on an advertisement that he recalled seeing on our website. He could not produce the advertisement. According to records and the activity logs on our website, we never scheduled or advertised an open house at that date and time. We had scheduled and advertised open houses on November 7, 16 and 29 for that location. We had multiple potential buyers tour the building on those dates. We currently have started to receive applications, and we hope to have more before the opportunity to apply closes on December 4.

I have to wonder if Dispatch reporters read this portion of the Land Bank Program’s response and wonder what is in it for real estate investors, you know, the people who matter most:

The premise behind much of the article is that the City and COCIC should sell houses as quickly as possible. That is one of our objectives, but we have other objectives and considerations. In rapidly redeveloping neighborhoods, we work to ensure that some affordable housing remains in the neighborhood for working families. In all of our neighborhoods, we work to ensure that buyers have the ability to complete the rehabilitation, not just to buy the building. Rehabilitating a home that has been abandoned requires more than $5,000 and a YouTube video. One of the worst things that we can do is sell a property to a private investor who cannot or does not finish the rehabilitation. Our efforts to foster mixed income neighborhoods and quality development take time. However, it is time well spent.

If you think I’m being harsh, check out how even when they spoke to Land Bank Program enthusiasts, Ferenchik and Weiker spun it as a negative:

“I really like the program,” Esteban Saldarriaga said. “At the beginning, the process is long, but once you do it, it’s not so hard.”

He did acknowledge, though, that he would like to see the land bank release more properties. “I see some houses and some multifamily properties that I would love the opportunity to rehab.”

So, to recap, Saldarriaga thinks the program isn’t hard, and would like to work with more land bank properties, but once that goes through the Dispatch grinder it becomes “He did acknowledge, though”.

Service journalism” is usually meant as service to readers, not real estate developers with an axe to grind.

How does an article like this happen?