Phenomenal ideas have come from our continued community “Charlas” with my neighbors and friends of the Buckeye-Woodhill neighborhood. I am excited to be in partnership with you to figure out how we are going to make sure information about policies that affect living will get into your hands.
For starters, did you know about the community fact sheets prepared by The Center for Community Solutions? They offer vital information and statistics about social matters that affect our lives. On a mission to share, raise awareness and spark solutions, I am going to deep dive into some of these matters. During this journey, I also wish to highlight partners and community members who may be already addressing and finding solutions to some of these challenges.
During this journey, I also wish to highlight partners and community members who may be already addressing and finding solutions to some of these challenges.
Even a humble home is a haven
I’m writing this, sitting on my front porch, waving at my neighbor, and reflecting on the blessing that it is to have a home. I find the most comfort from my busy days on this porch. It is a humble space, not much to brag about, but it has my favorite rocking chair, often a nice cold lemonade and it is all mine! I want this feeling of homeownership for my neighbors and friends of Buckeye, so I’ve decided to focus my thoughts now on housing. Over the many years at East End Neighborhood House, I saw how many of our families, seniors, and individuals struggled with the matter of housing. Job loss and many other stressors often shake housing stability.
Rental assistance can help, especially when the unexpected happens, and when someone needs urgent help. Getting such assistance often buys some time. Renting, however, means constantly facing new challenges. It is not as stable to rent as it may have been in the past. Many of us who had to rent our homes growing up, whether apartments or houses, were able to do so for years! Today, housing challenges create great burdens, and states around the country are fledgling to create housing stability for both renters and homeowners. Unfortunately, Cleveland is seemingly beginning to mirror some of these challenges with the rise in rents and cost of home ownership.
Home ownership support is key to sustainable housing stability
Social workers serving the Buckeye neighborhood have some helpful ideas about the state of housing. The consensus is that time is better spent helping towards home ownership, rather than rental assistance, in order to sustain housing stability. Many shared the challenges of unjust hikes in rent, and some of the horrors faced by renters who have to deal with distanced homeowners. Then there is the recent reality of having to deal with corporations and never even meeting an actual building owner face to face. The Center for Community Solutions team reports that only 2 in 5 renters live in housing that is affordable to them. Four in 5 homeowners live in housing that is affordable to them. Renters are much more likely to experience housing burden, as they spend more than 30% of their income on housing.
Racism and the legacy of redlining
Add to this stress the reality of inflation, COVID, and all social stressors affecting our communities. Also, at a time when we are once again focusing more attention on racism, which our country long ago needed to address, we cannot forget the past as it relates to housing. Redlining, the overtly discriminatory policy that kept many African American Families from ever becoming homeowners, still plays a part in housing stability. A point relevant to the Buckeye neighborhood, predominantly represented by Black families. The time is now to do all we can to help communities increase home ownership.
Housing champions in Buckeye-Woodhill: Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity
During my “Charlas”, when I asked neighbors and social workers to name champions in housing solutions, several players came up. I had the pleasure of meeting some of these champions. Bob Whitney, a Neighborhood Planning Manager, from Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity, shared their success with home ownership service in the Buckeye neighborhood. Their program is designed to expand affordable homeownership opportunities for people who otherwise would not be able to buy homes. In the majority of cases, homebuyers pay less on their mortgage payment than what they were paying in rent! Buyers can buy a home at a 0% interest point for their mortgage and do not need a large down payment to make the purchase. By the end of 2024, they plan to have sold over 100 homes.
Bob also shared the results of their 2020 Homeownership Impact Survey. In part, respondents shared many positive life changes; 96% shared confidence in their ability to take care of their family; 86% are hopeful about the future; 80% are able to focus on self-improvement and 79% reported a better financial situation as a result of purchasing a Habitat home. I have been to a Habitat open house and once met a family that proclaimed their great joy of home ownership; home bliss indeed!
It is not just about getting the house; it’s also being equipped and well informed to sustain the home.
ESOP workshops create educated homeowners
While homeownership is seemingly the best path to release people from housing burden, social advocates for homeownership say frankly that the path is not without challenges. Aside from the obvious subject matter of employment, financial management and credit history also require special attention. Elizabeth Sanchez, a HUD Certified Housing Counselor, from Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People/ESOP, said that “It is not just about getting the house; it’s also being equipped and well informed to sustain the home.” ESOP, also part of Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, offers a variety of workshops and counseling to support the journey toward home ownership. A unique offering includes purchasing workshops that encourage saving as a homeowner vs. a renter, and becoming aware of the new challenges and needs that may arise from maintaining a house. They even have an initiative that matches up to $500.00, the same amount that the participant actively saves as they go through the workshop; allowing them to walk away with $1,000 they can use as new homeowners.
My next piece will focus on the impact of job loss in the stability of the Buckeye-Woodhill neighborhood.
Local housing resources:
Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People/ESOP:216-361-0718 | benrose.org
Greater Cleveland, Habitat for Humanity at 216-429-1299 | firstname.lastname@example.org | https://www.clevelandhabitat.org/apply/
Other Housing champions mentioned during these interviews included: