MReport March 2017

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TH E M R EP O RT | 45 SERVICING THE LATEST O R I G I NAT I O N S E R V I C I N G DATA G O V E R N M E N T S E C O N DA R Y M A R K E T Information Officer. "If the house is boarded up, or something like that, and I don't think that it's safe for my firefighters or EMTs to enter, then we will not enter. We'll call for the police depart - ment to come and give us a backup and maybe clear the area for us to come on in." An unexpected situation could cause a change in plans for first responders, Amador said. "We're there with the intention to help someone who has called for assistance, and we're unable to reach that patient because some - one is there to cause us harm or someone is standing in our way, obviously we don't want that to happen," he said. "With that in mind, we'll call for assistance or back out." If there is a fire inside a board - ed-up structure, the home loses ventilation over time and causes the fire to slowly die. When fire- fighters enter a home with limited ventilation and a fire is smoldering inside, the sudden influx of oxy- gen on the embers could cause the house to quickly become "a roman candle," Gustin said. "One of the issues is going to be ventilating the structure," said Lt. Steven Lawrence, Deputy Fire Marshal and Public Information Officer with the St. Petersburg, Florida Fire Department. "If we have an active fire inside, fire - fighter safety is our concern. Not only is our safety a concern, but being able to get the superheated gases and smoke out of the struc - ture are going to be a priority for us to deal with. The other thing with the boarded-up structure is, you don't know what type of condition the interior is in. A lot of times in our area, vagrants will get into the property and demolish it or steal the wiring out of the property. You never know what you're going into when it's a vacant structure, especially when it's boarded up. Our biggest concern is what are we getting into and how easily could we get our people out in an emergency situation." The issues brought on by us - ing plywood to board up vacant homes have prompted some in- novators to create alternatives to plywood—such as polycarbonate clearboarding and steel—that do not create the same concerns as plywood. "Those houses are used fre - quently by squatters, sometimes as drug houses to sell drugs out of, or drugs houses to use drugs in," said Mike Taylor, State Secretary and Legislative Chairman with the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio. "So you have that direct law enforcement problem of a vacant and abandoned property to begin with. With plywood on the windows, vacant and abandoned properties are easily identified. You get sent on dispatch runs or calls there for a suspicious person or possible drug dealer, and you arrive at the property, and you can't do any type of short-term surveillance where you can look in the windows and see what may or may not be in there or may or may not be going on. If you have a view through the windows through some sort of substance other than plywood, it's a huge advantage, not just for police but for fire that gets sent on those runs, so you can at least look inside before you approach or try and gain entrance to the property." Ultimately, houses boarded up by plywood can adversely affect the entire community, according to Taylor. "It brings a whole different character to the neighborhood, and with that brings other types of crimes that may or may not actually be occurring inside the vacant property," Taylor said. "Because of the blight it brings on the neighborhood, it lowers the standards of the neighborhood, at least within a block or so, and can bring its own set of problems beyond what may or may not be going on inside the vacant property." In January 2017, a white paper written by former U.S. Treasury Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy Aaron Klein titled, "Understanding the True Costs of Abandoned Properties: How Maintenance Can Make a Difference" estimated that one year of vacancy for one property causes around $150,000 in dam - ages. That same month, Ohio be- came the first state to ban the use of plywood on vacant properties. "Plywood is an outdated solution to a growing modern- day problem," said Robert Klein, Chairman and Founder of Ohio-based Community Blight Solutions (no relation to Aaron Klein). "We need to apply 21st century solutions to reverse the trends that are decimating our neighborhoods. It is my hope that other states will follow Ohio's lead - ership and enact similar legislation." In recent years, polycarbon- ate clearboarding has become a popular alternative to plywood for securing windows in vacant homes. Fannie Mae began using clearboarding to secure vacant homes in REO properties in 2013 and went nationwide with it starting in early 2014. But using it in the preforeclosure process began recently with the an - nouncement of the new allowable in early November. "The use of clearboarding gives off the appearance of a normal window, so the curb appeal is much higher on a clearboarded property versus plywood boarded," said Jake Williamson, VP, Real Estate Fulfillment and Operational Analysis at Fannie Mae. "The first thing is the curb appeal. [Polycarbonate] does give off the perspective that it's just a normal home in a market where you're trying to compete with nondistressed sales, that it's just a normal home. The second thing is, it's an incredibly secure product. You can literally throw a cinder block at it and it's not going to shatter or crack." "It brings a whole different character to the neighborhood, and with that brings other types of crimes that may or may not actually be occurring inside the vacant property." —Mike Taylor, State Secretary and Legislative Chairman, Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio

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