Kotlowitz ’77 Reports on Cleveland’s Ravaged Housing

In a New York Times Magazine story published March 4, Alex Kotlowitz ’77 examines the Cleveland, Ohio, housing market, which has been ravaged by foreclosures and criminal activity.

“Cleveland is reeling from the foreclosure crisis,” he writes. “There have been roughly 10,000 foreclosures in two years. For all of 2007, before it was overtaken by sky-high foreclosure rates in parts of California, Nevada and Florida, Cleveland’s rate was among the highest in the country.”

The number of empty houses in the city and Cuyahoga County is so high that no one has an accurate count, he says. At least 1 in 13 houses within the city is vacant. Wholesalers are picking up homes “as if they were trading baseball cards.”

“On one street I visited,” Kotlowtiz says, “a third of the houses were abandoned. One resident, Anita Gardner, told me about the young family who moved in down the street a few years before. They spruced up the house with new windows, a fireplace, wood kitchen cabinets, track lighting and a Jacuzzi. When they lost the house to foreclosure, they left nothing for the scavengers. They stripped their own dwelling, piling toilets, metal screen doors, kitchen cabinets, the furnace and copper pipes into a moving van.”

Kotlowitz teaches writing at Northwestern University and writes frequently about issues related to urban proverty.