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Roughly a month ago, I blogged about a Detroit artist couple trying to recruit other artists to their foreclosure-blighted neighborhood. NPR originally reported the story. Now a similar tale—-by the Wall Street Journal-is coming out of Cleveland, Detroit’s fellow midwestern, gray, financially-drained city to the south. The two urban centers are often lumped together when it comes to the housing crisis: Their home prices are both ridiculously, almost inconceivably low.

In the Cleveland neighborhood of Collinwood, a local community group called the Northeast Shores Development Corp. is buying up vacant properties and renovating them as artists’ residences by using funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s $4 billion Neighborhood Stabilization Program.  The ultimate plan is eventually to buy up 25 to 30 homes, according to the group’s director.

In exchange for low rents or low-interest mortgages that range from $500 to $1,100 a month, the artists help design the homes. Artists also have the option of buying the homes cheaply and fixing them up themselves. The development corporation verifies potential home-buyers’ income and ability to pay rent, and asks artists to specify in their housing application what type of creative work they do, and what kind of work space they want. Mr. Di Liberto and Ms. Boneham, who first moved to Cleveland from New York in 2006, pay $595 a month in rent in their new house. After they make monthly payments for a year, the rent will roll over into a fixed mortgage towards the house’s $104,000 cost.

Shit! Too bad we don’t have our own housing crisis—-I like this idea. Washington D.C. has plenty of vacant, nuisance properties to go around, often collected in neighborhoods where there is already growth and economic renewal occurring. Of course, there is a downside to moving into economically-depressed area, as the Journal story points out:

Jim Tomko, one of the first to open a gallery on Waterloo, closed it last year after someone broke in and stole about $8,000 worth of paintings. Undercover police officers caught the thief, a neighborhood resident who was selling the paintings out of his nearby home for $20 a piece.

Image by Stu Spivack, Flickr Creative Commons