Cleveland, land bank and others get $41 million to demolish, rehab and improve neighborhoods

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Cleveland, land bank and others get $41 million to demolish, rehab and improve neighborhoods

January 14, 2010 [Joan Mazzolini, The Plain Dealer]

Cuyahoga County’s new land bank, along with its partners, received nearly $41 million in federal stimulus funds to demolish blighted homes and renovate others in 20 targeted neighborhoods throughout the county.

Cities, counties and the state of Ohio received a total of $175 million out of $2 billion in awards the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Thursday.

“Vacant homes have a debilitating effect on neighborhoods and often lead to reduced property values, blight, and neighborhood decay,” HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan the said in a statement. “This additional $2 billion in Recovery Act funding will help stabilize hard hit communities by turning vacant homes into affordable housing opportunities.”

The investment is “helping to eliminate blight, stabilize our community and stop the cycle of abandonment that has occurred. This program is truly helping to improve the quality of life in our region,” said Councilman Anthony Brancatelli, chairman of the community & economic development committee.

The new county land bank, along with the city of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County and Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, put in a joint proposal this summer asking for $74 million for 20 targeted neighborhoods.

Fifteen of the neighborhoods are in the Cleveland, and the others include parts of five inner-rung suburbs — East Cleveland, Garfield Heights, Lakewood, South Euclid and Shaker Heights.

Gus Frangos, president of the land bank said the money will go to acquire abandoned and foreclosed homes in those areas, as well as vacant property.

He said those that still have “good bones” will be rehabbed and financial help will be given to low and moderate income families to purchase the homes with down-payment and closing cost assistance.

Homes that can’t be saved will be demolished. The plan was to demolish more than 1,000 vacant homes.

One of the biggest challenges in Cleveland, now with about 380,000 residents, is what to do with the vacant land, Frangos said. And the group’s proposal is to turn some of the land into community gardens, parks and even urban forests.

“By rebuilding neighborhoods devastated by the economic crisis, we will improve surrounding property values, create new jobs, and foster long-term economic growth,” Sen. Sherrod Brown, said in a statement after joining Donovan in Columbus for the announcement of the awards. “By putting vacant properties and lots to good use and targeting funds to the hardest-hit communities, we can rebuild our downtown’s and strengthen our communities.’

The HUD money awarded Thursday, part of the $737 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act plan, was a competitive process, and applicants such as counties, cities non-profits and others had to detail how they would tackle neighborhoods with high foreclosure or vacancy rates.

“Cleveland and the county have been hard hit by the global economic crisis and these additional … funds will help to rebuild our neighborhoods, providing our residents with affordable homes in revitalized communities,” said Mayor Frank G. Jackson.