Sam Allard / Scene
Justin Bibb, at a Holton-Wise property on Cleveland's west side, (7/20/21).
Standing on the front porch of a dilapidated property on Cleveland's west side, mayoral candidate Justin Bibb denounced the property management firm Holton-Wise and other companies like them that profit off the exploitation of historically underserved communities.
Holton-Wise is among the more grotesque of these operators in Cleveland. Bibb's press conference opened with a video in which Holton-Wise
gleefully champions the merits of "ghetto investing." Holton-Wise has also produced graded maps of neighborhood quality in Cleveland that align closely with the maps of historically redlined neighborhoods. (In Holton-Wise's maps, the areas graded "D" or "F" are color-coded in red and dubbed "war zones.")
Bibb said these maps, the Holton-Wise merchandise that glamorize slumlords — "I ♥ EVICTION" read a t-shirt on display — and the general practice of investing in Cleveland's most vulnerable neighborhoods only to let the properties disintegrate before selling them at a profit, was an example of "modern-day redlining."
"It sickens me to my core," Bibb said. "So today, I stand with residents to say that it's time to evict Holton-Wise from our city. Under my watch, I’ll fight back against real estate bullies who have operated with impunity for far too long."
Bibb said that his plan would put people first. He said he would begin holding property managers accountable on day one, and was prepared to throw out companies that destroy neighborhoods and incentivize residents to invest in their own communities. He said he would partner with HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge to enforce the Fair Housing Law and investigate civil rights violations, work with City Council to pass pay-to-stay legislation to protect the rights of tenants, take legal action against owners who fail to register rental units and expand housing and building codes to apply to third-party agents.
Bibb was joined by former City Council President Jay Westbrook, who recently endorsed Bibb
, and Ward 6 community leader and Fair Housing Board member Bob Render, who proposed various solutions — up to and including a class-action lawsuit against Holton-Wise — to hold predatory lenders accountable.
Render spoke with Scene after the press conference and said he believed the Building and Housing department was currently in disarray. He said one of the reasons why he was so excited about Bibb as a mayoral candidate is that he was confident Bibb would bring smart leaders along with him, leaders who would strengthen city departments that currently have power and resources but have long suffered from poor management.
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