Two-family homes are a boon to owner-occupants

A two-family home recently renovated through the FutureHomes program, on Washington Boulevard. [photo by Abby Lawless]

Cleveland Heights has more than 1,200 two-family houses, located in many of its neighborhoods. Also known as doubles, duplexes, and two-flats, this housing type was popular between the 1910s and 1930s, when the city was developing. Having fallen out of fashion in more recent decades, many Cleveland Heights residents are rediscovering the benefits of this unique housing style.

“It has been a great way to transition into homeownership,” said Amanda Isaacson, who lives in one unit of a double she owns in North Coventry. “There are good mortgage options for first-time homeowners and owner-occupants. The property pays for our mortgage and makes income. Buying and occupying a multi-family home is a great way to invest and create capital.”

A multi-family home is any residential building with separate spaces for two to four families. They often were designed to blend in seamlessly, sharing the eclectic architecture of a neighborhood's single-family homes. Some multi-family homes lend themselves to live-work arrangements, enabling owners to have convenient, but separate, home offices.

While renting out half of a two-family home takes effort, the benefits, according to Helen Hertz, are well worth it. Hertz, a longtime owner-occupant in Cedar Lee, and a realtor with RE/MAX Traditions, explained that any renovations or improvements can be used as a tax benefit. Though maintenance and landscaping can be a full-time job, owner-occupants can outsource these responsibilities to a housing manager or landscape company. “Owning and occupying a multiple-family home is a great investment in the housing market, and Cleveland Heights has many such homes for sale,” said Hertz.

Popular Cleveland Heights duplex neighborhoods include areas between Euclid Heights Boulevard and Mayfield Road, Severance and Cedar Lee, Grandview and Bellfield avenues, and the Noble neighborhood.

“When owning and occupying a two-family home, you are able to build a close relationship with your tenants,” Isaacson said. “We often see tenants get to know each other and develop community.”

Another benefit, said Hertz, is the ability to rent to family members, such as young adult children or elderly parents. “You can remain close while providing support,” she said.

FutureHeights, the community development corporation for Cleveland Heights, has recently renovated two doubles through its FutureHomes program, which renovates vacant and abandoned housing through a partnership with the city and county land banks, and trusted renovation partners.

“We thought it was important to provide quality and successful rehabs in our target neighborhoods, enable owner-occupants to accumulate wealth, and create stronger communities,” said Abby Lawless, director of real estate development at FutureHeights. “The duplexes provide more flexibility and can be a long-term income stream. We can also allow people to have space to work from home. It allows you to be flexible as the market shifts.”

“There are many beautiful doubles available in Cleveland Heights,” said Lawless. “I’d encourage anyone interested in investing in the housing market and becoming an owner-occupant to contact a local Cleveland Heights real estate agent.”

Learn more about doubles in the city at

Sydney Chickos

Sydney Chickos is a FutureHeights intern and a student at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University.

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Volume 14, Issue 2, Posted 10:47 AM, 01.29.2021