City of Cleveland and Western Reserve Land Conservancy Partner for Property Inventory and Assessment

October 28, 2022

The City of Cleveland and Western Reserve Land Conservancy are once again partnering to survey, assess, and analyze nearly 170,000 land parcels in and around the city. The results of this project will provide important data that will assist in identifying and prioritizing properties for rehabilitation, lead abatement, code violations, demolition and other pressing needs.

In teams of two, 30 surveyors from the City of Cleveland will be trained to use mobile devices to inventory each property. Using baseline data from local sources such as existing city and county data, utilities, and the powerful database NEOCANDO from Case Western Reserve University, surveyors will visually inspect properties to determine if a structure exists on the property, if a structure is occupied or vacant and/or abandoned, and then assess the property on an A to F scale. They will also take photos of each property, gather information about illegal dumping, sidewalk and tree conditions and ADA accessibility and record all this information on their mobile devices using proprietary software (Loveland Technologies’ Regrid App).

“The 2015 property inventory data showed the extent to which vacant and abandoned properties were plaguing neighborhoods and communities. The City and its partners moved quickly to action, addressing the structures that received a ‘D’ or ‘F’ rating, those that were the most dangerous and most distressed,” said Cleveland Mayor Justin M. Bibb. “Many of those properties were demolished, and many are being repurposed into side yards, public green spaces, and new development. Now we’re working to identify the ‘B’ and ‘C’ properties, the ones that need rehabilitation not demolition. The big concern is that many of these properties have dangerous levels of toxic lead pollution, a problem that has plagued our city for decades. With this property survey, we will soon have the data from surveyors who are on the ground, in the streets, identifying where the City can direct its resources to make a difference for neighbors and their communities.”

In 2015, the first Cleveland property inventory found that of the 112,897 parcels containing occupied structures in the City of Cleveland, over 84 percent were graded A (Excellent) or B (Good). These structures are considered to need only minor improvements, if any, and appeared to be cared for and well maintained. Of the 12,179 parcels containing vacant structures in the City of Cleveland, 37 percent were graded D (Deteriorated) or F (Unsafe or Hazardous). These structures may exhibit characteristics including major cracking; rotting wood; broken or missing windows; missing brick and siding; and open holes.

“Homes and structures contaminated with lead continue to be a major problem in Ward 12 and all across the City,” said Rebecca Maurer, Cleveland City Councilwoman for Ward 12. “Too many families are unknowingly exposed to lead poisoning, leading to significant health impacts on young children. We need to fix this problem, and that begins with comprehensive data about each individual parcel in the city. This property inventory will be the roadmap that the City can use to address this legacy pollutant and clean up Cleveland. I’m excited to work with Mayor Bibb and his administration, my colleagues on the Cleveland City Council, and the folks at Western Reserve Land Conservancy to clean up toxic lead pollution once and for all.”

Rocket Community Fund is the lead philanthropic partner in this effort.

“Since inception, the Rocket Community Fund has worked to help build safe and stable communities and neighborhoods,” said Laura Grannemann, Vice President, Rocket Community Fund. “On-the-ground information collection through surveying and direct to resident outreach is the foundation of all data-driven investments. We are proud to collaborate with the City of Cleveland and Western Reserve Land Conservancy to complete this critical work.”

“Evaluating these properties is a critical first step to addressing the most urgent needs of a community,” said Isaac Robb, vice president of urban planning at Western Reserve Land Conservancy, Ohio’s largest land trust. “Cleveland’s first property inventory occurred in 2015, and the results were alarming. But with the knowledge in hand from that survey, the City and its partners were able to prioritize the worst properties for rehabilitation or demolition and make significant strides towards repurposing vacant properties and lots. We are confident that the results of the 2022 survey will demonstrate an improvement from 2015 and once again provide important information for how best to address remaining vacant and abandoned properties. Data doesn’t necessarily make you smarter, but it certainly helps inform smart decisions.”

The property inventory kicks off during National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, a “call to bring together individuals, organizations, industry, and state, tribal, and local governments to increase lead poisoning prevention awareness in an effort to reduce childhood exposure to lead, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The survey results will help the City of Cleveland identify likely properties contaminated with lead for additional abatement and notification.

“Data has shown that 25% of children tested in Cleveland under the age of six have been exposed to lead prior to kindergarten. National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week is a reminder of the importance of education and an opportunity to encourage residents to get their homes and children tested. We must continue to work together to ensure every home is safe and no more children are lead poisoned,” Mayor Bibb said.

The cost for this survey project is $170,000, paid for by Rocket Community Fund, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), and the Cleveland Foundation. This covers licensing and servicing fees, equipment, materials, and a staff supervisor. The survey is anticipated to be complete in spring 2023 and the results will be delivered to the City and shared with partners at its discretion.