Recycling Real Estate: Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity Is Now Rehabbing Foreclosed, Abandoned Properties

Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity is moving aggressively to rehabilitate and restore some of Cleveland’s neighborhoods that were most seriously damaged by the foreclosure crisis. Rather than building new housing, the organization is now adopting neighborhoods and rehabbing abandoned foreclosed properties.

House currently being rehabbed by Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity

House currently being rehabbed by Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity (Photo courtesy of Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity)

Here’s what I love about this move:

  • Habitat for Humanity can rehab a property and sell it to new homeowners for, in some cases, significantly less than $50,000, whereas costs for new housing units can easily approach $200,000 each. This not only makes home ownership affordable for more potential owners, it allows Habitat for Humanity to produce three or four rehabbed houses for the cost of one brand new house.
  • By focusing on selected streets, the process can revitalize an entire neighborhood, thus protecting — even increasing — the value of existing properties. In fact, Habitat for Humanity provides help with exterior repairs for existing residents in target neighborhoods.
  • Renovation instead of demolition reuses much of the existing structure, thus keeping building materials out of the landfill.
  • Rehabbing — restoring — existing homes, instead of replacing them with new construction, preserves the character of our historic neighborhoods.
  • Using materials donated to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore helps contain construction costs and makes use of what might otherwise be discarded.

The rehab process does, however, offer more serious challenges than new housing:

  • Obtaining clear title to a foreclosed, abandoned property is a time-consuming process, and until that process is complete, the property continues to be a blight on the neighborhood.
  • Because Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity is adopting and focusing on specific streets in neighborhoods that need a lot of work — currently Colfax Road in Lower Kinsman and Clement Avenue in Slavic Village — the properties may not be perceived as desirable by potential homeowners.

For more information about Habitat for Humanity’s current rehab work, see Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity’s Current Construction web page. Click on any of the photographs to open a slide show of rehab work in process on the property.

To see the many results of recent rehab projects, go to the Home Dedications page. Clicking on any photograph will open a slide show of the property’s dedication ceremony.

Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity Executive Director John Habat discussed this change in the organization’s approach as a guest columnist for on June 10, 2014.

Reduce, reuse, repurpose, rehab, recycle.
Keep neighborhoods from going to waste.
Keep building materials out of the landfill.

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Shopping Recycled: How I Replaced My Jenn-Air Range at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore and Saved Over $2,000

For several months, I’ve been pricing replacements for our elderly, failing, nightmare-to-clean Jenn-Air range. Few retailers carry what I wanted — a 30-inch range with a downdraft vent — and it was going to make a big hole in my budget: the lowest price I found was $1,899.00, and a model comparable to the one I was replacing would cost me, before sales tax, $2,368.00.

About six weeks ago, I had occasion to visit the Cleveland Habitat for Humanity ReStore on West 110 Street (map), and I wandered into their major appliances department. There it was: a Jenn-Air range, slightly newer than ours, sparkling clean, missing only the oven control knobs and the knob for setting the clock, and priced at $350.00.

The store was about to close and the event that had brought me there was about to begin, so I swallowed hard and walked away from my delightful find. Conversation with an employee during the event assured me that their appliances are in working order and that they could be returned for a refund if they fail to perform as advertised.

Jenn-Air range

Our Jenn-Air range, installed and ready to cook (photo credit: Lenore Collins)

The following day, my husband and I went to the store, where I purchased the range (for $378, including tax) — only to find that it wouldn’t fit into the trunk of my husband’s car. But ReStore would hold it for me for two days, and our son-in-law offered us the use of his Pontiac Torrent and its 35.2 cubic feet of cargo space. Two days later, we were back at the ReStore, where a group of employees jockeyed the stove into the Torrent and sent us on our happy way.

Over the following weekend, my husband and his son disconnected the old range, moved it to the Torrent, adjusted the vent system to fit the new range, hooked it up, and plugged everything in.

From the old range, I saved the oven racks and the grates that had covered the grill unit (these make great cooling racks). On Monday we took the remains to a scrap dealer, who calculated the scrap value and handed me cash that just covered a celebratory breakfast and a respectable tip for the waitress.

New knobs for the oven controls and the clock (available from Sears Parts Direct) added $66.03 to the price of the range, and the stovetop enjoyed a little detailed cleaning. When I was finished, we had an almost-new Jenn-Air range with downdraft vent and 21-inch oven for about 18% of what a new one would have cost us.

Habitat for Humanity and I saved a perfectly good appliance from the landfill, the materials in our old range will be recycled, I saved $2,113.41, and we now enjoy cooking on a stove on which everything works and which cleans up easily.

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