It’s an idea whose time has come: renovating foreclosed and abandoned homes instead of building new ones from the ground up. That’s the new vibe at Habitat for Humanity—and it makes sense in a city like Cleveland, where housing stock is old but in some cases, renovation worthy. “This is a new emphasis of Habitats around the country,” says John Habat, Executive Director of the Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity Chapter, “but I believe ours is the first to focus exclusively on renovating existing homes.”
Habitat for Humanity launched their new direction at a press conference in April, held at a 109-year-old home on Clement Avenue in Slavic Village that was donated by the Cuyahoga Land Bank. Another six homes on Colfax Road in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood also will be renovated.
“That’s another advantage of renovating homes instead of building new ones—we can renovate multiple homes on one street,” Habat says. Clustering their projects in that way helps to stabilize the neighborhood. From a green standpoint, renovating existing homes means re-using materials that would be hauled away if the homes were demolished. And the project can be completed more quickly than new construction: building a house requires about 500 hours of labor, while a renovation needs only about 200 hours. At that pace, Habitat should be able to complete more homes each year than the eight to ten homes they’ve built in the past.
Still, Habat says, they want to do “as thorough a job as possible,” so the family living there won’t confront major repairs in their first seven to ten years. “Let them learn the tactics of home ownership slowly,” he says, “so they aren’t overwhelmed.”