Blue House with White Porch

Residents First housing reform agenda aims to protect Clevelanders

Monday, Sep 18, 2023

Legislation introduces ordinance changes to support residents and revitalize neighborhoods  

Monday, September 18, 2023 — Cleveland — Robust new legislation outlining Mayor Bibb’s housing reform agenda with a package of ordinance overhauls aimed at protecting renters, dealing with vacant properties and revamping housing enforcement efforts will be introduced at tonight’s Cleveland City Council meeting.  

“Residents First is all about prioritizing people,” said Mayor Justin M. Bibb. “From day one, my administration has pledged to crack down on landlords that are taking advantage of our residents and to bring better enforcement and more resources to revitalize our neighborhoods. These ordinance changes are the critical tools we need to do just that.”  

The package includes provisions to protect renters, including revising and supplementing the City's existing rental registration process to better protect Cleveland renters and establishing a ‘local agent in charge’ requirement. The local agent must be a real person, located in Cuyahoga County who is legally responsible for the physical and financial condition of a property.  

Residents First also works to improve conditions in neighborhoods across the city with the creation of a new vacant property registry, beefing up enforcement with new tools to address nuisance properties and revisions to existing city ordinances to ensure clarity, consistency and continuity in enforcement.  

For the past six months, a working group led by Cleveland Building and Housing Director Sally Martin O’Toole convened councilmembers, external experts, and internal implementers to collaborate on the proposed code changes.  

“Our recent citywide property survey is clear evidence that these changes and enhancements are sorely needed,” Director Martin O’Toole said. “Not only has our percentage of A and B graded properties dropped 24 percent since 2015, but we also see strong evidence that a rise in real estate investment activity comes with negative outcomes for both homeowners and tenants.”  

Code enforcement changes outlined in Residents First establish new legal authority for inspectors to issue civil tickets for nuisances. This new code enforcement tool allows for the issuance of a $200 fine per infraction for violations including garbage disposal, lead-safe requirements, pest infestation, exterior maintenance, graffiti removal, sanitation and other areas covered by the city’s building and housing, zoning, fire and health codes.  

Residents First also calls for modifying city code to require inspections of parking garages every five years, expanding abatement authority to use existing demolition funding accounts for additional emergency nuisance abatement activities and minimizes loopholes in the certificates of disclosure and statements of authorized use processes.  

“This legislative package is the most significant reform we’ve seen in the housing space in a long time. I am proud to partner with my colleagues on City Council, Mayor Bibb and his team on this important work,” said Councilmember Kris Harsh, a member of the working group that developed the package. “I am grateful for the immense time and energy spent by everyone on this, including Director O’Toole and her team, members of the Vacant and Abandoned Property Council and the City of Cleveland Law Department.”  

Following tonight’s introduction, Residents First will be heard at an upcoming meeting of City Council’s Development, Planning and Sustainability Committee.   

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