Groups want Youngstown council to vote ‘no’ on regulating predatory land contracts

Local News

One story we followed extensively in 2018 was the effort to stop what was being described as “predatory land contracts” in the city of Youngstown.

In the contracts, out-of-town companies would buy abandoned homes and resell them for much more than they’re worth.

On Wednesday, Youngstown City Council will vote to regulate the contracts, but two groups say the law doesn’t go far enough and wants council to vote no.

One house on Youngstown’s E. Lucius Avenue was — until it was torn down — used by the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation (YNDC) to show how Vision Property Management of South Carolina would lure people into what YNDC officials call predatory land contracts.

At one point, there was a sign offering the house for $12,000.

But selling a house like that one, and allowing someone to live in it, would change under the proposed new law in Youngstown.

“If someone wants to enter into a land contract they have to actually get a home inspection on that property that shows it’s in compliance with city code, that it’s habitable before they can put somebody into the house,” said Jack Daugherty, YNDC Neighborhood Stabilization director.

Along with requiring an inspection, any property sold under a “land installment contract” would also require a title search.

What the law does not include, and what officials with YNDC and the group known as ACTION (the Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing our Neighborhoods) are demanding, is an appraisal and a minimum $5,000 penalty paid by the company to the victims of predatory contracts.

“But after review, we found that those are two things that we just cannot live with because they are very important to the people that are being taken advantage of,” said Dr. Rosie Taylor, ACTION board member.

“We only got that on Friday and so we want the city council to reject that and we want a second reading,” said Rose Carter, ACTION executive director.

A March bus trip to Vision Property in South Carolina and a subsequent federal lawsuit against the company brought attention to predatory land contracts.

Through the community awareness efforts of YNDC and ACTION, the practice has stopped for now.

“We’ve hit them in the pocketbook. We know we have woken them up and sent the message to them that we don’t want this here. Maybe they’ll go somewhere else and keep doing it but certainly not going to do it here,” said Ian Beniston, YNDC executive director.

Youngstown Councilman Julius Oliver said he plans to recommend council send the proposal to a second reading.

Youngstown Law Director Jeff Limbian called the proposal “the foundation of what could be a tiered process” and said that more can be added later.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.