CLEVELAND — Mandy Bearden is a Cleveland mother who is sick and tired of waiting for the city to take down a potentially hazardous condemned home in her Collinwood neighborhood.
Bearden told News 5 that she's just trying to raise her two-year-old son in a safe environment but believes the vacant home across the street has been jeopardizing neighborhood safety for nearly three years.
“Just watching all of the neighborhood kids running around, somebody is constantly telling them to stay out of there, it’s dangerous," Bearden said. “It’s a hazard, it’s ugly to look at, but more than anything this street is filled with kids, so the idea that something could happen to them.”
Cleveland Councilman Michael Polensek and his fellow council members approved an additional $15 million in demolition funds in early June but told News 5 it will take more than just funding to solve one of the city's top problems.
"It just goes to show you how dysfunctional the building and housing department has been in the past," Polensek said. "The law department has to become partners with us because somebody owns this and they’re out of New Jersey.”
“Who wants to live next to this or across the street from it, what it does to your property value, what it does to your community. I’m sick of this stuff, it’s the number one complaint into my office. The city has to be aggressive in going after property owners, which they haven’t been in the past, aggressive, we have to start holding people accountable.”
Frank Ford with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy told News 5 it will take more like $30 million to take down an estimated 3,200 blighted and distressed homes, 2,500 of which Ford said are on Cleveland's east side, significantly damaging property values in predominately Black neighborhoods.
“The problem of reduced property values has hit east side neighborhoods, especially hard because of the targeting of subprime and predatory loans heavily in Black communities,” Ford said. “It’s the wealth that they hope to hand down to their children, and if they bought a home in 2005 for $80,000 and today it’s worth $45,000, to me that’s a tragedy.”
“This has had an impact on property tax collection in those neighborhoods, and all the revenue that the county needs and the city needs, other communities have to make that up, so it’s in everybody’s best interest to try to fix this problem.”
Both Ford and Polensek told News 5 they are confident that recently appointed Cleveland Building Housing Director Sally Martin will be working toward a permanent solution to a housing crisis that was dramatically accelerated by the 2008 housing crash.
Martin told News 5 that more demolition dollars will be added in the future but said the city must collect the data it needs to better direct the additional funding, and determine which homes can be saved and which ones must come down.
“What message we want to get to the neighborhoods is we’re here, we’re on it,” Martin said. "We’re taking a very deep look at all of the neighborhoods."
“We will launch another door-to-door property survey, we feel that’s essential. It hasn’t been done since 2015, and that’s where we’re assessing, going door-to-door to all the parcels in Cleveland and ranking them based on a letter grade, looking at various factors, trying to assess them.”
Meanwhile, east-side Cleveland mothers like Mandy Bearden are left to wait and wonder how much longer they'll have to live with condemned homes in their neighborhoods.
“There’s got to be something that can be done, especially on the east side of Cleveland, it’s bad over here," Bearden said. "Every other house, every two houses is empty. The streets, you can go on them at any given time and see at least four or five abandoned houses and it’s just dangerous.”