Resident initiative takes on CH's vacant home problem
Do you ever imagine what it must be like to live next to a vacant, dilapidated, and rat-infested home for years and, in some cases, a decade or more?
Walk in that neighbor’s shoes for a minute. For years, they've called the city for help. They’ve attended council meetings and complained, only to be thanked for their concern. They’ve received endless campaign literature addressing the “housing problem." They even voted for Mayor Seren, hoping for the change that was promised.
But that abandoned house still sits there. To make matters worse, the neighbor gets a city violation notice telling them to fix their uneven sidewalk.
Since 2008, the city of Cleveland Heights has addressed the housing problem with no actionable plan in place. It’s endless studies and listening campaigns. Meanwhile more than 500 vacant houses continue to fester in our city, property values drop, and tax dollars are lost to the tune of $2 million (500 homes x $4,000 in average property taxes) per year.
Where there is a heavy concentration of vacant houses, there is a corresponding impact on retail. Consider Fairmount Boulevard and South Taylor Road vs. Noble and Greyton roads. Other examples would be South Taylor and Blanche roads, Cedar and Taylor roads, and Coventry Road. All these areas are ghost towns from 20 years ago.
The solution is simple. I have created a new initiative to work with the city’s Housing Department: R.A.T.H.—Residents Against Terrible Housing.
Modeled after M.A.D.D. (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), R.A.T.H. is an action-oriented enterprise. Our group will identify vacant houses in designated neighborhoods and alert the Housing Department.
Then we will post a R.A.T.H. sign in the front yard and get neighbors to join in a nuisance abatement suit against the offending house. We then take the house/owner to court, with the neighbors as our allies. We win the judgment, place a lien on the property, and then foreclose. The house goes on the market and whoever buys the property is expected to clean it up, pronto.
I have executed this action successfully three times in Forest Hill, where I live. It works. It’s simple. Most importantly, it brings hope to those residents who feel abandoned by their city.
For more information visit www.projectrath.com, follow the progress on our homes, and watch our signs pop up throughout our city.
Mike Reilly grew up in Cleveland Heights and is a longtime resident of Forest Hill. He is the founder and owner of Reilly Painting Inc., which he started in 1974.