Monday, December 30, 2013


What’s the Big Deal?

By: Brena Swanson
Sometimes it is just easier to start over, and the Slavic Village Recovery Project does just that. 
The Slavic Village is a loose collection of house on the south-east side of Cleveland, Ohio that symbolize the problems of the financial crisis. 
While the crisis has long passed, the houses still whisper the silent stories of troubling times. 
Putting those memories to rest, the recovery project plans to complete the renovation of 200 homes in the area. 
Construction on the first two-story, two-bedroom homes broke ground in July and received a complete face-lift. 
The recovery team outfitted the house with a new furnace, carpeting, cabinetry and roof, leaving the shambles of the original house behind. 
The newly finished home is expected to sell for $56,900, making the monthly mortgage payment approximately $450, including taxes and insurance.
“This home is living proof that renovated, quality affordable housing can be created in today’s economy,” said Robert Klein, project partner and founder and chairman of Safeguard Properties.
The Slavic Village recovery project is a private, nonprofit partnership, initiated in direct response to community blight and the needs of the area.  Forest City enterprises, RIK Enterprises, Slavic Village Development and Neighborhood Progress created an alliance to head the project. 
“With the support of our partners, lenders, elected officials and the local community, new residents and first time homebuyers will call Slavic Village home very soon,” Klein said.


3672 East 54th St., Cleveland, OH 44105
Value:                                  $56,900*
Footprint:                           2 Acres*
Bedrooms/Baths:            2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom*
Style:                                    Two-story Victorian*
Features:                             With most lots in the neighborhood being 35 x 12, it is a significant feature to have 70 feet of frontage.*   
*Source:  Slavic Village Recovery

Friday, December 6, 2013

Problem Solving with Code Enforcement Officials

Code enforcement officials cover a lot of ground both in both small towns and large cities.  Whether it is enforcing guidelines that support health and safety rules or uphold housing standards, their primary function is to ensure compliance with local policies to ultimately protect the communities they serve.  In my world, I work closely with officials who are tasked with dealing with housing issues, more specifically, homes that are vacant or have been abandoned.  Coming from all parts of the Nation, they have various challenges when enforcing housing codes but they all share one common goal and that is to protect the interests of their community.  Because of that singular goal and dedication to their community, it is of the utmost importance that we include this group of experts in their own right, in industry conversations on how we can combat blight. 

It goes without saying that for the better part of the last decade, the crash of the housing market has made the demands of code enforcement officials unrelenting.  As vacant and abandoned properties piled up in America’s cities and towns so did the code violations.  With limited budgets and few tools to track down the party responsible for these violations, enforcement officials found themselves at a loss.  To remedy this they spoke up and made their voices heard.  They used their direct connection with these communities to solve major enforcement problems.  However I believe we still have a major challenge with our ability to effectively communicate with this segment of the industry, especially when discussing community blight. 

One of the most important things we have learned through this crisis is that when creating solutions our whole is more than the sum of our parts.  While our ability to collaborate has come a long way, it is my opinion that if we did a better job of bringing code enforcement officials into conversations with lenders, servicers, and property preservation organizations, we could more easily create effective solutions. Code enforcement officials offer an exclusive perspective on blight that we are not able to take on in an empathetic kind of way.  Their first-hand experience in communities with unique challenges and problems is vital to policy making. 

Having these individuals in the room will not only make us smarter, it will make our solutions smarter.  Let’s remember that the next time we sit down to solve problems.  Working independently maybe we can solve one or two of our problems, working together we can solve industry problems. 


Monday, December 2, 2013

Cuyahoga County Land Bank: Slavic Village Recovery Project brings Big Changes to the Historic Neighborhood

Check out the Slavic Village feature in this month’s Cuyahoga County Land Bank Newsletter.

In 2007 Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood saw the highest rate of foreclosure nationally, not so affectionately becoming known as the “ground zero” of the foreclosure crisis. Despite nearly 30 percent of the local homes standing vacant or abandoned the Slavic Village Recovery Project (SVR), a local non-profit/private partnership, has accepted the challenge to help this neighborhood reclaim its glory days as a thriving blue-collar community.

The goal of the SVR is to redevelop the historic neighborhood by taking a holistic approach to community revitalization. The first of its kind, the strategic collaboration is a diverse alliance between Forest City Enterprises, Robert Klein of RIK Enterprises, Slavic Village Development, and Cleveland Neighborhood Progress (formally Neighborhood Progress Inc.).

The focus of the partnership is to acquire vacant and abandoned homes at little or no cost for rehabilitation and resale. The project aims to steady market volatility, stabilize the larger community and match home-buyers with a stress-free home at a good price. The holistic approach that targets several properties at a time, using both demolition and rehab, is being viewed nationally as a case study for the creation of an affordable housing model that can be replicated in communities around the Country.

In order for the concept to be successful, the SVR relies heavily on servicers and the Cuyahoga Land Bank to turn over the vacant and abandoned homes for rehabilitation. Since June, the Cuyahoga Land Bank has contributed 11 homes to support the effort and expects to provide additional properties as progress is made.

“Communities are increasingly seeing the value of using land banks as a way to recover and repurpose vacant properties,” said Robert Klein, the SVR partner who developed the project model. “And servicers with surplus real estate owned properties are recognizing the value in donating to land banks and organizations such as SVR.”

To date the partnership has achieved measureable success beginning in July when over 70 volunteers participated in the first ever Slavic Village Community Day to clean-up nearly 70 vacant homes in the project area. Recently, they have also made public the first home to be rehabilitated at 3672 East 54th Street. The two-story, two bed-room home that began construction in mid-July received a complete internal renovation and external face lift, including a new furnace, carpeting, cabinetry, and new roof. They expect to sell the home at $56,900, making the monthly mortgage payment approximately $450, including taxes and insurance.

The SVR has completed two additional homes since and expects to complete up to five more in the coming months. Interested homebuyers should contact SVR Project Director, Jeff Raig at 216.641.2586 or email