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Homeowners share safety concerns over slow demolition of burned-out homes

Cleveland's Building and Housing Director continues work on streamlining the demolition process
CLE homeowners share safety concerns over slow demolition of burned-out homes
Posted at 11:08 PM, Mar 07, 2023

CLEVELAND — Sandra Boggs has lived on Guy Avenue on Cleveland's east side for 43 years but said the past three months have been a nightmare because of the burned-out vacant house that's still standing unsecured across the street.

Boggs confirmed the home was the victim of an unsolved arson fire in Dec. of 2022, but said complaints to the city have still not produced any results. Boggs said scrappers and vagrants have been taking items from the home at all hours of the night.

“The city is not doing anything for us to put an end to this and it’s like you get very disheartened that the city doesn’t care for you anymore," Boggs said. “This is an open invitation for them to go in and walk around and see what’s going on in there.”

CLE homeowners share safety concerns over slow demolition of burned-out homes
Neighborhood activist Ed McDonald showed News 5 the precarious nature of the roof on the burned-out home on Guy Avenue.

Concerned resident Emery Priebe said he's worried children will enter the home and get seriously injured while the neighborhood waits for the city to finally take down the house.

“It’s disgusting, if this was on the Mayor’s street it wouldn't be standing," Priebe said “It’s been there for months this house has been like this, it’s not even simply boarded up, nothing. If they go in here they could fall through the floor. If they go on the second floor they most definitely will fall through the floor, somebody could die.”

Neighborhood community activist Ed McDonald believes slow demolition response on burned-out homes is a systemic issue across the city. McDonald said he's identified dozens of fire-ravaged homes over the past five years that have sat idle for far too long, posing a neighborhood safety risk.

McDonald showed News 5 pictures of burned-out homes waiting for demolition on East 68 Street, Magnet Avenue, and on East 65 Street, all of which he reported to the Cleveland city hall.

“We see houses like this that sit here abandoned and continue to serve as targets for arson, and then it gets lit up and it just sits here for 4 months," McDonald said. “We need action now, we don’t need a bunch of plans. This administration has had over a year now to get everything and get all their ducks in a row while this neighborhood just continues to bleed and hemorrhage.”

News 5 took this case to Cleveland Building and Housing Director Sally Martin, who responded immediately. Martin said her team is continuing the process of streamlining demolition approvals on the burned-out homes that can't be saved.

“We’re continually attempting to improve, we’re looking at our processes all the time, to refine them to try and shave off time," Martin said. “We’re in continual conversations with the Law Department, they’re our partner and we work daily together, and it’s a priority of both departments to streamline things as fast as we can while following the law and providing due process rights to the person that owns the property.”

CLE homeowners share safety concerns over slow demolition of burned-out homes
Cleveland Building and Housing Director Sally Martin explains how her department is making consistent improvements.

Martin hopes the burned-out home on Guy Avenue will be taken down sometime within the next two weeks

Martin said the 311 systemis always a great place for residents to call because it's a main consolidated call center that reports to the code enforcement data system.

Martin said the city is in the process of wrapping up its comprehensive door-to-door survey of more than 167,000 homes and structures by mid-April, which will provide crucial data on the location of potentially hazardous homes and more.

Martin said the city has more than $21 million in funding for demolition in 2023, which she hopes will result in more than 500 potentially hazardous homes taken down this year.

Still, homeowners like Sandra Boggs agree the problem properties can't be taken down soon enough.

“Get over here and do something, take care of the problem," Boggs said. "Don’t leave it and have us looking at it and worry about it every day. Get down here and do something with it and make it safe here on this street.”

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