Land Banking in Action: The Reality of How Transforming Vacant Lots Can Bring Dreams to Life for Habitat for Humanity Families

Land Banking in Action: The Reality of How Transforming Vacant Lots Can Bring Dreams to Life for Habitat for Humanity Families

 Habitat for Humanity participant celebrates with family her newly earned home!

On a sunny Saturday morning in May, five families were handed their wooden keys in a heartwarming dedication that also marked a significant milestone for both Habitat for Humanity of Greater Cleveland and Cuyahoga Land Bank. 

This project on West 128th, lovingly referred to as “The Stairway to Nowhere” because of a staircase on one of the lots that led literally nowhere and now leads to a backyard, launched back in 2017 and highlights the true and full process of land banking – returning land to productive use. 

The typical process begins when a land banking team identifies a vacant home or lot that could be better used to benefit a community. In this situation, the Land Bank’s acquisitions team  identified five vacant lots on Cleveland’s West Side. To create a contiguous area of developable land, the Land Bank needed to work with the adjacent homeowners association for a land swap; and this is where Land Bank Assistant General Counsel Douglas Sawyer’s stepped in. Doug worked to recreate the HOA and arrange for a land swap between the HOA and the Land Bank.  

Once cleared from the legal team, Acquisitions Manager Kim Steigerwald engaged a contractor to perform an environmental assessment on the properties and arranged for one of the Land Bank’s field service contractors to remove a gazebo on one of the lots and re-assemble it on a different parcel.

At this point, the land was ready for development! The Land Bank worked closely with Habitat for Humanity to plan and execute on this “Faith Build” – special work Habitat does that highlights the importance of community and shared purpose. Our in-house philanthropy Land Bank Charities extended our contribution to Habitat beyond the five lots by providing a total of $200,000, $150,000 of which went toward the overall project and an additional $10,000 dedicated to each home. 

Together, the development of these specific homes became a shining example of how collaboration can create lasting change and empower families to achieve the dream of homeownership. The dedication illustrated this. On this warm spring morning, the volunteers’ tireless efforts and Habitat for Humanity’s unwavering commitment were celebrated and acknowledged, alongside Bre’Anna, Kamisha, Danyele, Tionna, Amber and Milan and their families, the residents of these five new homes who invested months of hard work of preparing for homeownership

“We’re thrilled to be a part of this transformative Habitat for Humanity project,” said Gus Frangos, President and General Counsel. “Witnessing the dedication ceremony for these five new homes was incredibly fulfilling. These aren’t just houses; they represent stability, opportunity and a foundation for brighter futures for five families. We’re proud to have played a role in making these dreams a reality, and we know the impact will ripple throughout the community for years to come.”

“This project has transformed a neighborhood, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the Cuyahoga Land Bank or Habitat for Humanity,” said project supporter and Cleveland Ward 16 Councilman Brian Kazy. “All the behind-the-scenes work the Land Bank put into this project was unprecedented. Between tracking down a defunct Homeowners Association to lot-splitting to keeping the nostalgic look of the neighborhood was yeoman’s work. All this has helped stabilize a neighborhood, provide housing and help families build wealth. I very much appreciate the Cuyahoga Land Bank and all the others who helped bring this project into reality.” 

Check out the video of the dedication ceremony here.

Faith Build sponsors included: Brecksville United Methodist Church, Calvary Hill Church of God in Christ Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist,  Church of the Gesu Church of the Western Reserve, First Lutheran Church of Strongsville Lakewood United Methodist Church, Heat and Frost Insulators Local 3, Lord of Life Lutheran Church,  Old Stone Church,  St. Joseph Church in Strongsville, Cleveland’s St. Mark Parish, St. Mary of the Falls, St. Mary’s Parish in Berea, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights, Strongsville United Methodist Church, and the Church of the Covenant.

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