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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

East Cleveland Murders Put Spotlight On Abandoned Homes

City of East Cleveland service department employee Ray Allen breaks into an abandoned house so searchers can enter Sunday, July 21, 2013, in East Cleveland, Ohio. The police chief told volunteers to check vacant houses in a neighborhood where three bodies were found wrapped in plastic bags. (Tony Dejak/AP)

City of East Cleveland service department employee Ray Allen breaks into an abandoned house so searchers can enter Sunday, July 21, 2013, in East Cleveland, Ohio. The police chief told volunteers to check vacant houses in a neighborhood where three bodies were found wrapped in plastic bags. (Tony Dejak/AP)

Three bodies found in and around abandoned houses in East Cleveland have raised questions about the prevalence of vacant homes in the community — there are almost 4,000 of them, according to The Plain Dealer

Homes that are abandoned — often due to foreclosure — lower property values, but neighborhood advocates say they also create an environment that allows criminal activity to go unchecked and undetected.

These houses are not going to be rehabilitated. Nobody’s going to repopulate them.

– Jim Rokakis

Instead of putting money into rehabilitation efforts, housing activist and former Cuyahoga County treasurer Jim Rokakis says the best way to save a neighborhood like East Cleveland is to tear these structures down.

“I have no doubt that in cities like Boston, New York or Chicago or other cities that are gaining in population, rehab is a strong argument that should carry the day,” Rokakis told Here & Now. “This is Cleveland. We’ve lost about 20 percent of our population in the last 10 years. Like a lot of other cities in the industrial Midwest, we’re losing — not gaining — population. We simply do not have the demand. So these houses are not going to be rehabilitated. Nobody’s going to repopulate them.”

And not demolishing the vacant houses is hurting the people still left in the neighborhoods, Rokakis said.

“They have found the property value of their own home absolutely destroyed,” he said. “When you talk about victims, it’s certainly these sad women and men who have been found dead in these buildings, but the other victims are the people who are left there. … They have no exit strategy. So we owe it to them to try to clean up these neighborhoods.”

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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