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Fighting foreclosure with Green Neighborhoods

Marc Lefkowitz  |  02/27/12 @ 2:00pm  |  Posted in Transform

The city of South Euclid's Green Neighborhood Initiative combines green building and productive reuse of vacant land to stabilize neighborhoods hard hit by the foreclosure crisis. As of early 2012, city is halfway toward its goal of buying, at bargain prices, 10 homes from the Cuyahoga County Landbank, rehabbing them to Enterprise Green Community standards or razing and converting vacant lots into community gardens.

Three of the five rehabbed homes sold for an average price of $119,000 with proceeds going back into future purchases. The city is using grants from the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), a HUD program meant to turn around struggling housing markets in targeted areas impacted by foreclosures. S. Euclid selected its West Five neighborhood (just north of Cedar Center, between Cedar Road and the Oakwood Country Club land).

In cases where homes are beyond repair, the city uses NSP funds to raze them and install community gardens-two community gardens opened in 2011, and the city expects to build two more in 2012.

The city wants the Green Neighborhoods Initiative to serve as a testing ground. It wants to scale up production of green rehabs and new infill development of green-built bungalows. There are challenges but also opportunities:

  • Because it is an inner-ring suburb, the neighborhood is considerably more walkable and transit connected that most American places (it earns an 83 on Walk Score, which is considered Very Walkable).
  • Can a city create a critical mass of small green homes at a price that makes sense for a saturated real estate market? Traditionally cities haven't been a hotbed of innovation for green neighborhoods or ecovillages (has the private market, for that matter?).
  • Are the current infill commercial developments at Cedar Center and the big box development at Oakwood an attraction for those choosing to live in a 'green' home/neighborhood?

If South Euclid can figure this out, maybe with a developer and architect, that is, how to get a single housing type that's attractive to those who want to move into the West Five neighborhood to scale, then the marketing edge of living in green neighborhood may kick in.

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