Tuesday, January 09, 2007

New Era for Building and Housing?

Ed Rybka Attends Affordable Housing Meeting

To mark the one year anniversary of his appointment to the post as Director of the City of Cleveland Department of Building and Housing, Ed Rybka attended the Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance meeting. CAHA is a place that public agencies (HUD, City, CMHA and County) meet with advocates, landlords, and social service providers to report on potential threats to affordable housing in our community. This meeting is the first Monday of every month (unless there is a holiday) at the local HUD office. This week, Ed Rybka joined us to report on his term at Building and Housing. As most are aware, there was a scathing report issued about the department. Rybka was very honest and straight forward about the problems and the fact that there are no additional resources to fix the problems within the Department.

He said that there is a great deal of institutional bureaucracy that needs changed. The biggest was the old way the Department responded to problems: complaints. Everyone in Cleveland knew that by calling your Council member or the Mayor's action line you got results. This allowed major eyesores that were not a problem to neighbors to go without oversight for years. This has changed in the last year. Now, all the departments focus on a certain neighborhood together and then move on together. Every neighborhood gets a visit every 30 days. The department has prioritized the worst abandoned properties (220) and is working on that list. They still respond to health and safety reports on an emergency basis, but not a complaint over a falling downspout to the Mayor's office.

Rybka said that they now have a database of 2,000 abandoned properties, but he suspects that there could be as many as 10,000. He also has set up a partnership with the County Senior and Adult Services to get help for seniors who cannot manage their house. His inspectors rarely come across homeless squatters--go out at night and that will change. He wants to start demolishing more buildings that are hazards. Right now they do 175 to 220 a year. He still has a lot of work, but he is trying to work through some of the issues in the report on department inefficiencies.

Brian Davis
Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.

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