How one Cleveland neighborhood is fighting back against the foreclosure crisis

CLEVELAND - West Clinton Avenue along the Detroit Shoreway is part of a district on the National Register of Historic Places.

Looking at it now, it might be hard to tell that just a few years ago, this street, like many in northeast Ohio, was in crisis.

"Since 2005, almost 20 percent of the housing stock on West Clinton has gone into foreclosure," said Matt Lasko, with the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization.             

That stat rang true for the entire Detroit Shoreway. But instead of letting these once vacant homes sit empty, the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization took action.

"What we decided to do was look at the existing housing stock and try to control as much real estate as we possibly could," Lasko said

With that the Single-Family Redevelopment Program was born. Vacant homes in the neighborhood and the owners are identified. Then work begins with those owners or banks to get the title out of their hands and into the hands of the program or an approved developer.

Finally, the homes are rehabbed and sold or rented out.

"It's not just fixing up the property so we can say how much was invested in a property. We want to make sure we have good owners, and good tenants going into these properties," Lasko said

Like Millie Davis. She's been living in her new home here on West Clinton for two years. While Millie proudly shows off the renovations now, the house was not in this condition when she decided to buy it.

"If you saw the house, it was like the worst house on the street. It was awful," Davis said.

That's because a deadly fire gutted the house back in 2006. 

It sat vacant for years, and neighbors saved it from demolition several times while the estate was settled.

The Detroit Shoreway worked to get the home sold to the Cleveland Housing Network, which then invested thousands to rehab it and sold it to Davis,

"To see it come along from where it was to where it is now, it was cool," Davis said.

It's a similar story for many once vacant homes on West Clinton.

"We've seen bit by bit through programs like Opportunity Homes and other initiatives, getting people in the homes one by one. It was a great street to start out with and now it's even better," Fran DiDonato said.

While vandals did hit those once-vacant homes as recent as a few months ago, DiDonato said neighbors kept an eye on those properties, the same types of neighbors who are attracted by well-rehabbed homes.

"I think taking that extra step and putting quality work into it, you attract quality people who want to make the neighborhood better," DiDonato said.

"It's bringing new life and families into this neighborhood, and getting rid of the vacancy," Davis said.

The Single-Family Redevelopment Program was getting ready to close on the last vacant home on this section of West Clinton Avenue, one of the latest of the more than 70 properties the program has helped turn around so far.

 "If no one is touching these properties to be an eye on them and invest their money, we're just going to have more and more vacant, vandalized properties that are wide open to children that could go up in flames," Lasko said.

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