Non-profit works to demolish thousands of abandoned Cleveland homes, one house at a time

Concerns over abandoned homes in the city
Updated: Feb. 3, 2017 at 10:55 PM EST
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It costs about $10,000 to tear down a vacant house. (Source: WOIO)
It costs about $10,000 to tear down a vacant house. (Source: WOIO)

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Alianna DeFreeze, 14, was found dead in an abandoned house on E. 93rd St. this past weekend. Her murder is renewing concerns for residents regarding vacant and derelict houses and the crimes committed inside them. Alianna's family has spoken out, saying they want to see more of these abandoned homes torn down.

Cleveland 19 News is getting answers on what the city is doing to clean them up.

Boarded up windows, X's on doors, and dilapidated houses aren't hard to find in some Cleveland neighborhoods. Abandoned homes do more than just bring down property values, they can also lead to an increase in crime.

The numbers are staggering. The Western Reserve Land Conservancy, a non-profit conservation organization, reports there are 15,000 vacant houses in Cuyahoga County -- 10,000 of those houses are in Cleveland. In the city, 5,300 houses are in such bad shape they need to be demolished.

"It's beginning to be like this all over the city of Cleveland, and unless someone deals with it, unless we get our heads around this thing, it's just going to continue to grow and get worse and worse and worse," said Tony Jeffries.

Jeffries lives in the Glenville area. Neighborhoods like his on the east side are the hardest hit.

"I think it's very painful and hurtful. It's a blight to the inner city," Jeffries said.

According to a report by the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, the neighborhoods of Glenville, St. Clair-Superior, Hough, Buckeye-Woodhill and Kinsman have the highest amount of abandoned houses. More than 10 percent of the structures in these neighborhoods earned a "D" or "F" grade, meaning they're deteriorated or unsafe and hazardous.

It costs about $10,000 to raze a vacant home.

Between 2005 and 2015, the City of Cleveland spent over $63 million dollars to demolish deteriorated buildings. Officials say about 3,000 vacant houses have been torn down in the last few years.

Now, with more funding and the help of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, a plan is underway to knock more vacant houses down. Frank Ford, with the non-profit Western Reserve Land Conservancy, explained why they don't try to fix these houses up.

"So today, if you put $50,000-60,000 in this house, you're probably not going to get it back out. So the demolition is actually a more cost-effective way to remove the blight," Ford said.

In 2015, the non-profit helped the city take inventory of all of the vacant houses, block by block.

The digital survey is helping prioritize which houses to tear down. Ford is optimistic this plan will help revitalize the city's hardest hit areas.

"There are more tools than ever before to deal with this. There's a momentum to deal with this problem," Ford said.

So you may be wondering, what happens if we tear down all of these abandoned houses and more just keep popping up? Experts say foreclosures are down, so not as many people are giving up their houses.

Leaders with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy helped raise over $400 million dollars to knock down vacant houses across the state.

Jeffries is happy to hear there is hope for his neighborhood.

"I'm a native Clevelander and I love Cleveland, and I want to see it grow and get better," Jeffries said.

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