Cleveland Restoration Society, First Federal offer incentives to sell vacant, rundown homes

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Cleveland Restoration Society, First Federal offer incentives to sell vacant, rundown homes

January 16, 2014 [Sara Dorn,]

SOUTH EUCLID, Ohio — In an attempt to fill empty, dilapidated homes spread throughout Cuyahoga County, the Cleveland Restoration Society is partnering with First Federal Bank in Lakewood to provide buyers with low-interest loans for purchasing and renovations.

The effort, dubbed the Heritage Home Purchase Program, is an expansion of CRS’s Heritage Home Program, which assists owners of homes built at least 50 years ago determine the renovations that need to be made and help them secure financing.

“What’s different about this program is a young couple can buy a home with this loan and get the money to fix it up in one transaction,” said Kathleen Crowther, president of the CRS. “This is sponsored by a non-profit, not the government, so there’s not a lot of red tape.”

For example, a $50,000 house in a $140,000 market that needs $90,000 in repairs would receive two mortgages — one for purchasing, one for renovations — that could cover up to 95 percent of the overall cost at a 1.89 percent blended interest rate, First Federal’s Jeff Bechtel explained.

Bechtel and Crowther joined South Euclid Mayor Georgine Welo, District 11 County Councilwoman Sunny Simon, President of the Cuyahoga County Land Bank Gus Frangos and County Development Director Larry Benders at a press conference outside a historic home in South Euclid Thursday to announce the program.

“This is just another tool in the toolbox for people to live, work, raise a family and have some fun in Cuyahoga County,” said Welo, who is particularly passionate about home restoration and was instrumental in developing this project, according to Crowther.

While the county will provide the bank with a subsidy that allows it to offer low interest rates, South Euclid and the other 30 participating municipalities throughout the area have no financial commitment to the program. Logistically, Crowther said, cities’ roles are to refer home buyers to CRS who then readies them for the bank and monitors the renovation process.

“From the county’s point of view, it’s important for us to find non-profit partners we know can administer the program efficiently,” Benders said. “It’s not just the money, it’s the support behind it. Part of the challenge with first-time home buyers is they are first-time home buyers. So we have great confidence in CRS’s ability to run the program.”

According to a Cleveland State University study, CRS has seen success in its original Home Heritage Program, which began in 2001 and gave its 1,000th loan in the fall. On average, Cleveland homes that receive CRS loans outpace comparable home values by about eight percent, according to the research by associate Professor of Urban Studies Brian Mikelbank (pdf). Bechtel said homeowners in Shaker Heights, Cleveland Heights, Lakewood and East Cleveland are the most active participants of the Heritage Home Program.

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