Residents express concern over impact of development on their neighborhoods and the city
by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, November 2019) At two recent community meetings, discussion addressed the lack of affordable housing and the prospects of current residents being able to afford to remain in their neighborhoods as property values and rents continue to rise due to new development.
At the Talk of the Town 2019 Ohio City Community Conversations Community Building meeting on October 3 at St. Paul Community Church, attendees were asked how they felt about their community.
While residents said they loved the Ohio City neighborhood, the sense of community they felt and the friendliness of their neighbors, a number of people in the group feared they would no longer be able to afford to stay in the neighborhood. Others expressed concern about the increased pace of development.
A member of the Franklin Clinton block club talked about developers and their proposals dominating most of the time at block club meetings, yet not seeing new residents from the developments coming to join the meetings.
A resident, living on W. 38th South of Lorain Avenue, called new subsidized development in his neighborhood “Gentrification on steroids.” He said that within a stone’s throw of his house, there were 54 apartments going up at the former Vista Color Lab on Fulton and another 34 apartments at W. 41st and Lorain Avenue. He expressed concern that the new residents would be changing the culture of the neighborhood.
One person said that the advent of new residents has caused homeless people in the neighborhood to receive more harassment, with newcomers calling the police on them with greater frequency.
Several people noted that an article in Crain’s magazine said the most expensive zip code for renters was now 44113 with average rents at $1,800 per month.
A member of Northern Ohioans for Budget Legislative Equality noted that one of the group’s longtime members who lived in the neighborhood was forced to move to the East Side of Cleveland because of gentrification.
A young college-educated mother who lives in Lakeview Public Housing said she is looking for a house or apartment in the neighborhood. She said she would love to raise her child in the neighborhood, but says she is having a hard time finding a place she can afford on the income from her job. The woman said she asked to see one of the Snavely Group’s new so-called affordable apartments on W. 25th and Detroit, and they wouldn’t even show her an apartment because her income was too low. “I love it here,” she said, “but I am seriously thinking of moving to Lakewood. I want to be with my kids. I don’t want to work two or three jobs so I can live where I want to live.”
One person called it an “economic war,” resulting in their “neighborhood being taken away.”
Residents called for housing that a person making minimum wage could afford to live in. Referring to the high cost of so-called affordable housing, one resident asked, “Affordability, what does that mean?”
Ward 14 Planning 101 Meeting
Residents from throughout Ward 14 filled the Family Ministry Center meeting room at 3389 Fulton Road for a meeting titled Planning 101. Explaining the components of the process of creating a neighborhood plan for the Clark Fulton neighborhood were: Metro West Community Development Organization Executive Director Ricardo León, Metro West Director of Economic Development and Marketing Kristyn Zollos, MetroHealth Medical Center Director of Economic Development and Community Engagement Greg Zucca, City of Cleveland Director of City Planning Freddie Collier, City of Cleveland Neighborhood Planner Matt Moss, and Cleveland Foundation Program Officer for Neighborhood Revitalization and Engagement Keisha Gonzalez.
The planners talked about improving the quality of life in the neighborhood by creating places for people to live, shop, learn and earn and play.
During the presentation, Cleveland Planning Director Freddie Collier talked about the human capital side of neighborhood development–people learning skills so they can get jobs. He noted the recent recommendation by the Cleveland Metropolitan School District that a new school be built for Lincoln West. Speaking of creating human capital in the neighborhood, Collier said, “Education is critical.”
Metro West Executive Director Ricardo León spoke of the importance of listening to residents and keeping what the community wants and needs at the forefront of the planning process.
As part of the discussion that followed, residents expressed concerns about Real Estate speculators in their neighborhood. One woman said that she was ready to punch out two realtors in her neighborhood on Poe Avenue near the freeway who wanted to buy her house for $40,000. She said some of her neighbors in the area from W. 35 and Trowbridge came to her for advice because they were being pressured by realtors saying they were buying houses for MetroHealth. MetroHealth’s Greg Zucca warned those present that those realtors were trying to take advantage of people and that MetroHealth was not buying any houses in the neighborhood. Ricardo León of Metro West asked folks to ignore those people or to bring information about them to the Metro West office. He said they were trying to create a data base of individuals and businesses trying to scam people.
There was some discussion also about rising property prices making it difficult for long term residents to pay property taxes while newer residents were being given tax abatements. Housing Court Judge Ron O’Leary said a Tax Policy Working Group was looking into strategies to address that issue. He said it would probably take a law change on the state level to help rectify some of the current issues.
Planning Director Collier said he thought incentives were necessary to get people to move into the city. Responding to a comment about the loss of revenue to the school system due to tax abatement, Collier said, we need to find another way to fund our schools other than property taxes.
One woman talked about the rents going up in the neighborhood, while wages were not increasing. She wondered about all the development in the neighborhood. “How is this going to affect my children?” she asked. “A lot of us are being priced out of the neighborhood we grew up in,” she added.
Speaking of the definition of Affordable Housing, a resident said it seems like there will be housing for someone who works at MetroHealth, but not for someone that works at Burger King. “My son has a disability. Will he be able to live here?” the woman asked.
Metro West Executive Director León said that the Clark Fulton neighborhood is the last affordable neighborhood on the Near West Side. He talked about the use of low-income tax credits to build affordable housing in the neighborhood. Keisha Gonzalez of the Cleveland Foundation talked about innovative financing tools that could be used as an alternative way to finance housing for families not able to obtain a bank loan.
Collier noted that a number of those making the planning presentation, including himself, lived in the neighborhood. He pleaded with the crowd “Help us to help our community while we still have an opportunity to do it.”