How Do You Stabilize a Neighborhood After a Recession? Cleveland Fed Discussed That Today

I wrote about Vickie Harris and her one woman initiative to revitalize her street. It involved taking a vacant lot and making it work for the neighborhood.  The Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank has a really great on line presence, just FYI. Today’s article shows why. We have had 10 years to recover from the recession and all the foreclosures (due to predatory lending and otherwise) that made housing sale prices fall and destabilize neighborhoods. Because vacant houses, especially in multiples on some streets, are about more than just sale prices. Fewer people to support local businesses and service industries, homes used by squatters for criminal activity, etc. No one likes it when it happens in their neighborhood and the discussion becomes: do we tear these homes down and repurpose the land or do we rehab them? Many neighborhoods have found rehabbing costs exceed the sale prices. Not optimal for private purchase or non profit redevelopment efforts. But this is not universal. In most neighborhoods, there are streets (after ten long years!) that are seeing stabilization. Home prices rising being an important indicator. In those areas or on those specific streets, rehabbing makes sense.

Below is a chart from a really good explanation of pros and cons to demolition vs rehabbing a vacant home. It was published by The Cleveland Federal Reserve today. (Chart is from their page)

Read the entire Blight Elimination article here.

What people in the neighborhoods, in city planning, in real estate etc worry about is demolition being so wide spread that it begins to change the make up of the neighborhood. I’ve lived in various states and believe me, the Cleveland area is very fortunate to have such a diverse, architecturally rich old housing stock. In some cities it’s hard to find homes built before 1970! The existing neighborhood and her people, you know, the ones who live and work there already, are why the Hardest Hit Fund (HHF) was established in 2010 to set aside Federal monies to help keep neighborhoods stable.  I lean on the side of caution; on the side of every year having land banks and local governments WITH community input look at their strategies and see if an adjustment is needed.

Read the article and let me know what you think.

What Does Community Mean To You?

I read an article earlier this week that stayed with me, bouncing around in my brain, encouraging me to rehash my definition of community and   how others see it. How do you define it?

Veronica Harris plants the seeds, literally and figuratively, of micro community: on her street. She became active in the type of community I spend most of my time pondering: people who live in a specific place, bound by geography. She lives on a street in the Mt Pleasant neighborhood on Cleveland’s east side. If you are trying to acclimate yourself about where it is: Union Avenue is the main street that cuts through this neighborhood with Shaker Square a bit north, The Van Aken transit line bordering it, barely, on the north east, and the Cleveland Clinic to the north west. Veronica Harris kept pondering, apparently for years, about the vacant home across the street which was finally taken over by the Cuyahoga County Land Bank and demolished. She wove so many things into her plan: planting a garden but having her day care kids and other kids help. The neighbors helped. There is education involved about plants and growing and agriculture. It’s inter-generational.  You can read Veronica Harris’ story here. The entire wonderful story!

There are various opinions on housing demolition and land banks in our neck of the woods, which is our overall NE Ohio community.  Foreclosures and predatory lending left us with a boat load of vacant properties. Our population isn’t growing by much percentage wise although it hasn’t gone down in the last couple of years. Too many houses? Is the City too quick to want everything demolished? Is it better to do something else with that land?  In this case, land banking seems to have worked wonders. Rather, land banking helped the community work wonders.