Northeast Ohio leaders find new ways to fund demolition

6:58 PM, Jan 28, 2013   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- Banged up, boarded up and left for dead -- abandoned homes are a problem for us and for the federal government.

Jim Rokakis is championing a new study to prove it.

"All I can guarantee you for sure is this: If you don't take a property like that down, it will like cancer spread. To the adjoining property, and the property next to that, and overtime people will leave these communities entirely. And who's backstopping those mortgages? You and me. The U.S. government," said Rokakis, former Cuyahoga County treasurer, now serving as director of the Thriving Communities Institute.

Cleveland has been aggressive following the foreclosure crisis. More than 15,000 buildings have been condemned since 2006. And the city's spent $50 million to demolish 6,500 properties.

"They've done a good job but the resources are running out now, we have to look for other sources of revenue," said Rokakis.

Rokakis is working with city leaders to fund a 10-month study to show the US Treasury how its funding up front could help clean up and clear out the old, and save us all in the long run. With the collapse of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the government now backs 9 out of 10 mortgages.

"It's demolition that helps to preserve some sense of stability in a neighborhood. And help to make sure that remaining property owners don't lose faith and walk away from their mortgage," said Rokakis.

When these decaying homes come down, so do crimes in the area. And neighbors like Chuck Maynor are more likely to stay put.

"They got rid of all that. There ain't but two empty houses left on this street," said Maynor. "Everybody likes a nice place to live, quiet neighborhood."

But drive around your neighborhood, or ours, and you'll find more work to be done.

Rokakis says they'll take the study data to the US Treasury to request funding up front. The study will cost about $140,000, much of which has already been raised.

Demolitions in city of Cleveland are prioritized by unsafe structures first, then those near schools and parks, then other public safety concerns.

There are about 100,000 properties in the state awaiting demolition; 15,000 buildings in the greater Cleveland area.

Councilman Tony Brancantelli says today city leaders heard early information on the direction of this research. He says it's a great opportunity to look at how we fund demolition, using the brain power of academics at the top of this field.


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