Fiscal Health

2020 Dream Neighborhood


Dream Neighborhood

Immigrant families have historically been a source of vitality in inner neighborhoods, but today fewer choose to come to Cleveland. One possible solution? Welcome refugees.

2020 Green City


Green City

A commercial farm overlooking downtown Cleveland? A vineyard in inner-city Hough? Clevelanders are finding creative uses for vacant land that spark economic activity and also help the city prepare for climate change.

2006 Hough



Cleveland tries to halt decline by attracting middle-class families back to its inner neighborhoods, to increase the tax base and spark economic activity.

In Cleveland, it is easy to see the result of capital flight. As businesses and industries left for the suburbs, abandoned storefronts and factories proliferated. Efforts to reverse Cleveland’s decline have focused on investment downtown, but for the city to truly regain its health, it must further expand its property tax base by reviving its neighborhoods.

The land we occupy and live on in Hough is just as valuable to us as their land in Hunting Valley is to them.

In a once-thriving part of Cleveland, abandoned and decaying buildings suppress the value of land and hamper local efforts to revitalize. By joining forces with city planners, nonprofits, and a land bank, residents are working to take control of these blighted properties and turn around their neighborhood.


Land Banks

Speculators take advantage of a housing downturn by buying property at rock-bottom prices then waiting to sell until prices rise. This process can take years, leaving the properties vacant and deteriorated. One promising solution? The land bank.

pie chart of 75 percent


Vacant and Abandoned Properties Eliminated in Cleveland since 2006



Side Yards Created



Affordable Single Family Homes Created

apartment building


Affordable Units in Multifamily Buildings

We could leave that lot vacant for the next 40 years, and it could keep paying $14,000 a year in property tax. When it’s over, we’re going to see $800,000 a year in property tax.

Like many cities, Phoenix provides property tax breaks to some property owners to encourage development. The city believes these incentives are necessary to create a more vibrant downtown, but they result in higher tax rates for those who do not receive preferential treatment.

Taxes and Towers

The Empty House Next Door

Alan Mallach

Renowned city planner and housing advocate Alan Mallach presents effective strategies for community leaders, local officials, and nonprofits contending with vacant properties in the United States.

Rethinking Property Tax Incentives for Business

Daphne A. Kenyon, Adam H. Langley, and Bethany P. Paquin

State and local governments use many types of property tax incentives to increase business development.

Why Tax Increment Financing Often Fails and How Communities Can Do Better

Will Jason

Tax increment financing is a wildly popular economic development tool in the United States, but it often falls short of its promise to revitalize struggling neighborhoods.

The Visual Budget Lets Taxpayers Follow the Money

Loren Berlin

An informed citizenry is an empowered one, but educating taxpayers and voters can be difficult.

2020 Lakefront City


Lakefront City

Euclid, Ohio, is now starting to think outside the box about how to revitalize and reinvent itself. For instance, it is taking advantage of its proximity to Lake Erie to embrace its identity as a lakefront city.

2006 Euclid



As an inner suburb of Cleveland, Euclid’s fortunes have often been tied to the larger city—including a devastating loss in property values during the housing foreclosure crisis of 2007 to 2010.

We all know the best thing for the city is greater access to the water; everyone around the United States is trying to do that, but not everyone has the buy-in.

2006 Downtown in the Suburbs


Downtown in the Suburbs

The success of a mixed-use development deep in the Cleveland suburbs demonstrates a desire for the vitality and amenities of urban life—even among those unwilling to live downtown.

2006 Downtown in the City


Downtown in the City

Noting the success of suburban mixed-use developments that mimic a downtown, Cleveland is poised to make public investments in its own downtown, hoping to revitalize its urban core of taxpaying businesses and residents.

Urban Living

Tracking the growth of “downtowns” in both a city and a suburb, data reveals a sign of their continued popularity: a disproportional uptick in residential units.

Downtown Cleveland Population
bar graph of population growth in downtown cleveland
pie chart shows 93 percent


Downtown Housing Occupancy in 2018

pie chart shows one fifth

1 in 5

Downtown Residents Works in Healthcare


Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities

Alan Mallach and Lavea Brachman

This report explores the challenges of regenerating America's legacy cities and suggests ways to overcome obstacles such as job and population loss.

Revitalizing America’s Smaller Legacy Cities

Torey Hollingsworth and Alison Goebel

This report identifies replicable strategies that have helped smaller legacy cities overcome population loss, neighborhood disinvestment, unemployment, and other problems.

The Riches of Resilience: Cities Are Investing in Green Infrastructure—Should Developers Help Foot the Bill?

Anthony Flint

Like many coastal cities, Miami is facing a climate future that is already here.

Let’s Talk TIF

Anthony Flint and David Merriman

Tax increment financing is one of the most widely used – and least understood – public finance mechanisms in the U.S. today. David Merriman talks about what communities can do to avoid the pitfalls.

2020 Creating Housing


Creating Housing

Amid one of the nation’s most severe housing crises, Portland’s efforts to add affordable housing are limited by zoning restrictions that prevent building apartments among single-family, detached homes.

2009 A Boutique City


A Boutique City

Due to its healthy economy and attractive outdoor lifestyle, Portland has experienced explosive population growth and, as newcomers compete for housing and jobs, gentrification.

2009 Urban Density


Urban Density

With careful planning informed by social and economic imperatives, the city can use innovative design to increase density within the existing fabric of neighborhoods.

What they imagine is Gotham or Hong Kong springing up around their beautiful family home. What we’re talking about is a little bit different.

2020 The Water Game


The Water Game

The rapid and largely unplanned growth of Phoenix led to an imbalance in the city’s economy, with an overreliance on growth industries like construction and real estate that made the city vulnerable to the housing crisis of 2008.

2003 Anthem



Phoenix has allowed private developers to map out much of the city’s explosive growth. Developers are adept at providing the kind of housing and amenities their buyers want, but they generally don’t plan their projects with a city’s long-term financial health in mind.


Rezoning History: Influential Minneapolis Policy Shift Links Affordability, Equity

Kathleen McCormick

With the arrival of 2020, Minneapolis becomes the first major U.S. city to implement a ban on single-family zoning in every neighborhood.

Gentle Infill: Boomtowns Are Making Room for Skinny Homes, Granny Flats, and Other Affordable Housing

Kathleen McCormick

Recent news stories routinely feature “hot market” U.S. cities with astronomical housing prices that end up displacing residents with moderate or low incomes.

Land Value Return: Tools to Finance Our Urban Future

Lourdes Germán and Allison Ehrich Bernstein

In an era of tight budgets and exploding need, cities around the world are funding infrastructure and other public improvements through land value return, also known as land value capture.

The Visual Budget Lets Taxpayers Follow the Money

Loren Berlin

An informed citizenry is an empowered one, but educating taxpayers and voters can be difficult.

Imagery in the above videos are courtesy of the following:

Creating Housing: Oregon State Government; The Oregonian/Barcroft Media; The Oregonian Op-Ed; Pond5; Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability; Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives; Shane Burley; Willamette Week.

Dream Neighborhood: Cleveland Metro School District; Pond5; Shane Wynn; Shutterstock; Threeblur0; Western Reserve Historical Society.

Green City: FreshWater. 

Lakefront City: Google Maps; The National Archives; Smithgroup JJR. 

Taxes and Towers: Arizona State University; Dibble Engineering; Pond5; Tom Carlson/Phoenix New Times.

The Water Game: Arizona Capitol TV; Arizona Governors Office; AZ Central/Imagn; Brigham Young University Museum of Art; Central Arizona Project; Pima County Arizona; Pond5; Pueblo Grande Museum, City of Phoenix, Artist’s rendition of the Hohokam canals by Michael Hampshire; Shutterstock.

Click here to watch the original Making Sense of Place series in its entirety.