Businessman and Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has been highly instrumental in fighting urban decay or blight nationwide, and that fight has had – and continues to have -- significant impact in Greater Cleveland.
In 2011 and 2012, Gilbert and his team at Rock Ventures, the parent company of Gilbert’s many businesses, helped persuade congressional leaders to direct $2 billion to that effort nationwide, securing over $60 million in federal blight relief funding - Hardest Hit Funds - for Cuyahoga County and in Cleveland neighborhoods – with 82% of that to date being spend in the City of Cleveland.
The Hardest Hit Funds program has provided significant resources to help Americans avoid foreclosure, and eliminate blight and stabilize housing markets in targeted states.
Western Reserve Land Conservancy,
Arlene Anderson, Cleveland NAACP Secretary and Interim Executive Director, said the demolition program is crucial to the comeback for Cleveland neighborhoods.
“Communities like Cleveland simply don’t have the resources to remove these abandoned eyesores,’’ said Anderson. “If these houses continue to decline, the blight will spread. That means property values will keep going down and hope for recovery slowly disappears. Demolishing these houses and either creating green space or open land for new development is so important to neighborhood revitalization.’’
Gilbert’s interest makes sense on many fronts.
The foreclose crisis was driven by predatory lenders, but all mortgage lenders were impacted, including Gilbert’s Quicken Loans. While federal money helped with mortgage debt relief, in some places that help came too late: owners walked away from houses owing more than they could get if the sold the properties. Those abandoned houses contributed to the blight issue.
Gilbert embraced the demolition idea and worked both publicly and behind the scenes to convince congressional leaders this was worth supporting.
Jim Rokakis, a former Cleveland City Council member and Vice President of the non-profit Western Reserve Land Conservancy, an organization that is working on land conservation and restoration throughout the Northeast Ohio region, said Gilberts’ help was invaluable in making their case to use Hardest Hit Funds for not just foreclosure prevention, but for the removal of decaying homes.
“We depended on the team at Rock Ventures to provide technical support as well as lobbying support to convince the Treasury that using the funds for demolishing deteriorating houses was critical,” he said.
The Cavaliers are also addressing neighborhood blight by donating to Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity all admission proceeds from this year’s road game watch parties at The Q during the NBA playoffs and a portion of future proceeds. Over the next two years, the donations will help Habitat meet its goal to renovate 100 homes in the hardest hit Cleveland neighborhoods. The Cavaliers are partnering with United Pastors in Mission on Habitat for Humanity efforts and the continued fight against blight.
The Q project, by ensuring the Cavaliers extend their lease in Cleveland, will help make certain that the partnership of the city with the Cavaliers and Dan Gilbert’s family of companies continues for a long time and generates these and other benefits for Cleveland neighborhoods.