Cleveland City Council to Review Mayor's Neighborhoods Plan

Windows and doorways are boarded up in a home in Cleveland's Slavic Village neighborhood in 2015.
Windows and doorways are boarded up in a home in Cleveland's Slavic Village neighborhood in 2015. [Nick Castele / ideastream]
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Cleveland City Council received a first look Monday night at legislation to kick off Mayor Frank Jackson’s $25 million neighborhood development plan.

The plan would use proceeds from a bond sale for the construction of new homes, rehabilitation of old ones, mortgage assistance and small business support in neighborhoods hurt by years of disinvestment.

Jackson is also proposing to promote youth employment and violence interruption efforts. The city would spend an additional $5 million to demolish vacant, dilapidated homes around elementary schools.

After introduction last night, the legislation heads next to council’s development, planning and sustainability committee, chaired by Councilman Tony Brancatelli.

“In this case, we’re going to be underwriting some mortgages, and having a backstop for the banks to have a safety net to come in markets that aren’t as robust as a Tremont, Ohio City, University Circle, but are emerging markets with good bones, markets that have good anchor institutions,” Brancatelli said in an interview Monday.

The mayor first announced the investment plan in December 2014 as part of a broader $100 million package. Council approved the sale of bonds in 2015. Jackson discussed the neighborhood initiative in the past two state of the city addresses.

“With the help of Cleveland City Council, I’ve created a $25 million fund for neighborhoods where traditional development tools and programs simply don’t work,” Jackson said in his 2016 speech. “This is not a nice thing to do, we’re not trying to be nice. This is not a nice thing—this is a necessity.”

Council members running for the mayor’s seat questioned why Jackson was rolling out this plan during an election year. In a news conference last week, the mayor said could have spent the money sooner, but wanted the plan to be substantive and sustainable.

In a speech on the council floor Monday night, Councilman Jeff Johnson said he had been waiting for more neighborhood support since he took office in 2010.

“And I have been fighting for action to deal with issues in my neighborhood,” Johnson said “Action that deals with violence. Actions that deal with investment. Seven years!"

Johnson said he would evaluate the legislation before deciding how to vote. Councilman Zack Reed, who is also challenging the mayor this year, said the plan is reminiscent of his own mayoral platform. Reed said he wants the plan to address jobs and violence.

“A healthy neighborhood is a neighborhood that employs the people in those communities,” Reed said on the council floor Monday night. “A healthy neighborhood is to ensure that those young people are safe, that the senior citizens are safe.”

The city has not yet said where development projects will be built. There could be plenty of contenders among neighborhoods that were epicenters for subprime lending, foreclosures and population loss.

Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland, who represents the city’s Central and Kinsman neighborhoods, said she believes there’s demand for housing development in such communities.

“Part of the reason that you see people moving out, and these are people who can afford to move, is because they don't find the options that they want in the city,” Cleveland said in an interview. “So I think there’s potential there.”

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