CLEVELAND - Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity has announced its 25th anniversary Initiative to select a Cleveland neighborhood to rehab vacant, foreclosed houses.
"The Great Recession and its foreclosure legacy have resulted in opportunities to identify a street and neighborhood in which GCHFH can focus its efforts and make a meaningful, obvious and significant impact in a relatively short period of time," said John Habat, Habitat's executive director. "We want to have a bigger impact on a defined geographic area and make that street a cornerstone and catalyst of neighborhood renewal and stability."
To do so, Habitat seeks to partner with organizations already active in neighborhood revitalization and build upon investments already made.
To help identify potential streets for this initiative, Habitat is soliciting proposals from about 30 community development corporations in Cleveland to nominate streets and identify resources they can help leverage to rehab the houses. Proposals are due by Oct. 25.
A Habitat committee will review the proposals and make a recommendation to the Habitat Board of Directors at the end of November.
"The committee is a group of relatively young urban professionals who have a vision of what Cleveland can be," observed Habat. "There is a strong appreciation for what Cleveland has to offer and a common-sense approach to urban planning and revitalization."
This initiative also signals a new direction for the organization. Over the past 25 years, Greater Cleveland Habitat has built 170 new homes in Cleveland. The average cost to build a new home is now $150,000 to $200,000, three times more than when Habitat first started. In comparison, houses that Habitat has rehabbed have cost less than $50,000 per renovation. The math made the equation compelling:
GCHFH can build and pay for a new house for one family, or instead rehab three to four houses and provide affordable housing for more families. Lower costs also will result in smaller interest-free mortgages that can be paid off more quickly.
In the past, Habitat basically constructed in-fill housing, and did not focus its building projects in any particular neighborhood. Some of the houses were located in neighborhoods far more distressed than others – challenged even to the point where partner families would not consider living there.
"Consequently," said Habat, "we have learned that we must be far more strategic in deciding where to invest resources and encourage families to live."
Habitat will acquire up to 12 homes to rehab during its 2013 construction season (April – December). It already has started to recruit new partner families who will invest sweat equity in rehabbing their future homes on the selected street. In addition to rehabbing homes for new owners, Habitat also will seek to partner with other organizations to assist current homeowners with improvements to their properties.
Habat indicated that about a third of the funds needed for the 2013 rehab initiative already have been raised or committed. Some of the additional support to pay for general operating expenses associated with the project will be generated by Habitat's ReStore that sells used construction and household goods to the general public.
"The common-sense appeal of this project is compelling and will generate the needed financial support," Habat said.
He hopes the 25th anniversary Initiative will inspire the next generation of construction volunteers to do the bulk of the actual rehab work.
"Volunteers make Habitat happen," said Habat. "Without them, our mission could not be accomplished."