by Kevin E. Cleary
According to an old cliché, “too many chefs spoil the pot.” The originator of this statement might have retracted it if he or she could have predicted the creation of the upcoming affordable housing website, HousingCleveland.org. Conceived by NEOCH’s Bridging the Gap program, and stemming from meetings of a CAHA (Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance) subcommittee, this unique website is coming together as the result of a partnership between many different programs and agencies.
The partners listed on housingcleveland.org include 211/First Call for Help (United Way of Greater Cleveland), Bridging the Gap, Cleveland Tenants Organization, Cleveland/Cuyahoga County Office of Homeless Services, Cleveland Dept. of Community Development, Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA), the Cleveland State University Center for Neighborhood Development, Cuyahoga County Dept. of Development, EDEN, the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry, Maximum Independent Living, the May Dugan Center, and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.
Mike Foley, Executive Director of Cleveland Tenants Organization, was on the CAHA subcommittee and spoke highly of the partnerships forged to bring the website to fruition.
“For CTO, I was happy because there were a lot of detail-oriented people on this committee who put a lot of thought into making this website both practical and user-friendly.”
Other property listings in Cleveland charge a fee for landlords, such as those listed in The Plain Dealer, or at rent.com. HousingCleveland.org will be free for those seeking housing, and it is already free to landlords offering properties to people who are homeless or have low incomes.
According to Leigh Ann Ahmad, Program Director for Bridging the Gap, “The website is up now for landlords to populate, and will be available for the public to search probably in September.”
The project is modeled after a successful website in St. Paul, Minn. called housinglink.org. Cleveland’s website ran into some initial difficulties as early inquiries found the cost of building and maintaining such a site to be quite prohibitive. Thus, a coalition began to coalesce. President Van Goettel of socialserve.com was immediately responsive, and others soon came to the table.
Countless meetings eventually led to some county funding, and United Way Services stepped up to provide the gateway. Socialserve.com agreed to develop and maintain the website. The result was a three-year agreement contracting United Way Services and socialserve.com at a total cost of roughly $74,000, significantly less than the initial estimate, according to Ahmad.
Socialserve.com will ease the process for landlords by allowing them to FAX, email, or call in their listings. Socialserve.com will also call every two weeks to check with landlords and update their listings. By combining this with Bridging the Gap’s policy of following-up with its clients for a year, Ahmad feels this will reassure many landlords who might initially be wary.
Landlords can list their properties at no charge, as well as set their own requirements for tenants, such as background or credit checks. Landlords can also specify whether they charge an application fee, accept calls in Spanish, and tenants they prefer to accommodate. A separate inventory will be maintained of handicap-accessible housing. The website is expected to be of great assistance to both landlords and tenants, but it will also benefit the agencies and programs involved.
“It’s also good for advocacy and reporting the actual supply-and-demand of affordable properties in Cleveland,” says Ahmad. “Cleveland is unique in that it has so many affordable properties that are vacant. A lot of other cities have rent that is even more out of reach for those with low-incomes.”
Copyright NEOCH, The Homeless Grapevine #71, July 2005. All Rights Reserved.