Student Fellowship

Creating Generational Wealth through Program Development for State Forfeiture Parcels

Project Area:

Neighborhood Reinvestment

City:

Cleveland, Ohio

Reporting to:

Director of Building and Housing

The Challenge

The Cleveland Mayor has announced a Marshall Plan for the city’s southeast side. The east side neighborhoods, divided from the west side by the Cuyahoga River, have experienced decades of disinvestment. Across the country, the gap between white and black homeownership rates is wider now than it was in 1960,1 and Cleveland is no exception. The foreclosure crisis further stripped value from the area’s housing stock and after a decade and a half, sale prices, although modestly rising, are still less than half of their peak values. In addition, tax delinquency affects the east side of Cleveland more acutely than in any other area of the county. And most of the state forfeiture parcels are in Cleveland's majority black east side neighborhoods, which are still facing disinvestment as the result of historic redlining and racism. Coupled with the erosion in home values, investors—many from outside the area—have purchased thousands of homes and apartment buildings, reducing opportunities for homeownership, a phenomenon which is particularly acute on Cleveland’s east side.2 A lack of upkeep and proactive code enforcement has led to widespread blight and loss of generational wealth. 

The new initiative for state forfeiture parcels is part of the city’s work under several of the four pillars of the Marshall Plan for the southeast side that focuses on development, blight, housing, and workforce. This initiative aims to remove properties from the tax delinquency rolls and return them to productive use. This project, therefore, has the potential to decrease the gap in black and white homeownership rates by creating homeownership opportunities and generational wealth. The city’s Department of Building and Housing (which sits within an Integrated Development Cluster) is working together with key stakeholders across the city and the county to identify parcels to prioritize. And the city has already launched several American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) supported initiatives, mainly housing gap financing, a home repair fund, and a developer acquisition and rehabilitation fund. The fellow, working together with the Department of Building and Housing team, will connect key data points, stakeholder input, and promising practices to answer the following key questions:

  • How should the city and its partners develop and administer a program around state forfeiture parcels to boost generational wealth?
  • How can the city collect and manage data and document the conditions and occupancy of parcels?
  • How should parcels be triaged and prioritized? In alignment with the Marshall Plan, how might we prioritize Cleveland’s southeast side and expedite generational wealth building there?
  • How might the conditions and occupancy of the parcels be documented?

What You’ll Do

To address these questions, the fellow will engage key internal and external stakeholders to inform program design and implementation. These stakeholders include the city’s Integrated Development Cluster, Legal Department, the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, Vacant and Abandoned Property Action Coalition (VAPAC), Community Development Corporations (CDCs) that are overseen by Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, the Cuyahoga Land Bank, and other local non-profits. Through their engagement and research, they will provide key inputs into developing a program for state forfeiture parcels. Key deliverables include:

  1. Implementation plan to administer and manage the initiative that specifically includes: 
    a. Creating a system to manage data, triage forfeiture properties, and document condition and occupancy of properties 
    b. Identifying potential partners and stakeholders to operationalize the program 
    c. Developing communication channels to communicate with external partners 
    d. Identifying evaluation outcomes
    e. Developing a timeframe to launch the program
  2. White paper that highlights the opportunity and equity implications of this work
  3. Presentation of recommendations for program implementation to key stakeholders, Cabinet, and Integrated Development cluster

The fellow will also stay connected to the strategy execution of any key initiatives that emerge from the work that the city is doing on the broader Marshall Plan for the southeast side as part of the Bloomberg Harvard Collaboration track. 

What You’ll Bring

The fellow will be expected to possess the following skills: 

  • Data analysis
  • Qualitative interviewing and analysis
  • Mapping (GIS)
  • Policy analysis
  • Writing and editing
  • Stakeholder engagement and management
  • Program development

1 Reducing the Racial Homeownership Gap | Urban Institute; Black Families Fall Further Behind on Homeownership | The Pew Charitable Trusts (pewtrusts.org)

2  Research published this year by the Vacant and Abandoned Property Action Council shows that investors now make the majority of home purchases on the east side of Cleveland. https://www.wrlandconservancy.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/20220306_The-Impact-of-Investor-Activity-in-Cuyahoga-County.pdf 

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