Pilot program calls for investments to establish Clark Fulton as a mixed income neighborhood
by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, June 2019) Metro West Managing Director Ricardo León and Metro West Director of Community Engagement Adam Gifford announced at a kickoff meeting on May 8ththat the City of Cleveland has designated the Clark Fulton neighborhood as the target area for a new housing program. The program is called the FHAct50 Target Area Plan. Metro West Community Development Organization said in a press release describing the program that “each affordable housing unit created through FHAct50 must be matched by a market-rate housing unit produced at the same time and within the same neighborhood. The City of Cleveland voluntarily opted into this program and will have access to draw down credits in 2019, 2020, and 2021.”
Councilwoman Jasmin Santana says, “As a long-time resident and the new Cleveland City Council representativefor Ward 14, I am beyond excited that the Clark- Fulton neighborhood waschosen to receive the FAHcts50 funding. The timing is right as the FHAct50program will align perfectly with the Mayor’s Neighborhood Transformation andMetroHealth’s Hospital Transformation.
“It’s important to me that we develop a community that is inclusive, providesmuch needed affordable housing and that the residents are being engaged throughout the entire process. I want to ensure their voice and vision ofcommunity is reflected in the development plans for the neighborhood.
“Currently my office is collaborating with stakeholders in particular City ofCleveland, MetroWest CDO, MetroHealth and residents to create a sharedvision, a plan that will reflect the neighborhoods needs and be equitable for all.”
The Ohio Housing Finance Agency created the FHAct 50 Target Area Plan program to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the federal Fair Housing Act. The federal Fair Housing Act was passed by Congress fifty years ago to address housing discrimination practices by banks and lending institutions, real estate companies and landlords that led to increased racial and ethnic segregation and lack of investment in low income neighborhoods.
The three-year FHAct 50 Target Area pilot program calls for investing federal, state and local funds to create and support mixed-income neighborhoods.
The Clark Fulton neighborhood which stretches from W. 25thto W. 44thwith most of the neighborhood lying South of I-90 except for the Queen, Barber, Vega area just north of I-90 along W. 25thStreet. The southern boundary is Woodbridge from W. 25thto Fulton and then south on Fulton to Hodgson Avenue, and from Hodgson to W. 44th.
Reports from the City of Cleveland Planning Department and Thriving Communities demonstrate the serious needs of the Clark Fulton neighborhood.
The City of Cleveland Planning Department analysis of the Clark Fulton Statistical Planning area, based on the 2010 United States Census, estimates the poverty rate in the neighborhood to be at 38%, the child poverty rate at 52% and the elder poverty rate to be at 24%. All of these poverty rates are above the City of Cleveland averages. The City of Cleveland Planning Department document says there are 2,942 Occupied Housing Units in the neighborhood and 828 vacant housing units. 763 housing units are listed as owned with a mortgage loan; 427 housing units are listed as owned free and clear; and 1,753 housing units are listed as renter occupied.
A report by the Western Reserve Land Conservancy’s Thriving Communities Program, titled Cleveland Neighborhoods by The Numbers: 2015 Cleveland Property Inventory, says 3.1 to 5% of all structures in the Clark Fulton neighborhood have a D or F grade indicating they are distressed properties. The report says the median sales price for homes in the Clark Fulton neighborhood in 2015 was $19,861, down 31% from the peak median sales price in the neighborhood of $65,000 in 2006. The report also notes some public health issues by neighborhood. Elevated lead blood levels for children under age five in the Clark Metro neighborhood by census tract range from 19.9% of children with elevated lead levels to over 34.8% of children with elevated lead levels in different parts of the neighborhood.
At the May 8thmeeting held at City Life center on Trowbridge, Metro West Community Development Organization Managing Director León introduced consultants Aaron Sorrell of Community Planning Insights and Jose Castrejon of MSP Design. The consultants explained that they were under a City of Cleveland imposed end of May deadline to come up with a draft plan for the project. The plan, they said, is needed soon, to allow potential developers to apply for Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax credits for 2019, 2020 and 2021 for housing development in the neighborhood.
To speed the process the consultants provided residents in attendance to fill out a survey that they said would “help determine the needs of the community and its residents in the areas of affordable housing, community and economic development and other areas, such as infrastructure, parks, and cultural amenities.”
The consultants also asked residents to comment on and add to existing plans that have been developed for the Clark Fulton neighborhood. They presented outlines of various past plans and their goals. Residents were asked to add comments to the existing plans. Notably missing from the plans presented to comment on were Metro Health Medical Center’s plans for redesigning and rebuilding their hospital campus.
Residents offered a number of suggestions to planners including: better marketing of neighborhood businesses; creating more off street parking on Clark Avenue and W. 25thStreet; creating a fund to clean sidewalks and shovel snow on sidewalks on Clark Avenue; restoring the Clark Avenue bus; regular emptying of trash bins; regular clean-ups and maintenance along Train Avenue; and turning vacant lots over to community groups for gardens or to neighbors for lot expansion.
Residents also called for demolition of vacant houses thereby increasing the level of security to prevent property crimes.
Residents and stakeholders talked about MetroHealth Medical Center playing a role in workforce development and using local businesses as part of their supply chain. They called for investment by the hospital in neighborhood residents. They noted MetroHealth’s joint educational program with Lincoln West High School.
There was some discussion about the churches along Scranton and W. 25thacross from Applewood Center in the Jones Home Historic District as to whether they should be preserved and restored or demolished.
One stakeholder asked for better communication about where a person should go for resources if they are interested in doing development in the neighborhood.
A call was made for the creation of a homeowner assistance program to help assure that longtime homeowners were not pushed out of the neighborhood by forces of development. Other concerns raised included creation of jobs that paid a living wage and better promotion and advertising of education and job training programs for adults.
Residents called for an end to food deserts and opening of a restaurant with a healthy menu on Clark Avenue, citing too many fast food options and not enough healthy options for dining out.
Residents were also invited to add information to neighborhood maps about what they would like to see in specific locations.
The consultants said following the submission of the draft plan to the City of Cleveland in late May, the community along with Metro West Community Development Organization, Councilwoman Jasmin Santana and MetroHealth Medical Center will participate in a significantly larger version of the plan. Eventually the plan will be submitted to the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) for approval. With the approval of the plan, the City of Cleveland will send out Requests for Proposals from developers for physical projects. Projects will be selected with the goal of starting work by the end of this year, the consultants said.