Cleveland City Council on Monday approved more than $50 million for housing development, saying that the need for affordable homes outstrips what the city is spending.
The legislation includes about $49 million to support nearly 1,400 units of housing and $5 million to help Habitat for Humanity build 50 homes and buy a building. Of the spending, $35 million comes from Cleveland’s allocation of American Rescue Plan Act dollars.
New houses and apartment buildings have been going up in some neighborhoods in the last decade. But council members said the city needs even more new housing – especially the kind that working-class families can afford to buy.
“We see new housing going up in Tremont, Ohio City, sections of maybe what we call the trendy neighborhoods,” said Ward 8 Councilman Michael Polensek, who represents parts of the Collinwood and Glenville neighborhoods. “But my folks can’t afford a $300- and $400,000 house. On the East Side, we can’t do that.”
Habitat will use the city’s investment as part of a $13 million project to build homes in wards 2, 4 and 8 on the East Side and wards 11 and 15 on the West Side. The homes would be sold at no interest to families who make between 30% and 80% of the area’s median income – or $27,100 to $72,300 a year for a family of four.
The nonprofit housing organization will use another $2.8 million, including $500,000 in Cleveland ARPA dollars, to buy a building it uses as a discount home improvement store on West 110th Street.
Council separately gave Mayor Justin Bibb’s administration the go-ahead to spend as much as $49 million to help finance more than two dozen projects around the city. The list includes market-rate and affordable apartment projects, along with non-congregate shelter housing like the expansion of the Norma Herr Women’s Center.
“There are quite a few projects that are shovel ready,” Anthony Bango, a manager in the city’s Department of Community Development, told council. “These are projects that, save for our investment, may risk losing their funding sources and not happen whatsoever.”
Other projects may not have their full financing in place until the end of the year, meaning that some may not break ground until 2024, he said.
Ward 5 Council Member Richard Starr expressed frustration that his Central neighborhood didn’t receive more money. Three of the projects slated for funding are in his ward. Central is home to several Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority estates. But it doesn’t have enough housing options for people from the neighborhood who attain a middle-class income, he said.
“All these Baby Boomers and all these other people told us to get all these college degrees to make middle earnings,” Starr said. “Now when we get that decent living, we cannot even move back into our neighborhoods because of the lack of investment in those neighborhoods.”
City officials said 91 projects applied for the dollars, and many did not make the cut. The community development department will reconsider projects that fell short if any winning projects ultimately don’t pan out, they said.
Cleveland demolished thousands of houses that were left vacant and decaying in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse. The city still hasn’t recovered all the units that were lost, and it needs new housing of all kinds, Ward 13 Council Member Kris Harsh said.
“We could have probably spent all $511 million of ARPA on housing projects and still have some projects that were left unfunded,” he said. “It’s just a sad reality that we have a lot of empty space that could use infill.”
Read the list of projects below. Projects highlighted in green won funding from the city.