What's wrong with this picture?
So, why do we take issue with the case of James Mader, the 78-year old Cleveland man who was jailed for 45 days by Cleveland's housing court who was clearly in violation of the law due to his failure to maintain his rental properties on Cleveland's west side? Because the law is antiquated and fails to address the current reality of Ohio's housing and economic situation: Ohio's urban and rural communities are being decimated by 30,000+ abandoned homes. In order for this to change, billions of dollars of investment dollars must arrive in these communities. Mr. Mader purchased these homes with the idea that he and his son would maintain and rent the properties, receive some much-needed income, and allow his son to someday take over these properties. However, things did not go as planned: Mr. Mader's son passed away.
But, wait. Wasn't Mr. Mader's (a suburbanite) purchase of the homes an investment in urban Cleveland?
And, in a city with a declining population and tens of thousands of abandoned homes, isn't that what Cleveland needs: investment from outsiders? We can't, on the one hand, convince outsiders to invest in urban communities just to, on the other hand, put them in jail if things don't go as planned. Let's be honest: America has never seen an abandoned homes crises of this magnitude. Real investors are relying on speculation just as the cities tasked with solving the abandoned homes crisis rely on speculation. If cities are failing to tackle the issue, how can first-time investors fare any better?
Ohio code enforcement laws were written to enforce the law against owner-occupants. Today, there are more homes in Ohio's urban communities than there are prospective home purchasers. Cities that want to survive must work with outside investors, applaud their efforts, and mine them for data to discover what went right and what went wrong. Only then can we develop effective programs which can positively impact this crisis.