Cities need data concerning vacant properties and building conditions to make informed community development decisions. By preparing and conducting property inventories, Western Reserve Land Conservancy’s Thriving Communities program provides municipalities with information to most effectively target their limited resources for rehabilitation and demolition.
In 2015, the Land Conservancy surveyed all 158,854 parcels within the City of Cleveland. This data provided a portrait of the city at a discrete moment in time. In order to truly maximize the power of the 2015 inventory, the conditions of these structures and vacant lots should be reassessed and evaluated.
After strategic analysis, the Land Conservancy targeted and completed an update of the data in 13 of the most at-risk neighborhoods on Cleveland’s east side, which included more than 78,000 parcels in: Broadway-Slavic Village, Buckeye-Shaker Square, Buckeye-Woodhill, Collinwood-Nottingham, Fairfax, Glenville, Hough, Kinsman, Lee-Harvard, Lee-Seville, Mount Pleasant, St. Clair-Superior, and Union Miles. The indicators used in determining at-risk neighborhoods included the percentage of vacant structures, the percentage of structures receiving a grade of D or F in 2015, median housing sales price between 2005-2018, and the percentage of parcels that were vacant lots in 2015.
The update was sponsored by the Quicken Loans Community Fund, the philanthropic arm of the nation’s largest mortgage lender, Quicken Loans.
DECREASE IN VACANT STRUCTURES, INCREASE IN VACANT LAND AND GREENSPACE
The results of the property inventory in the 13 east side Cleveland neighborhoods surveyed indicate that the number of overall structures is decreasing, while both structure occupancy rate and the percentage of vacant land – often grass or green space – is increasing.
- There are less vacant homes. The percent of vacant structures has decreased from 16 percent in 2015 to 12 percent in 2018. This is, in large part, due to strategic demolition and blight removal efforts. The percentage of parcels with a structure has dropped from 73 percent to 66 percent, which is expected as blight removal takes place.
- The percent of occupied structures has increased from 84 percent to 88 percent.
- Additionally, 32 percent of parcels were surveyed as vacant land in 2018, compared to 26 percent in 2015. Given the large scale of demolition that continues in Cleveland’s east side neighborhoods, the result is a steady increase in the total amount of vacant land in Cleveland. In many cases, after structures are removed, land is graded and sodded. This provides opportunity to assemble these lots and improve natural features through greening activities like tree planting.
REDUCTION IN VACANT AND DISTRESSED PROPERTIES
Demolition of blighted properties is known to help stabilize neighborhoods by restoring value to surrounding buildings. While the Land Conservancy does not demolish structures, it does advocate for the removal of vacant and abandoned buildings.
- The most blighted structures undermining housing recovery, those rated D (Deteriorated) or F (Unsafe or Hazardous), have come down from 9 percent in 2015 to 6 percent in 2018. All neighborhoods experienced a decrease in the number of deteriorated and hazardous structures, with St. Clair-Superior seeing the largest drop (15 percent in 2015 to 7 percent in 2018).
- The number of vacant structures graded D or F combined with the number of structures graded as A, B, or C and condemned by the City of Cleveland has come down from 9 percent in 2015 to 7 percent in 2018. Similar trends were seen in analysis of residential and commercial properties.
- The most blighted structures undermining housing recovery, those rated D or F, dropped from 9 percent in 2015 to 6 percent in 2018.
“This reduction is encouraging. We believe there are fewer vacant and distressed properties today given the significant reduction in delinquent and abandoned properties, thanks to Cleveland’s concentrated demolition activity,” Rokakis added. “Nearly 3,750 have been demolished by the city and Cuyahoga Land Bank in these east side Cleveland neighborhoods since our last inventory in 2015.”
A-GRADED AND B-GRADED STRUCTURES INCREASED IN FOUR NEIGHBORHOODS
The percent of structures that were graded A (Excellent) or B (Good) overall was similar from 2015 to 2018. However, the percent of structures that were graded A and B went up in four neighborhoods: Buckeye-Shaker Square (82 to 87 percent), Collinwood-Nottingham (65 to 68 percent), Lee-Harvard (89 to 95 percent), and Mount Pleasant (67 to 77 percent).
INCREASE OF C-GRADED STRUCTURES
Our 2018 property inventory update revealed that the number of structures graded C (fair condition) increased. In contrast to A and B-graded structures, C-graded structures typically need maintenance and repair. If properties requiring maintenance are not addressed in a timely manner, their continued deterioration could impact adjoining properties adding to the total number – and cost – of properties requiring rehabilitation or demolition.
The number of properties with C (Fair) structures increased from 23 percent in 2015 to 27 percent in 2018, with significant increases in four neighborhoods: St. Clair-Superior (23 to 36 percent), Broadway-Slavic Village (28 to 39 percent), Fairfax (21 to 33 percent), Hough (18 to 28 percent).
MEDIAN HOME SALE PRICES HAVE INCREASED
Median home sale prices have increased in each of the 13 east side Cleveland neighborhoods surveyed, though there are disparities in the increases between neighborhoods and certainly between the east side of Cleveland and surrounding communities.
This upward movement in home sale prices is a positive trend which corresponds to the across-the-board progress that has been made in blight reduction. However, these improvements must be seen in context. Home sale prices on the east side of Cleveland averaged $75,000 to $80,000 before the collapse of the housing market. A 100 percent increase of home sale prices from $13,188 to $26,500 in Mount Pleasant, for example, is still only a 1/3 recovery, which suggests the job of blight removal and stabilization is far from over.