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The Slavic Village Story

NHC invites guest blog posters to write on important housing topics. The views expressed by guest posters do not necessarily reflect those of NHC or its members.

In 2007, a small neighborhood built by immigrants caught national attention at the start of what would be the most devastating housing crisis our nation has even seen. Having the highest rate of foreclosure in America, the media quickly pegged this community, Slavic Village, as “ground zero” of the foreclosure crisis.  Fast forward to 2014 and its vacancy rate is still estimated around 30 percent.  Some might believe it is more than a little beaten and bruised, but I see a neighborhood that is in the process of coming back to life and a catalyst for community revitalization nationwide.
Two years ago I initiated the Slavic Village Recovery project to redevelop the historic neighborhood by taking a holistic approach to community revitalization.  The first of its kind, the project is a partnership of two non-profits and two private corporations, Slavic Village Development, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, Forest City Enterprises and my organization, RIK Enterprises.
North elevation, before. Credit: Slavic Village Recovery Project

The focus of the partnership is to ultimately stabilize the larger community by creating affordable housing.  Our strategyinvolves acquiring vacant and abandoned homes from servicers or the local land bank for rehabilitation and resale.  We then set up the buyer with a 30 year mortgage for a modest monthly payment of around $400.   The holistic approach targeting several properties at a time, using both demolition and rehab, is being viewed nationally as a case study for the creation of an affordable housing model that can be replicated in communities around the Country.  This approach is at the core of our strategy and what makes the model highly effective.

North elevation, after. Credit: Slavic Village Recovery Project

If you want to measure the success of this project, you need to look no further than East 54th street where the first recovery home is owned by a proud family, and almost completed homes have a line of interested buyers.  Talk to the resident who has lived in the community for 50 years, and almost gave up hope on his home until he saw the marked change being made in his neighborhood.

I have seen places like Slavic Village time and time again. It is not unlike any other community in our country.  It is home to local businesses, schools and churches.  It is home to hardworking men and women.  Struggle and loss is not the story of Slavic Village, the story of Slavic Village is how it is overcoming a crisis.  With this approach I believe it can be the story of other communities too.  If we can bring this neighborhood back from ground zero then I know we can do the same all over America.
Guest author Robert Klein, chairman and founder of Safeguard Properties, initiated the Slavic Village Recovery Project to revitalize the historic Cleveland neighborhood devastated by the foreclosure crisis.
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