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Heritage Home Program creating A Better Land by helping keep old homes afloat

Posted at 12:33 PM, Aug 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-19 18:34:25-04

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Restoration Society's Heritage Home Program helps homeowners stay in homes older than 50 years old by making it easier to complete much-needed restoration projects.

When you look at it now, you'd never guess Christopher Penman's home didn't always look as good as it does now.

Christopher Penman shows off the newly-renovated outside of his home, with new sideing, a new porch, and a new paint-job.

"It looked like it needed to be torn down," said Penman. "In one little girl's words, 'It was a witch house."

Penman says the home has been on what's now Miles Avenue for more than a century. He and his wife were doing what they could to fix it up when they heard about the Heritage Home Program.

Penman says the home used to be falling down, with much darker exterior paint, and was is disrepair inside.

"It was just the perfect program for the house," said Penman.

The program is run by the Cleveland Restoration Society and it's only available for homes that are more than 50 years old. But Cleveland Restoration Society President Kathleen Crowther says they aren't only looking for the oldest or grandest homes.

Penman walks through the 3rd floor area that he's still working on while he makes it into a family room.

"We're really more concerned with helping people just continue to live and appreciate the older housing stock," said Crowther.

Making older homes livable helps more than just the homeowners.

A brand new staircase offers a way to get to the 2nd floor that is much closer to the staircase the home originally would have had. A temporary staircase stood here for years before the renovation.

High costs for renovations and not knowing what to fix first can drive residents out of a neighborhood where they could stay if they only had a little help.

Keeping those people in their community for longer creates stability for the whole neighborhood.

This door leads to the 3rd floor of the turret visible from in front of the building.

"Homeowners stay in those houses for a much longer period of time and there is actually a measurable economic impact in the area of that house," said Crowther.

Along Miles Avenue, Penman says a fixed-up home sends a strong message to everyone nearby.

These plaques show that the home is both a city landmark and got help from the Home Heritage Program.

"Crime doesn't want to be where they're going to be noticed," said Penman.

To help, the Heritage Home Program gives people like Penman advice for what projects to tackle first, with low-interest loans to help cover the cost.

"We just hope that other people see that kind of good feeling, knowing that what you've done is so complementary to the city," said Penman.

This story is part of A Better Land , an ongoing series that investigates Northeast Ohio's deep-seated systemic problems. Additionally, it puts a spotlight on the community heroes fighting for positive change in Cleveland and throughout the region. If you have an idea for A Better Land story, tell us here .