Housing stock is CH's main asset

I don’t think anyone would disagree that our housing stock is our main asset. Without good housing we would not be able to afford schools. City government could be diminished by 25 percent. To maintain city services, we must maintain or increase property values.

I walked the Noble area twice with Greater Cleveland Congregations. We picked Noble because that was the neighborhood hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis. We looked for vacant and blighted houses because on any block where there is such a house the values of homes on the block diminish.

Don’t get me wrong—Noble is a wonderful neighborhood. The city contains solid housing. We are not in imminent danger of [not] having enough funds to provide services. But the city has not been vigilant enough in fighting to maintain the housing stock for homeowners’ wealth and for tenants’ safety.

During our last walk through Noble we discovered that there are an increasing number of investors who never even look at the property they buy. Sales are often done by Internet of blighted buildings.

There are an increasing number of buildings owned by Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs). Cleveland Heights’ enforcement code is ill-suited at regulating an LLC. We use only criminal penalties and it’s easy for an LLC to simply sell the property to another LLC, owned by the same person, and get the case dismissed because the second LLC was not served with the complaint. In civil court such a motion would likely be denied.

And for our neighbors who are still living in their homes but unable to make needed repairs, the court can only find them guilty of a crime. This seems unfair to retirees, and I know if it happened to my mother she’d be appalled. We need to fix this for our homeowners’ sakes.

I have a plan. First, add a civil penalty to the Housing Code. Then the court can simply add the new LLC as a defendant. Second, use nuisance law to put vacant, blighted homes in receivership; get them repaired, and back on the market. Third, add to the staff of both the Housing and Law departments to move cases along more quickly. Fourth, add to the fund that helps homeowners make needed repairs.

What are your thoughts on this and ideas for change? Let me know at www.melodyjoyhart.com.

Melody Hart

Melody Hart is a member of CH City Council and is running for mayor.

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Volume 14, Issue 4, Posted 10:03 AM, 04.01.2021