2012 Capstone Studio - Foreclosure Crisis

The Foreclosure Crisis: First Suburbs Consortium

The focus of this year' Planning Capstone Studio is the Foreclosure Crisis in five of the First Suburb Consortium cities: Cleveland Heights, Lakewood, Shaker Heights, South Euclid, and Warrensville Heights.

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611 Capstone Research Project: "Foreclosure Crisis"

Executive Summary

Charged with the task of making predictions and finding solutions for one of the worst housing catastrophes this country has ever seen is a daunting challenge. We met it head on in a five month long data gathering session that included getting out into the communities and talking to the people that live this disaster every day.

Starting by gathering data from various sources, including websites and newspaper clippings, this journey took us to five inner-ring suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio: Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights, South Euclid, Warrensville Heights and Lakewood, all part of the First Suburbs Consortium. Most started as street car suburbs in the 19-teens and 20’s, which poses unique housing challenges such as asbestos, lead paint and aging mechanical systems. These suburbs are also faced with a lack of industry which leaves their homes as the sole provider of funds for city services and education, funds and services that are diminishing as home values and homeownership dwindles.

By looking at the national trends throughout the past five years, we can easily see the impact foreclosures have had on our cities in Northeast Ohio. Starting in 2007, the rate of foreclosures increased sharply and now has leveled to the point of pre-crisis numbers. Values of homes have also decreased to pre-foreclosure levels.

The impact of these foreclosures has been a steep increase in rental properties as there are more people with credit that prohibit homeownership. Many of these suburbs offer some sort of rental programs to make rentals easier on both landlords and tenants.

In studying foreclosures, its timeline and its effects, our class has proposed a solution: a mortgage move down chain. Thinking out of the box, this proposal would lessen the number of vacant properties and the number of people renting. Keeping people in their homes and being careful not to disrupt the lives of those that have gone through so much was our goal in this “home swapping” process. A new method, we spell out the benefits to banks and homeowners as well as the monetary amounts that could be saved.

As we were studying this process, we interviewed stakeholders in each community, as well as others who have been affected during the last few years by this housing meltdown. Stakeholders included mayors, planning officials and non-profit leaders as well as those in the banking industry. We also reached out to some of the victims of foreclosure through a phone survey and a focus group. Although our response rate was only 1%, we were able to make an important observation: foreclosure not only takes away homes, it is also a very personal and traumatic event, triggered by high interest rates and job loss.

Demolitions have been seen as another solution to excess housing left after foreclosure. Used as side lots, community gardens and in some cases new houses, these vacant lots provide many opportunities for cities to right size their communities and direct funds to healthier areas and services. Also explored are alternatives to demolitions that are practiced and have been successful in other cities.

Funding is going to be a challenge in both demolition and rehabilitations in the future as Neighborhood Stabilization Funds cease and Community Development Block Grant funds are significantly cut. As we take a look at where future money is going to come from and how much may be needed to remedy this situation, we also propose new legislation to help accelerate foreclosure proceedings and take a look at other laws involved in the process.

Copyright © 2012 Levin College Studio Project - Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs - Cleveland State University - All rights reserved.