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Cleveland approves $15M in grants for home repair, other programs to address vacancy, blight

Justin Glanville
Ideastream Public Media
Habitat for Humanity, one of six nonprofits to receive grant funding from the city of Cleveland, will use its $1.5 million to kickstart a new home repair program.

Cleveland is investing $15 million in six local nonprofits to address blighted and vacant properties across the city, using federal stimulus dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act.

The six nonprofits receiving grants will focus on loan assistance for minority developers and low-income residents, as well as home and small business repairs, according to city council.

The recipients include the Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity, CHN Housing Partners, Cleveland Restoration Society, Local Initiatives Support Corporation Cleveland, Cleveland Development Advisory Community Reinvestment Fund and Village Capital Corporation.

“It's about being comprehensive,” said Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity’s President and CEO John Litten. “We know the need is greater than any one organization can fill, so I'm just glad there's so many great organizations at the table, as opposed to looking at it competitively.”

Habitat for Humanity will use its $1.5 million grant to kickstart a new home repair program, which will tackle major issues like new roofs, siding and more, up to $25,000 at no cost to customers, he said.

“This adds to a comprehensive approach to helping communities and neighborhoods as opposed to building houses, one-offs, here and there,” said Litten.

The council approved the grants, funded by the more than $500 million the city received in federal COVID-19 relief stimulus, during a marathon council meeting last week.

In addition to home repairs, the grants will go toward offering more accessible loans to lower-income home buyers. Ward 8 Councilmember Mike Polensek, who represents Collinwood and parts of Glenville, said he is cautiously optimistic about the proposals after decades of disinvestment in his East Side ward.

“When you look at the age of our housing stock, people need help,” Polensek said. “When you look at neighborhoods of color, ethnically and racially diverse neighborhoods, older neighborhoods on the East Side, they’re redlined: You can’t get mortgage loans or rehab loans.”

Although council members welcomed the city’s home repair investment, some worried it wasn’t enough.

“$10 million in home repair for this entire city out of a $511 million ARPA allocation … falls woefully short,” said Ward 15 Councilmember Jenny Spencer, whose ward includes Edgewater and Cudell. “There are very few pieces of the ARPA work we have passed that residents will be able to touch and feel and say, 'This made a difference in my life.’”

She and others also expressed concern over the logistics of having to navigate various organizations’ offerings without one succinct place to check eligibility for programs before ultimately approving its passage.

Each organization will facilitate its own programs, which will likely begin next year.

Abbey Marshall covers Cleveland-area government and politics for Ideastream Public Media.