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Cleveland is a city full of older homes with unique architectural styles not typically found in newer homes, much of which was built in the early 1900s. Many of the homes were built in close proximity to factories, giving residents access to available jobs. As advancement in transportation grew, the more affluent residents began to move further out, abandoning the housing in the central city. As people began to move from the inner city to the suburbs, the quality of housing began to decline. Many of the houses were converted to two-family and multi-family homes to accommodate the new immigrants that were moving to the area. These new immigrants developed several different, and unique, ethnic neighborhoods in the city. Cleveland ’s industrial boom began to attract a great number of African Americans from the south looking for employment opportunities. As the African American population grew, racial tensions greatly increased, and many of those who could afford it moved out to the suburbs. As a result the number of homes that were either rented out or abandoned increased.

The Urban Renewal (Housing Act of 1949) and the development of the highway system (Federal Highway Act of 1956) displaced many residents, and contributed to large concentrations of poverty in many neighborhoods on the east side. Redlining and white-flight had a significant impact on the ability of homeowners to maintain their property. As a result, the quality and value of housing began to decline and people moved out at alarming rates, which caused a decrease in the city’s tax base.

During the 1990s Cleveland was able to utilize the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 to get banks to invest in the City’s revitalization efforts. Residents in areas that were once redlined by banks could now receive loans for home improvement or for the purchase of new homes. By 2002 Cleveland had risen to number one in new housing starts in Cuyahoga County.

Quay 55, a former car warehouse, is an example of how vacant commercial and industrial buildings can be adaptively renovated as housing. [Lakefront – Goodrich- Kirtland Park]
As we look to the future, we should focus not just on the number of housing units constructed, but also on the quality and type of housing in order to offer residents a greater variety of housing options so that Cleveland becomes a “community of choice”. Income and lifestyle are critical factors when it comes to deciding where one is going to live. By using some of the assets we currently have, we can begin to create options for people of all ages, incomes, and lifestyles. There is tremendous opportunity for residential development in areas where retail and industry are no longer viable, particularly along many of our main streets. In some cases vacant buildings can be converted from another use (factory, school) to housing, as has been done for example, with the upscale lakefront condos now known as Quay 55 (a former automobile storage facility) and Famicos (formerly a women’s college). We must focus on creating sustainable neighborhoods that are safe and have access to basic services, shopping, and opportunities for recreation to address the needs and desires of all residents.

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