on November 20, 2012 by admin in Cleveland, Comments (0)

Cleveland City councilman says housing report isn’t erroneous, but it needs to …

Tony Brancatelli.jpg City Councilman Tony Brancatelli.

CLEVELAND, Ohio — City Councilman Tony Brancatelli said he did not call a consultant’s report about the cost of maintaining abandoned houses erroneous, even though he says the report needs to be “fixed” and “edited” to back up numbers contained in the report.

In an Oct. 3 story, The Plain Dealer said Brancatelli’s position was that the report was erroneous. The Plain Dealer based the statement on Brancatelli’s description of the alterations needed in the report, but Brancatelli says The Plain Dealer erred in describing his position.

Brancatelli also said he stands by the central theme of the report — that it costs $75 a day, on average, to deal with a vacant Cleveland house — but Brancatelli continues to be unable to provide a breakdown of the individual costs, which add up to more than $27,000 a year.

The details provided to support the figure are in a 2012 report by Enterprise Community Partners Inc. and the Pew Research Center. That report, based on a study in Gwinnett County, Ga., has one sentence that refers to the “holding costs” of dealing with vacant houses.

It says the cost could be between $25 and $100. The report does not offer a breakdown or a source of the number.

Brancatelli said $75 was chosen as the Cleveland cost because it is in between the $25 to $100 range contained in the Pew report. He promised to conduct further research to clarify the basis for the number. Brancatelli and City Council contracted with consultant Gaylord LLC of University Heights to produce the Cleveland report. The Gaylord report states that it “costs $27,000 annually to keep one foreclosed, abandoned, dangerous house boarded and free from vandalism, trash and high grass.”

The report later emphasizes that the mounting cost “includes only the economic costs of keeping houses boarded, locked, mowed, free from vandalism, trash, etc.” and “does not include the additional costs of higher crime, lower property values, lower tax revenue, lost investment, fighting arson and so on.”

Becky Gaylord, president of Gaylord LLC, said that by using “etc.” in the report, she intended to imply that the figure does “include fines, taxes and other assessments — not just maintenance.” And she said that the expenses the report listed were merely examples, intended “to illuminate the kinds of things that are included” and should not be taken as a comprehensive catalog of costs.

Gaylord said the cost includes many things not mentioned in the report, including citations for violations, tax liens, penalties and bills for anything owners were supposed to fix and didn’t, such as dangerous sidewalks. It also includes, she says, propping up collapsing porches, replacing cracked windows, cutting dead trees that threaten adjacent lots, mowing and removing snow.

Brancatelli, too, said the costs cover a litany of expenses, some of which are described in other parts of the report, including dealing with stolen copper pipes and smashed windows. Brancatelli acknowledged he had no cost numbers for those other expenses.

He said the expenses also include other deferred and lost costs such as delinquent taxes, even though the report specifically excludes “lower tax revenue” from the factors. The councilman said that “lower tax revenue” refers to taxes collected citywide, as opposed to taxes collected on a specific property.

He said Gaylord, in deriving the estimate, also relied on information provided by companies that specialize in caring for abandoned homes. He said that information was proprietary and could not be released.

Brancatelli and Gaylord said reports from other companies of amounts to secure vacant houses in Cleveland include far fewer services than the Gaylord report did.

The Plain Dealer’s original story in September generated comments from readers, some of whom were skeptical of the cost. Brancatelli and Gaylord attribute the response to the manner in which the information was presented in the newspaper.

The council contracted to pay Gaylord’s company $20,000 for the report and her advocacy.

Generally speaking, the purpose of the report was to raise awareness, said Brancatelli and several other city officials. The document was intended to drive home a point — that the city faces a glut of vacant and blighted housing and is desperate for an infusion of federal dollars to meet its demolition goals.

And Brancatelli said he was pushing forward with its message.

“The cost of the crisis and the impact it has had is well documented,” he said. “And I’m not walking away from it.”

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter: latassi@plaind.com, 216-999-4549

Article source: http://www.cleveland.com/cityhall/index.ssf/2012/11/cleveland_city_councilman_says.html

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