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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
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.
"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.
"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 .