Yesterday I was aimlessly browsing the Internet and came across a story about murders in East Cleveland, Ohio. Three bodies had been found, two in an abandon house. The video showed large, turn-of-the-century houses, which had fallen into disrepair.
According to East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton, there are 2,500 vacant and abandoned homes in the city’s three square miles. In the entire Cleveland metro area, there are nearly 76,000 vacant residences.
Last year, the population of Cuyahoga County, which comprises the Cleveland metro area, was 1,265,111. Homeownership was around 62% from 2007 through 2011, with an average of 2.34 people per household. And in 2011, there were 620,830 housing units, which included apartments.
Doing rough calculations, around 12% of housing units are vacant in the Cleveland metro area. However, the percentage of abandoned houses is probably considerably higher because 62% of the population lives in houses!
Cleveland, like many Midwest cities, was once bustling with industry. Located on the shores of Lake Erie, Cleveland was a shipping hub – water and railroad — for iron, steel, machinery, and automobiles. It was also the location of the lamp division of General Electric, National Bindery, and other light industries. At one time, nearly a million people lived in East Cleveland. Today, that number has dwindled to less than a third. The per-capita income is just $16,000 per year.
Blocks of stately Colonial Revival, Greek Revival, Federal, and Neoclassic homes on narrow, deep lots were built to house workers and their families between 1910 and 1920. Many of these houses were probably owned by the same family for generations, with children growing up and moving out, and returning when they’re parents could no longer care for the houses or passed away.
Built at the turn-of-the-century, they featured hardwood floors, carved banisters, inset cabinets with leaded glasses, and woodwork around the window. Many had basements for furnaces, and large double sinks for doing laundry. Attics were common, and were probably primarily used for storage. In the backyards were garages and outbuildings, along with a small patch of grass for the kids. The fronts had porches for cooling off during the summer months. Some had beautiful rock work and carved banisters.
These houses were built to last with quality materials, which is why most are still stand, even in disrepair.
Curious about the inside of the houses, and type of houses that have been abandoned, I went onto Zillow, and browsed the houses in East Cleveland near the Cleveland Metropark Zoo. What I found was startling. Houses are being auctioning, starting at $500!
While most of these houses are in horrific shape, undoubtedly filled with varmints, rotting wood that makes them dangerous to renovate, and antiquated electrical and plumbing, some look to be in “okay” shape, their owners simply not having the money to make the mortgage payments.
Pages of houses are foreclosed. And some are selling for a fraction of their worth. One house was purchased in 2005 for $67,500, and is currently selling for $3,500. Crazy!
Here’s a snapshot of what I found (check out the album above to see pictures of the houses):
It’s anyone’s guess as to what’s going to happen to the abandoned and reduced priced houses of East Cleveland (and those in other struggling Midwest cities like Detroit). These houses are our heritage. Most are a century or more in age. However with people in East Cleveland earning an average of less than $1,500 per month, and high unemployment it’s doubtful people will be hustling to purchase these houses and fix them up for future generations.
The irony is some of these houses are worth less than an outfit featured in Vogue magazine. Think about it. A pair of Jimmy Choo shoes, Valentino dress, and Gucci bag cost more than a 3-bedroom house in East Cleveland!