This morning, area politicians, media and interested citizens descended on a quiet side street off Union Avenue in Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood to hear two northeast Ohio congresspeople from opposite parties announce they were actually going to do something to help citizens with a real problem they face; foreclosure and the way it’s decimated once-stable residential areas — like Slavic Village.
Standing in front of a group of abandoned, ravaged houses, Congressman Steve LaTourette, a Republican from Lake County, and Congresswomen Marcia Fudge, a Democrat from Warrensville Heights, unveiled legislation they said had been in the oven since last fall. The so-called “Restore Our Neighborhoods Act” would provide $4 billion in funding to finance bonds to pay for the demolition of crumbling homes that diminish the value of well-kept houses on the street, where neighbors sat on doorstops and eyed the influx of visitors curiously. Of that, $2 billion will be divided among all states, with the remaining $2 billion going into the hardest-hit states including Ohio. Presumably, LaTourette and Fudge would work to see that much of that comes to northeast Ohio, to areas like Slavic Village.
The staggering number of blighted homes is beyond what communities can handle alone. These vacant and foreclosed properties are a disease that infects entire neighborhoods. People who diligently pay their mortgages are affected because they see their property values plummet. Others, crushed under mortgages they can no longer afford, end up in foreclosure and property taxes go unpaid.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, former Cuyahoga County treasurer and nationally noted expert on the foreclosure crisis Jim Rokakis, Slavic Village councilman Tony Brancatelli, and Gus Frangos, president of the Cuyahoga County Land Bank also spoke to the crowd, which included county councilpersons Pernell Jones Jr. and C. Ellen Connelly, Cleveland councilwoman Mamie Mitchell, and South Euclid Mayor Georgine Welo. — Anastasia Pantsios