Demolition Program is Planting Seeds for Hope and Growth in County Neighborhoods
By: Kenneth Surratt, Deputy Director Housing and Community Development
It’s no secret that the recession caused an economic decline in communities across the country, including Cuyahoga County. Jobs were lost and the population decreased. If that wasn’t bad enough, the housing market crashed due to factors such as predatory lending. As a result, Cuyahoga County was left with an oversupply of housing that did not meet the needs of their current and future households. This lead to foreclosed, vacant, and blighted structures, posing safety concerns and depressing home values in many parts of the county.
In late 2014, County Council passed Ordinance No. 2014-0014, establishing the Cuyahoga County Property Demolition Program as its first attempt to resuscitate neighborhoods and address the blight holding them back. The first house demolished with funds from this program came down on July 31, 2015. Since then, over 940 more of these safety hazards and eye sores have been demolished, clearing way for revitalization and growth in our neighborhoods.
Blight is just one issue that plagues some of our communities. Many would say that the county housing woes still exist, which is why County Executive Armond Budish and his staff began to work with county stakeholders to create a county-wide housing plan that will address six priority areas:
- Access to Capital
- Tax Collection and Delinquency
- Housing Insecurity
- Special Populations
- Fair Housing
- Confidence in the Housing Market
We’re initially focused on demolition because it has been proven as an effective tool to stem the number of foreclosures and protect the values of the homes around them. A 2014 study conducted by the Thriving Communities Institute estimated we’d receive an average return on investment of 1.40 for every $1 spent on demolition in the Cleveland area. By this estimation, with our demolition awards totaling $26.5 million, we’d receive demolition benefits (an increase in property value) totaling $37.1 million – a net benefit of $10.6 million.
Blight removal has been aided by Federal Hardest Hit Funds and the county’s Demolition Program, but it’s estimated that the City of Cleveland alone, still has about 5,200 homes that need to come down. With another estimated 2,000 to be demolished in the remainder of the county, we will need to stay the course for a few years before seeing the full fruit of our labor. By tackling this blight, it will allow residents to see and feel more confident about their neighborhoods, instead of being concerned about the safety and view lines of unattractive properties.
What follows in the place of demolition will look different in each community. In some neighborhoods, demolition allows a homeowner to increase their property size by adding a new side lot. In others it might create the opportunity for a new home to be built. Regardless, each demolition is planting seeds of hope and growth as we restore our county neighborhoods.