The President's Corner
Like many cities around the country, Parma and its residents were hit hard by the “housing bubble” and impending economic downturn of 2008-2009. Sadly, many families lost their homes and neighborhoods were left with vacant structures that fell into disrepair. The impending blight was of great concern to citizens and elected officials, alike. I am pleased to say that Parma weathered this storm and has emerged strong. One of the programs utilized by the City to address this crisis was our Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) in which homes no longer safe for human habitation are demolished, thereby eliminating blight and enhancing property values, as well as the quality of life of Parma’s residents.
Parma’s NSP included a three-pronged approach to eliminating blighted structures. The first approach, used primarily in the beginning years of the program, involved actually buying and demolishing housing units that were substandard to the local housing market, primarily due to their condition nd/or size. “I am happy to report that no local Parma tax dollars have been used in any of our NSP programs,” according to Erik Tollerup, who coordinates the program as Parma’s Director of Economic Development. Instead, funds have come from federal and county grants.
The next approach to eliminating blighted structures occurs when the City investigates a blighted dwelling, typically based on neighborhood complaints, and determines that an inhabited home in such dreadful condition that it is deemed uninhabitable. “Condemning a home through an enforcement procedure is not something we take lightly and there are a lot of legal steps that must be followed,” according to Tollerup. The city will always try and work with a homeowner to gain compliance, but, in most of these cases, these were banks, investors, or people who just abandoned their maintenance responsibilities.
Lastly, Parma operates its own Land Bank which will take ownership of property tax delinquent and/or dilapidated structures, primarily through County tax foreclosure procedures. “These are the homes no one wants or can’t afford to fix. We take them, demolish them, and re-purpose the land,” Tollerup says.
When the City obtains a property and eliminates the blighted structure, it deeds the property to interested adjacent homeowners free of charge. “This is their reward for putting up with the eyesore for so long,” Tollerup mentioned. Further, one of the biggest reasons people give for moving out of Parma is that our lots are too small. This program is intended to create larger lot spaces to attract folks to Parma and keep them here and it works.
Not every city in the region that implemented an NSP demolished homes like Parma. Instead, some used very expensive renovation programs and, as a result, were able to accomplish much less than Parma. Further, these programs failed to bring in the expected revenue when the homes were sold. “We have been good stewards of our grants funds and have been able to accomplish much more than cities that did not implement a demolition program,” Tollerup adds. In fact, since its inception, Parma has eliminated 88 blighted homes as of this writing, with two more pending for 2017. As a result, property values have been enhanced due to fewer homes on the market, the elimination of blight and larger lot sizes.
Happily, according to Tollerup, Parma has very few condemnable housing structures left. In fact, 2017 has seen the fewest demolitions since the program began, with only six. Further, the success of the program has helped bring the number of distressed properties down 90% since 2009. “However, although the ones that are easily noticed due to exterior blight are gone, we are still finding some that, although they may not look terrible on the outside, are uninhabitable due exclusively to their interior condition,” Tollerup adds. Thus, the program continues. Incidentally, the City also uses some of the grant monies to demolish old garages. Therefore, if you are looking to eliminate yours, feel free to call the Parma Economic Development office at 216-661-7372 to inquire about the program.
Parma’s NSP program could not have happened had it not been for the concerted efforts of many organizations and individuals who have worked diligently to take steps to stabilize the housing market in our community, including Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, Congressman Jim Renacci, Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, County Executive Armond Budish, former County Councilman Chuck Germana, County Councilman Scott Tuma, County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley, all of Parma’s city council members and other elected officials from 2008 to the present, as well as many other unsung public servants at Parma City Hall, Cuyahoga County, the Cuyahoga County Land Bank, and other organizations.
Parma City Council President Sean Brennan