Survey Offers Snapshot of Vacancy in Cleveland

A boarded-up house stands in Cleveland's Glenville neighborhood.
A boarded-up house stands in Cleveland's Glenville neighborhood. (Nick Castele / ideastream)
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by Nick Castele

One out of 10 houses and buildings in the city of Cleveland is vacant. That’s the finding of a survey of properties announced today. But the survey found abandonment is not evenly distributed across the city.

This summer, teams working with the nonprofit Thriving Communities Institute set out to take stock of how the city is faring several years after the foreclosure crisis. They graded and photographed nearly every parcel of land.

“They worked in teams of two, from the street or sidewalk, and used mobile devices to collect information,” Thriving Communities GIS director Paul Boehnlein explained.

In far west side neighborhoods, as few as 1 to 4 percent of properties are vacant. St. Clair-Superior, on the east side, landed at the top of the list with a vacancy rate of 24 percent.

On the whole, leaders of the project said Cleveland fared better than expected—about 70 percent of all parcels were occupied. And most occupied structures were ranked in excellent or good condition.

Cleveland Building and Housing Director Ronald O’Leary said the city and the land bank have already taken down 11,000 structures here.

“It’s a lot of demolition work, it’s extremely expensive to do,” he said. “But if those 11,000 structures were still standing, even a significant portion of them, I think that the blight and disinvestment probably would have accelerated more than it did.”

The demolition project has faced opposition from some city council members who say more properties could be saved.

O’Leary estimates it could cost around $50 million to bulldoze everything the city would like to take down. Cuyahoga County plans to spend about $24 million on demolitions countywide over the next three years.

Thriving Communities' director, Jim Rokakis, said he’s to secure some money for demolitions in the governor’s next two-year budget. 

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