Forest Hill Home Owners association enforces covenants and protects housing standards
The Forest Hill Home Owners association (FHHO) is a nonprofit founded in 1950. Forest Hill spans both Cleveland Heights and East Cleveland, containing 991 single-family residences and a small number of apartment buildings. It’s important to understand that FHHO does not possess the mechanisms of a modern HOA—mandatory dues, the ability to make repairs and bill the homeowner, or the ability to easily attach liens to properties. FHHO does, however, have standards relating to siding, roofing, landscaping and general exterior maintenance that go beyond both Cleveland Heights and East Cleveland housing standards.
FHHO views its relationship with Cleveland Heights as a strong and productive one. Cleveland Heights has been responsive in assisting FHHO to address non-operational vehicles, broken streetlights and damaged fire hydrants. With the privatization of housing inspections, we did lose a tile roof, but the city renewed its commitment to preserving our historic housing stock, and we had a productive conversation with the private inspection company.
East Cleveland, however, has been more problematic, which shouldn’t come as a surprise given the dire financial straits faced by the city. FHHO had a good relationship with former Mayor Norton, and will be meeting with Mayor King to discuss Forest Hill, and determine how East Cleveland can support Forest Hill’s housing standards.
FHHO’s Standards Committee handled 63 violations in 2016, along with 7 variance applications. The vast majority relate to paint, gutters, landscaping and driveway condition, or other minor violations. Most of these violations are addressed by the homeowners within a reasonable time frame. However, we do have long-term housing issues that are not so easy to remedy. Each situation is different.
The house at 15922 Forest Hills Blvd., in East Cleveland, is indeed an eyesore. The previous owner passed away, after using the equity in the property to finance his business. The house has been uninhabited for a number of years. In spite of our best efforts, FHHO has not been able to identify the current owner of the property. To help with resolution, Senator Sherrod Brown’s office is assisting through contacts at the FDIC.
In another case, a resident had moved to a relative’s house for an extended period of time, due to a series of illnesses. A kind call from FHHO resulted in the homeowner returning to her home. With volunteer help from the neighborhood, we addressed landscaping issues at the house and, through a Cleveland Heights grant, the homeowner was able to have her house repainted. With a single phone call, the Forest Hill community was able to help a distressed resident become a vibrant and welcome homeowner—a success by any measure.
In the case of 2558 Newbury Drive, a house acquired by the Cuyahoga Land Bank, construction took longer to begin than the Land Bank originally estimated, but work is currently underway, as is evident from the pulled and posted permits on the building. FHHO has met with the Land Bank and developer to ensure that its standards are met. We look forward to a new homeowner at this residence in the coming months.
FHHO has cultivated a relationship with the Land Bank; FHHO met with Gus Frangos, its president, last year. During that discussion, we agreed in principal how FHHO and the Land Bank can work together to identify any Forest Hill property that is facing a tax foreclosure, and ensure that FHHO can acquire the property. FHHO’s goal in acquiring these properties is to rehabilitate them in keeping with Forest Hill standards, with an eye toward universal design (http://www.universaldesign.com). This aligns with FHHO's strategic agenda of developing an aging-in-place capability (http://www.vtvnetwork.org/) within Forest Hill.
Pete Grebus, president of Forest Hill Home Owners Association, is focused on building community and enabling residents to stay in their homes as long as possible.