When the city of East Cleveland needed to find out which structures in the municipality were candidates for demolition, it turned to Western Reserve Land Conservancy’s Thriving Communities Institute for help. The Thriving Communities Institute staff worked with the city, residents and a community group, Northeast Ohio Alliance for Hope, to survey all 7,100 parcels in East Cleveland. Using mobile devices, surveyors hired and trained by the Land Conservancy went home-to-home using sidewalks and public rights-of-way, grading the condition of each structure, noting whether or not it was occupied and snapping an image of it. Less than 10 percent of East Cleveland’s occupied stock was in poorer condition (i.e., rated “D” or “F”), meaning that, contrary to some perception, the city has a sound housing stock around which it can build future strategies. Conversely, the survey found 75 percent, or 1,033, of East Cleveland’s vacant structures were in poor condition (“D” or “F”) and are prime targets in the city’s strategic demolition going forward. Knowing the current condition of these structures, city officials can now make more informed planning decisions. Other places where Thriving Communities Institute has completed property surveys include Akron, Lorain, Oberlin, Sandusky and the Buckeye-Mount Pleasant area in Cleveland. Click here for completed reports. Property surveys have become important tools for communities across the state.
By preparing and conducting property surveys, Thriving Communities Institute can provide cities, townships and villages with information to most effectively target their limited resources, especially in the wake of the foreclosure crisis. We recognize the importance of accurate and reliable data by which to assess a community’s housing stock and have focused the survey criteria accordingly. This criteria varies depending on the community, but the general questions include:
- Is the structure vacant or occupied?
- Is the structure for sale?
- Are there any code violations on the property?
- Is there a street tree on the property?
- What grade does the structure merit (A-F, based on a traditional grading scale)?
Surveyors in the field answer these questions for every parcel, entering their responses into mobile devices equipped with a program to store and send data to our server. Our Geographic Information Systems (GIS) staff processes the data to compile interactive maps, which provide an overview of the survey area, with parcels color-coded to represent where they fall on the spectrum from vacant to occupied. Each individual parcel contains a package of information, including a photo, all of the data we have collected and other publicly available property data. These maps inform the planning process by helping officials visualize problem areas, identify trends and guide decision-making.
Funding the surveys
Funding has come from a variety of sources — philanthropic, public and a blend of both. At Thriving Communities Institute, we look for ways to involve community members in projects when possible. Working with neighborhood development corporations to organize and staff the surveys has been an effective way to access local insight to better understand and meet the needs of each unique community. We are pleased to be able to offer this service and look forward to the future partnerships it will inspire.