CLEVELAND - NewsChannel5 is embarking on a year long station wide project titled, "Building Better Neighborhoods."


The project will target and seek out solutions to the growing number of vacant homes that are plaguing dozens of northeast Ohio neighborhoods.


Over the past year, residents and viewers have contacted 5 On Your Side to tell us how vacant homes are jeopardizing safety and property values in their neighborhoods.

NewsChannel5 has covered a growing number stories involving crime, house fires and vandalism at these condemned locations.


“Through Building Better Neighborhoods, NewsChannel 5 will create positive and measurable changes in the local communities we serve,” said station VP and General Manager Sam Rosenwasser.


“Today’s coverage is only the beginning of this long-term project. As the station On Your Side, we’re eager to do what we can to improve neighborhoods and improve lives.”

Former Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis said vacant homes are also one of the leading cause of a dramatic drop in regional property values.


"After 10 years of foreclosure crisis, we have an absolutely stunning drop in property values," Rokakis said. "This is not just the problem of the inner city, it's now become the problem of every homeowner in Cuyahoga County."


Rokakis pointed to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. 5 On Your Side was given an exclusive preview of the study and its findings.


The study focuses on the 27,000 Cuyahoga County homeowners who sold their homes in 2010. It outlines a massive drop in property values that caused these homeowners sell their houses for a total of $1.4 billion less that the homes county assessed value.


Rokakis and other Northeast Ohio leaders believe vacant homes are dragging down property values by promoting crime and safety hazards.


In response, Building Better Neighborhoods will provide information, awareness and resources to residents and communities that are dealing with distressed homes.

In 2012, NewsChannel5 will work with community groups and corporate partners to initiate and promote neighborhood clean-up efforts.


5 On Your Side will host a series of "town hall meetings" throughout the year, that will give residents, lawmakers and neighborhood groups a platform for discussion in the search for solutions.


U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) met with the Federal Housing Administration in the search for his own solution to the problems caused by vacant homes.


Brown is committed toward finding additional federal demolition funds in 2012. He praised the 5 On Your Side Building Better Neighborhoods project.


"I think what Channel 5 does is bring attention to the problem," Brown said. "A fixed responsibility where it belongs, and help in reaching solutions."

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