If Cleveland builds,
the people will come
Not everyone wants to move farther out to the suburbs. In fact, a surprising number of suburbanites want to move into the city of Cleveland, according to a recent survey by the Housing Policy Research Program at the Cleveland State University College of Urban Affairs. The following conclusions from the survey, "Market Demand for New Housing in Cleveland," explain how the city could meet the pent-up demand and attract new residents.
- There is demand for new housing in the city of Cleveland that greatly exceeds the current level of production. This survey found a minimum of 20,313 households interested in new housing. (The actual figure, including those interested but who did not bother to fill out the survey plus those who will become interested as more development occurs, could double that to 40,000 households.)
- Some of the demand is strongly conditional, mainly because of concern for safety. But with 45 percent (9,000) wanting to move within three years, the near-term demand could be at least 1,000 units per yearthree times the present level of production.
- The city's longer-term (beyond five years) planning and development programs should become oriented toward producing 2,000 units per year for at least 20 years.
- The survey found strong interest in West Side locations (as well as East Side and Downtown). However, most new housing development activity has been East Side or Downtown. Activity should be expanded to encompass the entire city.
- Development strategies are needed where demand is greatest: Kamms/West Park, University Circle, Warehouse District, W.65th lakefront bluffs and E.14th lakefront bluffs, which, combined, received 57 percent of the strongest interest. But of those locations, only the Warehouse District has a vigorous development program underway. Except for one project at W.65th, the bluff locations, which received 20 percent of the interest, are devoid of development.
- A construction scale of 2,000 units per year dictates the need for major site preparation activity in the city. An average of 20 units per acre would require 100 acres of land per year. Land assembly (combining small parcels to form suitable sites), site preparation and design should be given the highest priority by city and county governments, nonprofit development organizations and private-sector leadership.
- The findings that 85 percent of those interested in new housing in Downtown Cleveland prefer to own, and that only 25 percent of those preferring to rent are prepared to pay $700 or more a month, call into question the emphasis now being given to developing rental units Downtown. The market for rentals appears to be thin (possibly at most 1,000 units for the time being) while the market for ownership is much larger and untapped.
- There is substantial interest on the part of people now living in suburbs with upper incomes (over $70,000 a year and numbering possibly 10,000 households). Focus should be given to the location and product preferences of this market segment.
- With 69 percent of the interest in new housing in Cleveland coming from people living in suburbs, attention should be given to the question of how new developments and movement into the city can be accomplished so that social cohesion between existing and new residents will result.
- The city of Cleveland's policies governing subsidies for new construction should be reviewed. Any homebuyer will accept a subsidy if it is offered, but no respondent to this survey went so far as to say that a subsidy was required. The less that subsidies are employed, the more that a normal housing market can operate, and the more active the city's construction program can be.
- The existing IRS provision governing capital gain realized through home ownership is an obstacle to some people who would move into the city from the suburbs. City officials should request their congressional representatives to introduce legislation that would enable homesellers to move down in price without incurring a tax liability (a change that would benefit all cities).
- Outmigration may be the dominate pattern across Cuyahoga County, but not all movers want to move further out. By responding to the market demand documented through this survey (by building housing in Cleveland that will enable more of its residents to move up and remain in the city, and by building housing that will be attractive to suburbanites interested in moving in) the city of Cleveland will steadily shape a new and much more positive future.
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Outmigration may be the dominate pattern across Cuyahoga County, but not all movers want to move further out. By responding to the market demand (by building housing in Cleveland that will enable more of its residents to move up and remain in the city, and by building housing that will be attractive to suburbanites interested in moving in) the city of Cleveland will steadily shape a new and much more positive future.