Cleveland Heights to Expand Partnership with Land Bank to Tackle Vacant Homes

The Cuyahoga County Land Bank will be able to evaluate and demolish more properties under new agreement

Cleveland Heights City Council approved another measure at its June 6 meeting to combat its vacant homes.

The city already has a few programs in place to rehabilitate or demolish vacant, abandoned and foreclosed homes, including the federally funded , which allows the city to purchase these homes that haven’t been maintained, restore them and put them on the market. 

And the money that the city receives from the sales goes back into the fund to continue to address these properties. 

The city will also use the funds to tear down homes if they can’t be saved, and now has another method of demolishing homes that could save money.

Cleveland Heights has had a Memorandum of Understanding with the Cuyahoga County Land Bank to work together to tackle the vacant housing properties in Cleveland Heights. The Land Bank can rehab, demolish or sell homes that it acquired in the city, like it does for other communities in the county. Right now there are about 11 such properties in Cleveland Heights, according to the Land Bank’s website

With this new agreement, the Land Bank can also help take care of the houses that private companies own but aren’t maintaining that normally the city would pay to repair or demolish, said Cheryl Stephens, council member and also director of acquisitions, dispositions and development for the Land Bank.

Council member Dennis Wilcox said the Land Bank will primarily handle homes that need demolished, not rehabbed. 

“I think it’s just one more asset or one more tool that we have to try to fight the amount of vacant and foreclosed homes (here),” Wilcox said. About 11 percent, or 2,500 housing units in Cleveland Heights are vacant, .

The Land Bank will completely cover the cost of some demolitions, said Stephens, who opted not to vote on this particular resolution at the June 6 meeting.

Normally demolitions cost anywhere from $10,000 to $13,000, said Kenneth Montlack, council member. During the May 16 and June 6 council meetings, members declared five properties in Cleveland Heights to be nuisances, and voted to bulldoze the homes if the owners don’t start to take care of violations and problems within 30 days.

Because the Land Bank serves Cuyahoga County and handles so many vacant houses, the organization can get reduced rates on home demolitions. Stephens said it costs about $7,000 to $7,500 to tear down a 1,500- to 2,000-square-foot home.

“We very rarely ask the city to share in the cost (of demolitions)," Stephens said. "We will try to continue to find ways to use third-party funds to (demolish houses) on behalf of the municipalities.” She added that the city can also put the cost of taking down the home as a lien on the property.

And if the city does pay for the work, it still saves money because the Land Bank can get lower bids, she said.

Stephens said the Land Bank will pay for the demolition of a few properties on Desota Avenue, including 3320 Desota declared to be a nuisance at the June 6 meeting, but has not received an invitation to bid yet on other properties. 

Montlack said the blighted properties in Cleveland Heights are mostly owned by out-of-state limited liability companies with no assets, which walked away from the homes after purchasing them. Those declared to be nuisances in Cleveland Heights at the May 16 and June 6 meetings: 

  • 3320 Desota Avenue. Estimated cost to demolish, $13,000
  • 1633 Coventry Road. Estimated cost to demolish, $13,000
  • 1655 Coventry Road. Estimated cost to demolish, $13,000
  • 1724 Coventry Road. Estimated cost to demolish, $13,000
  • 3563 Northcliffe Road. Estimated cost to demolish, $10,000
Susan Miller June 15, 2011 at 01:41 PM
Wow! Time for CH to consider offering sidelot expansions. I know that when homes are razed in Cleveland, the crews regularly plant grass to stem erosion. I hope that in CH (and Cleveland) the cities will consider using clover (low growing clover) instead. Clover has two benefits over nonnative grass. It blooms and provides bee forage and it adds nitrogen to the soil. This is good news for CH - another tool to make CH more economically viable, to expand potential land holdings and garden opportunities for CH neighbors and to avoid the costs associated with these impermeable surfaces. Much can be done with this vacant land in terms of a more sustainable CH. We can look to the regions center for good ideas on how to re-imagine Cleveland Heights. And it's far from over this vacancy thing. It can work FOR us if we don our thinking caps and come together with creativity and an indomitable survival spirit.
Michelle Simakis June 16, 2011 at 03:20 PM
Hi Susan, as always, thanks for your comment and for reading the site. The Cuyahoga County Land Bank does have different ways it helps cities reuse land after demolition, like offering the homeowner next door the side lot at a low cost, as you mentioned. They have other programs where they help cities create community gardens. Once this program is in place and the Land Bank is working actively in Cleveland Heights, we'll check in to see how they are reusing the vacant properties. Here's more info: http://www.cuyahogalandbank.org/demo_vacant_reuse.php
RT July 10, 2011 at 03:42 AM
So let me get this straight, a limited liability company with no assets can buy homes in Cleveland Heights and then just bail and I have to pay to clean up their mess. Great Planning ! How do I sign up for that program.
Grant Heineman October 12, 2011 at 11:40 PM
Wooooo! That's me in the picture!! Yeah!
Michelle Simakis October 13, 2011 at 01:35 PM
Glad you found it, Grant!


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