Could “Loft Home” Conversions Make Rust Belt Rehab Pencil Out?

A few weeks ago, Alan Mallach wrote on Rooflines about the mismatch between the buildings built for families of another era and the needs of today's potential city dwellers. 

It's a common problem in poor neighborhoods affected by high foreclosure rates for the cost of rehabbing vacant homes to be greater that what they will end up being worth. Some might say it's one of the largest problems they are facing.

In Cleveland, developer and landlord Charles Scaravelli is trying an unusual work around that gets at Mallach's concern too: converting old homes with outdated floor plans and too-small rooms into “loft homes“ with larger open spaces and rustic finishes, at a third of the cost of a traditional rehab, meaning the economics work. (h/t to ESOP for the link.) From

Now the Cuyahoga land bank and the St. Clair Superior Development Corporation are engaged in a pilot project to see whether the loft home conversions can be a way of bringing vacant houses, often the wreckage of the foreclosure crisis, back online. Demolition is the typical solution, but if an affordable model can be found to create a viable market for these houses, bulldozing doesn't have to be their only fate.

What do you think? Can this go to scale? Would it work in your neighborhoods? 

(Photo © Gus Chan/The Plain Dealer, used by permission. See more photos here.)

Shelterforce is the only independent, non-academic publication covering the worlds of community development, affordable housing, and neighborhood stabilization.


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