by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, October 2019) The Clark Fulton neighborhood will be the target area for a number of initiatives that could flood the neighborhood with investment dollars aimed at a variety of projects. The initiatives hold the promise of investments that include new hospital buildings, new parks, new housing, new businesses and a new high school.
While the investments hold the promise of many amenities current residents would like to see in their neighborhood, will many of the current residents be able to stay if the new development results in skyrocketing property taxes for homeowners, or higher monthly rent for those who are renting their homes? What kinds of protections can be put in place to assure that current residents can afford to remain in their neighborhood as the development progresses?
Some of the initiatives that will bring investments into the Clark Fulton neighborhood include: designation of the Clark Fulton neighborhood as a target area of Mayor Frank Jackson’s Transformation Initiative; MetroHealth Medical Center’s campus transformation plan; FHAct50 federal housing funds through the Ohio Housing Finance Agency; Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s facilities planning for Lincoln West High School; and the designation of the neighborhood as part of the W. 25th Street MetroHealth Corridor Federal Opportunity Zone.
The federal opportunity zone has the potential to attract unprecedented amounts of investment to the neighborhood. The Opportunity Zone included as part of the Trump tax cut legislation, allows tax deferred investment of capital gains in opportunity zones with incentives to reduce future taxes on the sale of the investment to zero if the investment in the property is for ten years or longer.
Other cities and states have taken proactive measures to offer protections to current homeowners and tenants as development increases the cost of remaining in a neighborhood. Currently, Cleveland City Council does not have any laws protecting residents from escalating rents and skyrocketing increases in property taxes resulting from development.
Rent control, rent stabilization and rent freeze programs are in place in New York City to help long term residents remain in their homes in the face of development. In Michigan, yearly property tax increases are limited to 3% to avoid overnight doubling or tripling of property taxes on long term homeowners in the wake of areas becoming hot real estate markets.
An article by Laura Bliss, titled “How to build a new park so its neighbors benefit” in the September 11, 2019 issue of CityLab, outlines efforts by cities to do “greening without gentrification” and create “Parks Related Anti-Displacement Strategies (PRADS).” Bliss examines the “greening without gentrification” strategies outlined in a research report from UCLA and the University of Utah. Such strategies include: employing residents in development projects; dedicating funds for low income housing; funding for permanent affordable housing; rent control; rent freezes; foreclosure assistance; homebuyer loans; property tax freezes; land trusts; zoning measures; and density incentives.
The launching of a collaborative effort to create a comprehensive master plan for the Clark Fulton neighborhood was announced to the media at a September 17 meeting at South Branch Library on Scranton Road. Partners in the planning process include Ward 14 City Council Representative Jasmin Santana, the City of Cleveland, Metro West Community Development Organization, the Cleveland Foundation and the MetroHealth System. Groups involved in project coordination include the City Planning Commission, Land Studio and Rethink.
The planning area which focuses on the Clark Fulton neighborhood, also includes parts of the Tremont and Brooklyn Centre neighborhoods. The target area is bounded by I-71 to the east and south, I-90 to the north and W. 44th to the west.
Partners in the planning process promised that the input of residents will be an important part of developing a plan. They hope to create not only a consultant team, but a steering committee, core project team and neighborhood ambassadors and maintain lines of communication between all these components. The partners also promised several key elements will be included in the plan: a housing diversity strategy, community benefits, technology and innovation, population health, transit and streetscape improvements, youth opportunities, economic analysis, and recreation and open space.
While the planning process is laudable, and representatives of the organizations involved have strong ties to the neighborhood, without tools provided by City Council legislation to protect renters and property owners from cost prohibitive increases in rents and property taxes, their plans may be for a future neighborhood that does not include many of the current residents.