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How Cleveland, Ohio is overcoming it’s six year economic crisis

Cleveland – bankrupt in 1976

Cleveland, my hometown*, is in the news again, thanks to 60 Minutes. We aren’t usually known for awe-inspiring events here. Dennis Kucinich, former mayor, and current Congressman had to declare the city bankrupt in 1976, as the Cuyahoga River caught on fire in the summer of 1969. Pro athletes leave town as if they are on fire as soon as their contracts are over. We have had any number of sports horrors which will haunt us forever like The Decision, The 1997 World Series, The Drive, The Shot, The Fumble, The Browns decamping to Baltimore, most recently The McCoy Rule – there are more, but these are a few that have actually happened in my lifetime and physically hurt to write. There have been massive job losses, layoffs, employers leaving, and a huge decline in the population. Sub-prime loans, mortgage fraud, and the economy have gutted entire sections of town. One of our (old, outdated) unfortunate nicknames, The Mistake by the Lake is (was) kind of apt.

Maybe CBS didn’t get the memo, but we here in Cleveland, and many surrounding areas, have been dealing with the housing crisis since at least 2005, long before much of the country even knew what a housing crisis even was.  Not that it was particularly offensive or anything, but calling the segment “There Goes the Neighborhood” made it seem as though this destruction we have felt for many years is somehow recent or even news. For a lot of these places, the people who left got the hell out of Dodge a while ago – it wasn’t last month, or even last year.

Buy a part of town for $20,000

60 Minutes missed the mark when they came to Cleveland. You can buy not just a street, but entire parts of town for about $20,000. A single house that perhaps was worth $60,000 in 1995 is now, on a good day, worth $17,000 in great condition. There are high property taxes. Homes which have been to sheriff sale three, or even four times over. Houses that have siding, plumbing, all mechanicals, windows, even hardware stripped out. Many homes have become a haven for criminal activity. That is what the foreclosure catastrophe did here.

How Cleveland is overcoming the crisis

What really wasn’t mentioned are the things going on to potentially fix the whole mess and maybe make the situation better. Cleveland specifically has busted, prosecuted, and put away hundreds of individuals involved in mortgage fraud. Yes. We do this here. Mayor Jackson also attempted to go after banks for predatory lending- he failed, but it was a meaningful attempt. City Council is in the process of passing legislation to hold owners accountable for demolition costs, as well as making it a crime for out-of-state companies to buy houses in bulk and skip registering with the state.

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The Cuyahoga County Land Bank offers quite a few possibilities, for example, they purchase blight properties and can demolish, rehab, or resell them. The Land Bank is also going to be offering homes to refugees, according to The Plain Dealer. Also, Reclaimed Cleveland is a furnishing shop who will upcycle and repurpose items left in a home set to be demolished. They have beds, tables, chairs, accessories, as well as custom work. How about that?

Not many preventative measures were in place to stop the foreclosure crisis from happening, but in Cleveland, we are working hard to correct the problem. The Mistake by the Lake? Hardly. The North Coast is so much more awesome.

*My actual hometown cannot even be found with a hound dog, 3 maps, and a GPS, it’s easier to just say that I’m originally from Cleveland.

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Written By

Katie Cosner, occasionally known as Kathleen, or KT, is a Realtor® with Cutler Real Estate and is active in her local Board of Realtors® on the Equal Opportunity & Professional Development Committee. She has been floating around online for a number of years, and is on facebook as well as twitter. While Katie has a few hardcore beliefs, three in the Real Estate World to live and die by are; education, ethics, and the law - insert random quote from “A Few Good Men” here. Katie is also an avid Cleveland Indians fan, which really explains quite a bit of her… quirks.

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Jon Eggleton

    December 26, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    Cleveland is my hometown, too. You're right – the region has been dealing with the housing crisis for well longer than the rest of the country, although the silver lining is it is also much further ahead than many in trying to move on (including several of the initiatives mentioned above). Great post.

    • Kathleen Cosner

      December 27, 2011 at 8:23 am

      As negatively as the area has been hit, I really do find it impressive the ideas, and energy people are finding to cope & improve upon all this just badness, you know? Akron, too is starting to follow suit and doing some similar things as well.

      I have had the (priviledge?) prob not the appropriate term, to be in a lot of these homes in both areas. Many of them, condition-wise are totally heartbreaking, not too mention frightening to enter. And if there are ways to make them better to enhance the communitties, that's so awesome !

  2. Denise Gabbard

    December 27, 2011 at 2:02 am

    Another native Clevelander here… yes, there are challenges, the world, and especially the United States, today is not the same as when we grew up in a thriving industrial city. Manufacturing has moved on to parts of the world where it can be done cheaply (though products are often inferior) and Cleveland is in transition… But, there are definitely positive things to be pointed to— the growing medical community, the new casino scheduled to open in just a few months, and that beautiful lake that we have not yet begun to capitalize on!

  3. Tru

    December 28, 2011 at 1:08 am

    Hard to make an argument sound credible when you get the year of Cleveland's default wrong. It was 1978, not 1976.

  4. andrew

    January 3, 2012 at 3:16 am

    i wanted the building in the picture it is for sale i take it i want the building so bad i will make it to a tv station make more money pick people back to work i live on north side 2205 n kilbourn

  5. DeniseGabbard

    November 15, 2012 at 5:41 am

    Hey Kathleen– that City-Data reference is wrong. I remember when it happened and I heard it on the radio in my first car— it was definitely 1978, or I would have been only 14:( Here is a link to an LA Times article about it— https://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/0123-04.htm

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