study shows slavic village emerging as model community

"We've turned the corner here in Slavic Village."
 
However simple that assertion from Chris Alvarado, executive director of Slavic Village Development (SVD), may be, longtime locals might eye it with some amount of skepticism. But the impact of a number of innovative programs is starting to turn the tide in this pocket of the city and a study published last month evidences that.
 
Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) compiled the study, which was more than a year in the making. And the results of Documenting the Slavic Village Recovery Project are enough to hearten the grouchiest Cleveland naysayer.
 
The Slavic Village Recovery Project (SVRP) project is a collaborative program that targets homes for renovation, typically with a $40,000 investment, and puts them on the market in hopes of selling them to buyers with traditional funding: long-term mortgages.
 
SVRP is a partnership between Forest City Enterprises, RIK Enterprises, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress and SVD. Forest City and RIK contributed $225,000 each to the project and SVD and CNP both kicked in $25,000. The organization sold its first home in December 2013 and sold 20 homes in 2014.
 
"Each of these homes sell," says Alvarado. "They aren’t staying on the market terribly long. We have a waiting list of buyers." The goal is to have between 40 and 50 homes on the market this year. Eight are currently being renovated and should be ready to sell in a couple of months.
 
Alvarado cites this quote from the study: "The sale price of the initial homes reached the target amount of approximately $60,000, received an appraisal value above the sale price, and sold quickly."
 
"That's really important: being able to have the appraisal at or above the sale price," says Alvarado. "It means we're able to work with folks and get conventional mortgages. It's a big win." It's also a massive shift for the area, in which home prices fell so low after the 2007 foreclosure crisis that most transactions were between family members out of obligation or after a bank foreclosure.
 
"Folks are buying homes because they want to move into neighborhood."
 
Alvarado also notes this takeaway from the study: "Based on research and experience with markets throughout the state, it is GOPC's estimation that many aspects of this project could be adapted to other neighborhoods in other cities."
 
So what is the secret behind the successful project that has transformed the beleaguered Slavic Village into a model for urban renewal? Alvarado cites three components a community must have to replicate SVRP: a strong community development corporation with a staff seasoned in property acquisition and stabilization; stalwart housing stock in an area that has enduring occupancy and does not suffer severe displacement; and patient project partners that see the long-term benefit of the project.
 
The success of SVRP dovetails with the Trailside Homes project, which features new construction, to give buyers more options. But increasing the number of attractive homes is only one part of the equation. To that end, SVD's efforts to enforce codes and selectively demolish have put an impressive dent in the number of open/vacant/vandalized properties.
 
"Ten months ago," says Alvarado, "we had 172 (such properties). We're down to 64 throughout these five square miles."
 
Those undesirable properties can scare traditional buyers away from nearby nicer homes. As their numbers dwindle, families, young couples and retirees are coming back to the historic neighborhood from the suburbs or outside the region.
 
"It tells us people are excited about what's happening in Slavic Village."

Read more articles by Erin O'Brien.

Erin O'Brien's eclectic features and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and others. The sixth generation northeast Ohioan is also author of The Irish Hungarian Guide to the Domestic Arts. Visit erinobrien.us for complete profile information.
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