CLEVELAND, Ohio – Frustrated city council members took advantage of a budget hearing on Tuesday to call on Mayor Frank Jackson’s government to allocate more money to tackle the poor housing situation.
The hearing, a review of federal government-funded aid programs and city-funded home improvement programs, sparked passionate appeals from members representing homeowners who often cannot afford to do repairs.
“We have this massive problem – poor, elderly, people who can’t afford to look after their homes,” said Councilor Mike Polensek. “I’ve seen the low-income and moderate-income population increase and the need increase. I am concerned with more quality of life issues than ever before. “[Income}populationexpandanddistressexpandI’mdealingwithmorequality-of-lifeissuesthanIeverhave”[income}populationexpandanddistressexpandI’mdealingwithmorequality-of-lifeissuesthanIeverhave”
The city has several programs to help homeowners, especially the elderly, but not enough, councilors said during the development, planning and sustainability committee meeting.
If federal guidelines prevent Cleveland from using the $ 30 million it receives annually in block grants and emergency relief to support these programs, the city must put more of its money in, they said.
“It can’t be easy, ‘Well, the guidelines say …'” Councilor Basheer Jones said. “Our grandparents can’t even fix their damn roofs.”
Polensek and Jones both represent East Side Wards, as does Blaine Griffin. Griffin noted, however, that housing problems are not just confined to the East Side neighborhoods.
“There are some areas on the west side that also take it on the chin,” he said.
The morning and afternoon hours on Tuesday – more than six hours together – were the opening rounds for Cleveland’s 2021 budget process. The finance committee will begin next week the full budget of $ 1.8 billion. The budget must be approved before April 1st.
Michiel Wackers, director of community development, said several factors contribute to Cleveland’s persistent housing problems. In addition to poverty problems, these include:
- A large percentage of the housing stock was built before 1940.
- Programs have a limited number of people available to carry them out.
- Banking institutions have hesitated to invest in some of Cleveland’s troubled neighborhoods.
That last point is important, Wackers said, because the support of the banking industry allows expansion and reinvestment. Cleveland’s programs alone are not enough to keep up with the needs of the neighborhood.
Members have driven the expansion of two home programs managed by the community development department.
- Basheer Jones suggested easing income restrictions on the Senior Homeowner Assistance Program, which provides vouchers for emergency repairs. In connection with this, he suggested adding more resources to the program to accommodate a larger number of applicants.
- Councilor Joe Jones urged to double the funding for the city’s painting program, which is now set at $ 500,000 a year. The program offers paint and accessories for homeowners.
Basheer Jones also suggested that Cleveland push for more federal aid for community development and housing assistance, with US Representative Marcia Fudge joining President Joe Biden’s cabinet as president Secretary of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.
Fudge, the former Warrensville Heights mayor, understands urban problems, particularly those of Greater Cleveland, he said.
“We have to be ready so we can go to her and say that we are structurally prepared, but we need more resources,” said Basheer Jones.
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