Cleveland council members: More vacant homes should be restored, not demolished

Council members sent a letter to Ohio's governor

CLEVELAND - Cleveland city council members Zack Reed and Jeff Johnson held a news conference in front of a home that is now on its way to being restored and will soon be rented to a new family.

It's a home Reed and Johnson report was obtained from the Cuyahoga Land Bank and was set to be taken down.

The Gay Avenue double is of one of dozens of Cleveland homes Reed and Johnson said they believe should be spared the wrecking ball and be saved, instead of being demolished.

Both council members report too many vacant homes in their neighborhood are being taken down by the city or the Cuyahoga Land Bank.  Reed and Johnson said they believe renovating some of these houses, as opposed to having yet another vacant lot, would be a big plus for their neighborhoods, and bring more stability and property value to the area.

"You don't need to demolish every building in this city. Some of these buildings can be saved by rehabilitation," Reed said. "By saving these buildings, you create jobs and economic opportunity. So instead of continuing to articulate the message, we brought everyone out here, and you can look at this house and see."

Reed said there have already been several inquiries to rent the once-condemned home.

Johnson is calling for the Cuyahoga Land Bank to be more careful is assessing when a vacant home should be saved or when it should demolished.

"You will find that many people in the neighborhood say 'Why did that house get torn down by the county?'"  Johnson said. "The land bank simply has to have a better process that allows for an analysis on a street-by-street basis."

Reed and Johnson sent a letter to Ohio Gov. John Kasich hoping he'll request some of the $60 million in federal dollars from the Hardest Hit Fund be allocated to vacant home renovations and not just demolitions.

Thriving Communities Director Jim Rokakis applauds the effort being made by council members Reed and Johnson, however he's not certain it's economically viable to save many more of the 30,000 condemned homes now plaguing northeast Ohio.

Rokakis points to a glut of housing stock in a region that has lost significant population in the past five decades. Rokakis said he believes there a thousands of homes that are simply too far gone with no chance of fully repopulating the effected communities.

Rokakis told NewsChannel5 going after "Hardest Hit Funds" isn't likely to yield any impact.

"Those funds are federal dollars that can not be re-earmarked for home renovation and it's not a decision Governor Kasich can make," Rokakis said. "Council members Reed and Johnson should take their case to the U.S. Treasury Department.

Still Reed and Johnson remain optimistic and will push for more home renovations as a key part of Cleveland neighborhood revitalization.

"A vacant lot doesn't increase the property value of a community. In some cases it brings it down," Reed said.

"We know a stable house, in a stable community brings up the property value, and it gives a sense of 'We can do this.' It brings hope and that's what you guys at NewsChannel5 talk about: hope back to our city."

5 On Your Side is also trying to improve local neighborhoods through our Building Better Neighborhoods initiative. Residents can report vacant homes by sending us pictures and information on condemned properties in their neighborhoods, and we'll forward the information to your city building department in an effort to move the properties to progress.

Information on how residents can volunteer in their neighborhoods can be found on the Building Better Neighborhoods Toolkit , or by contacting Hands on Northeast Ohio.

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