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Cleveland Habitat for Humanity's new tactic: rehabbing foreclosure’s discards

House currently being rehabbed by Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity
House currently being rehabbed by Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity
Photos courtesy of Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity

Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity has taken a new approach toward affordable homeownership: rather than building new housing, the organization is adopting specific neighborhoods and rehabbing abandoned properties left over from the foreclosure crisis.

Recycling these properties produces obvious benefits:

  • Houses can be rehabbed and sold to new homeowners for, in some cases, significantly less than $50,000, whereas costs for new housing units can easily approach $200,000 each. This not only makes home ownership affordable for more potential owners, it allows Habitat for Humanity to produce three or four rehabbed houses for the cost of one brand new house.
  • By focusing on selected streets, an entire neighborhood can be revitalized, thus protecting — even increasing — the value of existing properties. In fact, Habitat for Humanity provides help with exterior repairs for existing residents in target neighborhoods.
  • Renovation instead of demolition keeps much of the building materials out of the landfill.
  • Using materials donated to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore helps contain construction costs and makes use of what might otherwise have been discarded.

The rehab process does, however, offer more serious challenges than new housing:

  • Obtaining clear title to a foreclosed, abandoned property is a time-consuming process, and until that process is complete, the property continues to be a blight on the neighborhood.
  • Because Habitat for Humanity is adopting and focusing on specific streets in neighborhoods that need a lot of work — currently Colfax Road in Lower Kinsman and Clement Avenue in Slavic Village — the properties may not be perceived as desirable by potential homeowners.

For more information about Habitat for Humanity’s current rehab work, see Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity’s Current Construction web page. Click on any of the photographs to open a slide show of rehab work in process on the property.

To see the many results of recent rehab projects, go to the Home Dedications page. Clicking on any photograph will open a slide show of the property’s dedication ceremony.

Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity Executive Director John Habat discussed this change in the organization’s approach as a guest columnist for on June 10, 2014.

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To access more of my articles on recycling in northeast Ohio, click on my name or visit my blog, Keep It Out of the Landfill.

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