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Cleveland faces a number of specific challenges in the area of Housing that must be addressed:

  • Vacant houses, such as this one on Benham Avenue, can negate other positive neighborhood improvements, like the nearby renovation of Carol McClendon Park
    Housing Conditions: The aging housing stock coupled with low-income households and owner disinvestment has contributed greatly to the declining condition of many of the homes in Cleveland. Repairing older homes that have been neglected for an extensive period of time can be costly. In most cases homeowners need financial assistance to make necessary repairs. Vacant and abandoned homes are a sign of decline in a community, and Vacant houses, such as this one on Benham Avenue, can negate other positive neighborhood improvements, like the nearby renovation of Carol McClendon Park send that message to prospective homebuyers. One or two boarded up houses on a street can make the entire street appear to be blighted. Vacant homes tend to attract criminal activity. “The US Fire Administration reports that more than 12,000 fires in vacant structures are reported each year in the US, resulting in $73 million in property damage annually. More than 70% of fires in vacant or abandoned buildings are the result of arson or suspected arson.” 1 Due to the age of much of Cleveland’s housing stock, the presence of lead-based paint is a major concern. Of the 126,784 housing structures existing in Cleveland as of the year 2000, according to the County Auditor’s data, 123,485 were built prior to 1978, the year the federal government banned the use of lead-based paint. Elevated levels of lead were found in 26.8% of the children whose blood was tested between 1997 and 2000. The elimination of lead-based paint can be rather expensive and in some cases cost-prohibitive; but the effects of lead-based paint on the physical and mental development of children can be devastating.
  • Code Enforcement: Building code enforcement is a major concern of many Cleveland residents, but it is difficult to enforce the code on residents that do not have the financial means to make necessary repairs.

  • Absentee Landlords: Too often absentee landlords do not maintain their properties, contributing to a decrease in property value. Experience has shown those that do not live in close proximity to their property typically are not concerned with maintenance issues, and when made aware of them do everything possible to avoid making necessary repairs.

  • Affordability: The lack of affordable housing can lead to overcrowding, lost utilities, lack of home maintenance, homelessness, or sacrificing other necessities such as food or medication.Many of the City’s housing assistance programs are funded through CDBG (federal block grant) funds. With the recent cuts in CDGB funding, Cleveland will have to find other means to assist its residents.

  • Predatory Lenders: Many residents in low-income neighborhoods are taken advantage of by so-called predatory lenders, people or organizations that prey on the poor and the desire of many families with limited means or poor credit records to own a home. These loans are often characterized by higher-than-normal interest rates, penalties for early payoff, and/or “balloon” payments (the ability to make minimal payments, deferring the rest until some far-off date—which unfortunately one day rolls around). Predatory lenders typically prey on low-income minority communities where prime lending institutions do not exist. When residents cannot make the payments it often leads to foreclosure. The City of Cleveland has begun to address this issue by adding to the City’s housing law a codified ordinance addressing predatory lending (Chapter 659).

  • Foreclosures: A mortgage foreclosure not only result in the eviction of an individual or family who may have no other place to go, contributing to the instability of the neighbor and local economy, it is likely to leave a property in limbo for an extended period of time, increasing the number of vacant and abandoned houses. The City loses tax revenue and the home becomes a potential breeding ground for crime and blight. Over the past decade, the number of foreclosures in Cuyahoga County has significantly increased. According to a study done in August of 2005 by Cuyahoga County, there were 2,582 foreclosures in 1995; it was estimated that by the end of 2005, however, the number of foreclosures initiated that year would top 12,000, with the highest percentage occurring in the city of Cleveland. According to an article in the Plain Dealer, HUD reported that Cleveland had a default rate of 12.46% for FHA loans, the second highest default rate in the country. 2

  • Disreputable Contractors: Finding an honest skilled contractor can be a challenge for residents who want to build or rehab their home. Many residents have been taken advantage of by contractors who charge them for work that is either incomplete or not done according to code. In addition to being out the money paid to the contractor, the residents may incur fines and be served violation notices, which places an undue burden on them and may further impede their ability to improve the condition of their property.

  • Providing Transitional Housing or Group Homes—the NIMBY syndrome: There is a need for transitional housing in every community throughout the city. It can be difficult to find a location for housing for residents with special needs or those that seek to transition back into society after incarceration or homelessness (an estimated 16,000-plus individuals per year in Cuyahoga County). Many of those former prisoners being released back into the community are returning to the city of Cleveland. Many people do not want these transitional homes located in their neighborhood because they fear the residents will present an element of danger to their community; yet this type of housing is sorely needed and we must find a way to integrate it into the city.

  • Land Assembly: Assembling land for large-scale housing projectscan be a challenge due to the number of different property owners that must be contacted and dealt with to assemble a sufficient number of adjacent lots. Areas once used for industrial or commercial purposes may be easier to appropriate, but they are usually not zoned for residential use, and remediation of polluted sites can be an expensive proposition.

  • Beacon Place: new townhouse development along Euclid Avenue increases the variety of housing options in the Fairfax neighborhood
    Making Housing in Cleveland Competitive: If Cleveland is to be competitive in the housing market, it must be able to offer a variety of housing options. These days, people are often looking for a certain type of housing that will meet the needs of their particular lifestyle. Seniors, for example, typically seek housing that will allow them to be mobile and independent. Having everything on one level can be critical for some seniors. Senior apartment buildings should be built no higher than three stories or levels, in any case; and senior housing should be located within walking distance of necessary amenities such as grocery stores, drug stores, recreation, worship, and if possible libraries and community centers, and transportation, making it easier for them to get around on their own. Young, single professionals are typically looking for affordable for sale homes or rental units located in a safe area that offer a variety of shopping and entertainment amenities. Cleveland is in a position to offer just such housing in areas now designated for mixed-use, where there is access to housing—in the form of converted period buildings, above-street-level apartments over storefront businesses, lofts with dramatic urban views, or even combination live-work spaces—as well as to shopping and transportation. Like seniors and young singles, empty-nesters typically do not want to have to deal with maintaining a yard and therefore will be more likely to opt for a house with a small yard or an apartment or condominium. Families with children, on the other hand, may want to be in a neighborhood that offers larger lot sizes, to allow their children room to play, and homes with sufficient space to accommodate each member of the family.
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