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Custom home builder turning open lots into new, attainable homes in Hough

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Posted at 6:46 PM, Jan 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-27 19:44:23-05

CLEVELAND — Historic League Park in Cleveland’s Hough Neighborhood sits right across the street from a handful of relatively new homes, but also open lots and blighted homes.

“When I came here and I walked about, I was blown away,” said Cleveland Custom Homes President Jeff Crawford.

"Our analysis shows us that there are a lot of people that are renting," said Crawford. "There's a range that they rent for that we can build a home for them, and they can own their own home and invest in that."

He says it was partially by the historic and refurbished League Park, but also because of the opportunity in those open plots of land in Hough.

Cleveland Custom Homes specializes in custom-built homes, which tend to be expensive.

These plots of land will be the location of the first homes built by Cleveland Custom Homes.

Councilman Basheer Jones says expensive homes wouldn’t help Hough.

“We can’t continue to have low housing product and very high housing product,” said Councilman Jones. “In order to be a stable community, we’re going to really need to focus on the middle.”

"We thought moving away [from Hough] would make us feel better," said Councilman Jones, about the population leaving the Hough neighborhood over the years. "We want to come back home. We want to come back to our neighborhood."

That’s why Councilman Jones pulled in Crawford and Cleveland Custom Homes, which also builds a “value-engineered,” home.

It’s high-quality, not cheap, but attainable.

The homes will be between 1,300 and 1,700 square feet, costing about $250,000.

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Renderings show what parts of Hough could one day look like as Cleveland Custom Homes acquires about a third of the Land Bank lots around Hough to build new homes.

“We love homebuilding, we’re good at homebuilding, but we also use it as a platform to give back and make the world a better place,” said Crawford.

Since Hough has so many open lots, many of which are owned by the Land Bank, Crawford says his plan is to use the lots to build 100 homes over the next three to five years. The first one could break ground across the street from League Park in March.

A vacant home across the street from League Park will be demolished for one of the first few homes in the project.

It would provide a path to homeownership, building equity in a mostly black neighborhood.

Historically, redlining maps show much of Cleveland’s east side, Hough included, was considered the riskiest for mortgage lending, meaning people who lived there often couldn’t purchase homes.

Redlining maps of Cuyahoga County show how much of the east side was determined too risky to finance mortgages, stunting the creation of wealth in those neighborhoods.

Now, there are conscious efforts to chip away at redlining’s impact.

GO Green Energy has plans to hook up Hough homes to a solar energy grid, helping cut down on utility costs while allowing homeowners to build equity in that system. They can borrow against that equity to help improve their homes or make other purchases.

The Cleveland Public Library is designing a Hough Branch that would be across the street from the entrance to League Park, a block away from Crawford’s first home.

The Allen Estates will be just down the block from Crawford’s first home. Shelia Wright’s Frontline Development Group is acquiring land for six homes on East 65th Street and could eventually grow to other nearby locations. Wright says later phases could include townhomes and space for mixed-use commercial and residential structures.

“It’s very exciting and long overdue,” said Hough’s Block Club President Cindy Mumford.

But Mumford says even though Councilman Basheer Jones is involved in the process, her club and its members have not been.

Mumford is happy the investment is coming in but she also wants neighbors to have input at early stages of projects like it. She says Hough also needs reliable lighting and safe sidewalks among other things to help the community improve.

"We can make sure that these projects are successful and that everyone benefits from these types of projects rather than having just a nice house next door to you," said Mumford.

“We can make sure that these projects are successful and that everyone benefits from these types of projects rather than having just a nice house next door to you,” said Mumford.

Crawford says he has assurances from Councilman Jones and the City of Cleveland that they’ll address those types of issues around the community.

The goal for everyone is the same: build high-quality homes at fair prices and increase homeownership in a community that needs a helping hand.

“The freedom that gets people to say, ‘You know what, this is mine,’ it changes a neighborhood,” said Councilman Jones. “It brings stability to the neighborhood.”

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