CLEVELAND - The use of plywood to board up vacant and abandoned property was banned in Ohio, as Gov. John Kasich signed into law HB 463, which prohibits its use on some homes. 
 
Proponents of the new law, which favors the use of see-through plastic sheets instead of plywood, believe plastic keeps areas with high rates of abandoned buildings from looking blighted. The law reads: "Sec. 2308.031. (A) No person shall use plywood to secure real property that is deemed vacant and abandoned under section 2308.02 of the Revised Code."
 
Ohio has the first state law to ban plywood in the United States, though some cities have also banned plywood - including Phoenix. The Ohio ban applies only to buildings on a fast-track mortgage refinance program. Robert Klein, who owns a business that places heavy plastic sheets on windows of abandoned buildings, founded Community Blight Solutions to advocate for the law. Klein is also the founder and chairman of Safeguard Properties and SecureView, based in Cleveland, which places polycarbonate on vacant buildings.
 
Plywood is far less expensive, running under $20 per window for materials. Polycarbonate material sold by Klein can cost $100 per opening. 
 
 
After and before pictures from Community Blight Solutions. 
 
Plywood makes buildings look less appealing say 
 
"Plywood is an outdated solution to a growing modern-day problem," says Klein.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 leadership and enact similar legislation." 
 

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Klein's group says that while plywood has been the standard material for boarding vacant and abandoned properties for decades, but it also has become a stigmatizing symbol of community blight. Plywood announces that a building is vacant and abandoned, and sends a distress signal of a neighborhood in trouble.

In making the case against plywood, Klein says it can be easily removed, extending an open invitation to vandals and squatters. It often must be replaced three times or more. Plywood boarded properties are a safety hazard, Klein says, and presents hazards to first responders, preventing them from seeing inside when arriving on the scene.

Clearboarding is a preferable solution, Klein says, and one that mortgage servicers will turn to as plywood use is phased out in Ohio. The plywood ban is effective 90 days after HB 463 became law. 
 
"Clearboarding is a new technology solution that is far preferable to plywood," Klein said. "It is virtually unbreakable, resembles glass so it enhances neighborhoods, protects property values and secures properties so they can be returned to the market more quickly in a more stable and marketable condition."
 
The ban comes less than two months after Fannie Mae issued a game-changing declaration to expand its reimbursement criteria to include clearboarding as a method to secure vacant properties, whether they are real-estate-owned or in a pre- or post-foreclosure state.
 
"The industry is recognizing what I have been advocating for some time, that plywood contributes to blight rather than prevents it," Klein said. "It is critical that this momentum away from plywood and toward more favorable solutions such as clear boarding continue in 2017."
 
Klein also played a significant role in the passage of HB 390, the fast-track foreclosure law Ohio passed in June to reduce the number of vacant and abandoned properties that remain vacant and vulnerable to vandalism and crime sometimes for years. That law also is a national model for states wishing to reduce the number of "zombie" properties in their neighborhoods.
 
 

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