COLERAIN TOWNSHIP, Ohio — A newly introduced Ohio Senate bill aims to slow down the so-called bulk buying of foreclosed Tri-State homes that is forcing some tenants out.
State Sen. Louis W. Blessing III (R - Colerain Township) introduced the bill Monday after seeing reports about the thousands of single-family homes purchased across the state each year by out-of-state investors.
"While this makes good business sense it is devastating to the health of our nation," Blessing wrote. "To my knowledge, we haven't really touched anything in this space in the general assembly, but it seems to be on everybody's radar — whether you're looking on Next Door or Facebook or Twitter or whatever."
The bill, which focuses on foreclosed homes, would establish a 45-day period to allow tenants, owner-occupants and local non-profits or municipalities to bid on the home ahead of an outside investor.
"It gives a first right of refusal to an enumerated list of folks," he said.
The bill is modeled after a California bill, SB 1079.
Blessing said he believes increasing homeownership increases the strength of a neighborhood.
"Homeownership in and of itself is a good thing," Blessing said. "It's an opportunity to create intergenerational wealth, it helps with family formation."
An analysis by real estate company Redfin in February found more than 16% of Cincinnati metro home sales in the fourth quarter of 2021 were to investors.
"I look at the institutional investors, and they're just looking for a yield on this; the same way they would if they were investing in the stock market at large," Blessing said. "The problem is, we're talking about housing here and this is a little more complicated. I think we need to balance the needs of people and a place to live versus a return on investment."
An analysis from The Port, provided to WCPO 9 News, showed the most active investor in Hamilton County has been a company called Vinebrook. It has acquired more than 3,200 properties since 2014, - and 1,712 just in 2019.
In December, The Port purchased 194 single-family homes from an out-of-state landlord with a history of delinquent property taxes and code violations. The goal, it said, is to "reclaim" the homes and help the tenants purchase them.
It has not sold any of the homes yet, but CEO Laura Brunner said it is working with the tenants and preparing them with homeownership and finances classes. She welcomed Blessing's new bill and further scrutiny of the bulk buying practice.
"If we care about people who live in a neighborhood owning their own neighborhood, we have to step in and say this is enough," said Brunner.