September 17, 2013 [Daniel McGraw, Belt Magazine]
In addition to the 8,000 or so vacant housing units in bad shape in Cleveland, there are an estimated 7,000 more in Cuyahoga County. The Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp. (aka Cuyahoga Land Bank) has acquired about 2,000 in the past three and a half years, demolishing about 1,300 and selling about 700 to private parties to rehab. Cuyahoga Land Bank Director Gus Frangos said he expects to take in about 700 to 800 a year, with about 500 of those housing units being demolished. About 60 percent of those will be from Cleveland.
Cleveland hopes to demolish about 800 a year in addition to those torn down by the county land bank, according to Chris Warren. So if you add the two together, between the county land bank and the city, about 1,100 can be demolished each year. That is if the funding can be found. The land bank is funded by interest on delinquent property taxes (about $7 million a year), but the city is looking for $8 million each year to tear down its 800 projected housing units it has determined should be torn down.
The city was getting some funding from the federal government’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program (to help cities deal with the home foreclosure crisis) but that program is now dead and gone. A new federal program–the Hardest Hit Program–was devised to help save homes before they went into foreclosure, but the U.S. Treasury Department has now ruled states can use some of it for demolitions. In Ohio, that would be about $60 million, but to be divided up in a state that has an estimated 100,000 homes slated for demolition.
Cleveland would need to get $8 million of that funding just to do its 800 a year. That would mean it would take Cleveland ten years to clear out the existing “vacant and distressed” housing stock if the funding can be found. That doesn’t take into account how many more homes will become “vacant and distressed” over that ten-year period.
A $90,000 shack
According to the 2010 census, the average house in Cleveland was built in 1924. And for the houses built in that time period, most were not ornate and stylish homes for the wealthy industrialists that still inhabited the city. Travelling around Slavic Village with Cleveland Councilman Anthony Brancatelli, you can see how many of the homes built back then were for recently arrived immigrants who held jobs in the steel mills. Most were just basic dwellings for the working poor.
He points to one very small house on East 66th Street. “This is about 800 square feet, and has no basement,” Brancatelli said. “There is no market for this house right now.”
The councilman is adamant that tear-downs are an important factor in the rehab market. “No one is going to want to invest money and rehab a house if it is on a street that has a lot of boarded-up houses,” he said. “And they aren’t going to rehab a house on a street where there are 800-square-foot houses that no one wants to live in.”