October 13, 2011

In Cleveland, Another Reason America Needs Project Rebuild

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Today, the Washington Post takes a look at Cleveland, a city hit hard by foreclosures that have left houses abandoned and decaying, dragging down nearby home values and threatening to further destabilize struggling neighborhoods. There’s good news, though. Cleveland has solid recipe for recovery cooking – and if passed, the American Jobs Act would provide an essential ingredient to make it even better: a helping hand from HUD through Project Rebuild.

With upkeep, taxes, and fines attached to blighted buildings in Cleveland, some banks have realized it’s awfully expensive to hold onto languishing houses that no one calls home. So they’re turning abandoned homes over to a different kind of bank: a land bank. In turn, the land bank takes these empty buildings – which drain public services, attract crime, cut into the value of neighbors’ houses, and put entire neighborhoods on shaky ground – and rehabilitates or razes them.

House by house and lot by lot, Cleveland’s moving toward recovery. There’s just one challenge, reports the Post’s Brady Dennis:

With as many as 15,000 vacant and abandoned structures remaining and more on the way, the job at the current pace could take longer than a decade and cost $250 million for demolition and other expenses.

Together, we can surmount the challenge. The American Jobs Act would arm the Department of Housing and Urban Development with tools to put cities like Cleveland on a faster, straighter path to neighborhood stability.  The Act includes Project Rebuild, a $15 billion investment that would put 200,000 Americans to work rehabilitating homes, businesses, and communities by leveraging private investment and teaming up with land banks and other public and private partners. Project Rebuild would give Cleveland the partnership from HUD it needs to maximize its ongoing effort to erase the scars left by the foreclosure crisis.

Cleveland offers a prime example of how the government can team up with the private and public sectors and work together to stabilize neighborhoods – but Cleveland isn’t alone. In cities like Detroit, Chicago, and Milwaukee, banks are turning over of the very houses Project Rebuild would put people to work rehabilitating, and those homes are going to the very land banks and organizations with which HUD would partner.

The time is ripe for recovery, and Project Rebuild would empower cities across the nation to create more jobs, rehabilitate more homes, and get the most out of a worthwhile investment in restoring America’s neighborhoods to stability.

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