Safeguard, Forest City Joins Cleveland Nonprofits in Slavic Village Rehab

On March 5, published an article entitled “Forest City, Safeguard Properties Join Cleveland Nonprofits to Rehab Homes in Slavic Village.”

Forest City, Safeguard Properties join Cleveland nonprofits to rehab homes in Slavic Village

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Slavic Village, the Cleveland neighborhood often called “ground zero” in the nation’s foreclosure crisis, might become the proving ground for a recovery.

A private-philanthropic partnership aims to acquire, renovate and sell or rent out 50 vacant houses in the southeastern city neighborhood this year — and could tackle hundreds more.

Called Slavic Village Recovery LLC, the new business is backed by Cleveland real estate developer Forest City Enterprises Inc.; Safeguard Properties, a Valley View company that maintains foreclosed properties for banks; and a pair of local nonprofits.

The group will focus on a 530-acre slice of Slavic Village, a community of 5 square miles and 22,500 people. Between 23 percent and 30 percent of the homes in the project area are vacant, according to data compiled by Neighborhood Progress Inc. and Slavic Village Development, the nonprofit groups.

Unlike many efforts to shore up urban housing, the Slavic Village initiative doesn’t rely on public money. Instead, the neighborhood will see private investment layered atop targeted public services, like swifter demolition, in a comprehensive rubble-to-rehab push. The partners believe their model offers the promise of profit while giving hope to communities gasping under the weight of empty houses.

Neighborhood Progress and Slavic Village Development expect to sign an operating agreement this week with Forest City and Robert Klein, Safeguard’s founder and chairman. The nonprofits each will own 10 percent of Slavic Village Recovery LLC, with the rest split between Forest City and Klein’s RIK Enterprises LLC.

Balacing civic mission, private profits

Ownership structure aside, each group will have one vote in running the project — creating what onlookers see as a balance of civic mission and profit motive.

“It’s a complicated endeavor, but it’s very simple in terms of what we’re trying to accomplish,” said Cleveland Councilman Tony Brancatelli, who represents Slavic Village. “We are really looking at market recovery in one of the hardest-hit communities in the United States.”

Slavic Village Development will identify houses that need to be razed and provide a list to the city, which will speed up demolitions knowing that private investors are waiting to move in. “We’re involved mainly in terms of trying to bring some resources from the city, to the extent we can, to the effort of dealing with nuisance properties in the neighborhood,” said Chris Warren, Cleveland’s chief of regional development.

Meanwhile, Slavic Village Recovery LLC will pinpoint houses that can be saved and acquire them from lenders, mortgage servicers or the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp., the county’s land bank.

A quasi-public entity, the land bank takes in houses after the county forecloses on delinquent property taxes and receives near-worthless properties from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and mortgage giant Fannie Mae.

Most of those structures can’t be saved. Since 2009, the land bank has demolished 201 houses in Slavic Village and has helped spur redevelopment of only 20.

With a large-scale redevelopment plan in Slavic Village, the land bank can focus more of its energy on the neighborhood, said Bill Whitney, the land bank’s chief operating officer.

Klein, who held the chief executive job at Safeguard until 2010, knows executives at the nation’s largest banks and loan servicers. And he knows what kind of scars vacant homes leave on neighborhoods. Safeguard, a beneficiary of the housing bust, inspects more than 1.8 million properties each month.

Klein believes lenders will give away those troubled houses, starting in Slavic Village, to get the burden off their books.

His goal: Get a house for free or for very little money. Invest $40,000 to $50,000 in renovations, using Safeguard’s national network of contractors to lower the cost. Then sell the house for $60,000, turning a small profit and providing affordable housing in a city neighborhood.

That’s a dramatic departure from government-driven renovations, which come with extra requirements, longer timelines and much higher price tags.
“Not that there’s not a role for the public sector, but when we keep relying on them to bail us out, it gets more and more costly because of their limitations,” said Marie Kittredge, who leads Slavic Village Development.

“Being able to rehab at scale is the only way to get ourselves back on an even playing field,” she added, noting that her organization can fix up only 20 houses a year on its own, in a neighborhood with more than 400 houses that need renovations.

Of its first 50 houses, Slavic Village Recovery LLC hopes to sell 15 and find renters for 35. The first renovations could start within months.

Testing a model for other neighborhoods

Forest City will focus on marketing, promotions and property management. Neighborhood Progress will provide the market data, digging deep into local databases of vacant, foreclosed and troubled real estate. Slavic Village Development will oversee daily operations and work with the community to encourage repairs to occupied homes and neighborhood clean-up.

“I think it’s a very interesting idea, and I’m hopeful that it’s going to work,” said Alan Mallach, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who has studied housing challenges in Cleveland and other cities. “What I really like is the fact that all of these people, as I understand it, are really trying to take a comprehensive approach to the area where they are working. It’s not I’ll fix up this house and I’ll fix up that house.”

There are two key questions, Mallach added. Can the Slavic Village group churn out high-quality renovations without subsidy and sell or rent the homes at a profit? And, if so, will there be enough demand to fill the houses without cannibalizing other Cleveland neighborhoods?

“We’re hopeful it will be successful, and we’re thinking about what it will be like to replicate in other neighborhoods,” said Neighborhood Progress CEO Joel Ratner, who is not related to Forest City’s Ratner family. “It’s really about restoring confidence. It’s about the psychology of it.”

Private investors across the country are buzzing about the potential of single-family rentals. Institutional investors jumped into that market last year, announcing plans to buy foreclosed properties in bulk.

But Jeff Linton, a spokesman for Forest City, said the publicly traded real estate company sees Slavic Village as more of a civic experiment than a big money-making opportunity.

Linton said Forest City, like everyone else in the real estate business, has talked about the potential of the single-family rental market. Any large-scale push into that sector would require substantial profits. But in Slavic Village, “we only expect that it will break even or at least stand on its own feet,” he said.

To view the online article, please click here.

Please click on the link for an updated story from News Channel 5:
Cleveland recovery project set to renovate 50 vacant homes in Slavic Village

About Safeguard
Safeguard Properties is the largest privately held field services company in the country. Located in Cleveland, Ohio and founded in 1990 by Robert Klein, Safeguard has grown from a regional preservation company with a few employees  and a handful of contractors performing services in the Midwest, to a national company with more than 1,600 employees. Safeguard is supported by a nationwide network of subcontractors able to perform any requested superintendence, preservation, and maintenance functions, as well as numerous ancillary services in the U.S., the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.



Alan Jaffa

Alan Jaffa is the chief executive officer for Safeguard, steering the company as the mortgage field services industry leader. He also serves on the board of advisors for SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Alan joined Safeguard in 1995, learning the business from the ground up. He was promoted to chief operating officer in 2002, and was named CEO in May 2010. His hands-on experience has given him unique insights as a leader to innovate, improve and strengthen Safeguard’s processes to assure that the company adheres to the highest standards of quality and customer service.

Under Alan’s leadership, Safeguard has grown significantly with strategies that have included new and expanded services, technology investments that deliver higher quality and greater efficiency to clients, and strategic acquisitions. He takes a team approach to process improvement, involving staff at all levels of the organization to address issues, brainstorm solutions, and identify new and better ways to serve clients.

In 2008, Alan was recognized by Crain’s Cleveland Business in its annual “40-Under-40” profile of young leaders. He also was named a NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® finalist in 2013.


Chief Operating Officer

Michael Greenbaum

Michael Greenbaum is the chief operating officer for Safeguard. Mike has been instrumental in aligning operations to become more efficient, effective, and compliant with our ever-changing industry requirements. Mike has a proven track record of excellence, partnership and collaboration at Safeguard. Under Mike’s leadership, all operational departments of Safeguard have reviewed, updated and enhanced their business processes to maximize efficiency and improve quality control.

Mike joined Safeguard in July 2010 as vice president of REO and has continued to take on additional duties and responsibilities within the organization, including the role of vice president of operations in 2013 and then COO in 2015.

Mike built his business career in supply-chain management, operations, finance and marketing. He has held senior management and executive positions with Erico, a manufacturing company in Solon, Ohio; Accel, Inc., a packaging company in Lewis Center, Ohio; and McMaster-Carr, an industrial supply company in Aurora, Ohio.

Before entering the business world, Mike served in the U.S. Army, Ordinance Branch, and specialized in supply chain management. He is a distinguished graduate of West Point (U.S. Military Academy), where he majored in quantitative economics.



Sean Reddington

Sean Reddington is the new Chief Information Officer for Safeguard Properties LLC. Sean has over 15+ years of experience in Information Services Management with a strong focus on Product and Application Management. Sean is responsible for Safeguard’s technological direction, including planning, implementation and maintaining all operational systems

Sean has a proven record of accomplishment for increasing operational efficiencies, improving customer service levels, and implementing and maintaining IT initiatives to support successful business processes.  He has provided the vision and dedicated leadership for key technologies for Fortune 100 companies, and nationally recognized consulting firms including enterprise system architecture, security, desktop and database management systems. Sean possesses strong functional and system knowledge of information security, systems and software, contracts management, budgeting, human resources and legal and related regulatory compliance.

Sean joined Safeguard Properties LLC from RenPSG Inc. which is a nationally leading Philintropic Software Platform in the Fintech space. He oversaw the organization’s technological direction including planning, implementing and maintaining the best practices that align with all corporate functions. He also provided day-to-day technology operations, enterprise security, information risk and vulnerability management, audit and compliance, security awareness and training.

Prior to RenPSG, Sean worked for DMI Consulting as a Client Success Director where he guided the delivery in a multibillion-dollar Fortune 500 enterprise client account. He was responsible for all project deliveries in terms of quality, budget and timeliness and led the team to coordinate development and definition of project scope and limitations. Sean also worked for KPMG Consulting in their Microsoft Practice and Technicolor’s Ebusiness Division where he had responsibility for application development, maintenance, and support.

Sean is a graduate of Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts and received his Masters in International Business from Central Michigan University. He was also a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force prior to his career in the business world.


General Counsel and Executive Vice President

Linda Erkkila, Esq.

Linda Erkkila is the general counsel and executive vice president for Safeguard and oversees the legal, human resources, training, and compliance departments. Linda’s responsibilities cover regulatory issues that impact Safeguard’s operations, risk mitigation, enterprise strategic planning, human resources and training initiatives, compliance, litigation and claims management, and mergers, acquisition and joint ventures.

Linda assures that Safeguard’s strategic initiatives align with its resources, leverage opportunities across the company, and contemplate compliance mandates. Her practice spans over 20 years, and Linda’s experience covers regulatory disclosure, corporate governance compliance, risk assessment, executive compensation, litigation management, and merger and acquisition activity. Her experience at a former Fortune 500 financial institution during the subprime crisis helped develop Linda’s pro-active approach to change management during periods of heightened regulatory scrutiny.

Linda previously served as vice president and attorney for National City Corporation, as securities and corporate governance counsel for Agilysys Inc., and as an associate at Thompson Hine LLP. She earned her JD at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Linda holds a degree in economics from Miami University and an MBA. In 2017, Linda was named as both a “Woman of Influence” by HousingWire and as a “Leading Lady” by MReport.


Chief Financial Officer

Joe Iafigliola

Joe Iafigliola is the Chief Financial Officer for Safeguard. Joe is responsible for the Control, Quality Assurance, Business Development, Accounting & Information Security departments, and is a Managing Director of SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Joe has been in a wide variety of roles in finance, supply chain management, information systems development, and sales and marketing. His career includes senior positions with McMaster-Carr Supply Company, Newell/Rubbermaid, and Procter and Gamble.

Joe has an MBA from The Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), and holds a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University’s Honors Accounting program.


AVP, High Risk and Investor Compliance

Steve Meyer

Steve Meyer is the assistant vice president of high risk and investor compliance for Safeguard. In this role, Steve is responsible for managing our clients’ conveyance processes, Safeguard’s investor compliance team and developing our working relationships with cities and municipalities around the country. He also works directly with our clients in our many outreach efforts and he represents Safeguard at a number of industry conferences each year.

Steve joined Safeguard in 1998 as manager over the hazard claims team. He was instrumental in the development and creation of policies, procedures and operating protocol. Under Steve’s leadership, the department became one of the largest within Safeguard. In 2002, he assumed responsibility for the newly-formed high risk department, once again building its success. Steve was promoted to director over these two areas in 2007, and he was promoted to assistant vice president in 2012.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve spent 10 years within the insurance industry, holding a number of positions including multi-line property adjuster, branch claims supervisor, and multi-line and subrogation/litigation supervisor. Steve is a graduate of Grove City College.


AVP, Operations

Jennifer Jozity

Jennifer Jozity is the assistant vice president of operations, overseeing inspections, REO and property preservation for Safeguard. Jen ensures quality work is performed in the field and internally, to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations. Jen has demonstrated the ability to deliver consistent results in order audit and order management.  She will build upon these strengths in order to deliver this level of excellence in both REO and property preservation operations.

Jen joined Safeguard in 1997 and was promoted to director of inspections operations in 2009 and assistant vice president of inspections operations in 2012.

She graduated from Cleveland State University with a degree in business.


AVP, Finance

Jennifer Anspach

Jennifer Anspach is the assistant vice president of finance for Safeguard. She is responsible for the company’s national workforce of approximately 1,000 employees. She manages recruitment strategies, employee relations, training, personnel policies, retention, payroll and benefits programs. Additionally, Jennifer has oversight of the accounts receivable and loss functions formerly within the accounting department.

Jennifer joined the company in April 2009 as a manager of accounting and finance and a year later was promoted to director. She was named AVP of human capital in 2014. Prior to joining Safeguard, she held several management positions at OfficeMax and InkStop in both operations and finance.

Jennifer is a graduate of Youngstown State University. She was named a Crain’s Cleveland Business Archer Award finalist for HR Executive of the Year in 2017.


AVP, Application Architecture

Rick Moran

Rick Moran is the assistant vice president of application architecture for Safeguard. Rick is responsible for evolving the Safeguard IT systems. He leads the design of Safeguard’s enterprise application architecture. This includes Safeguard’s real-time integration with other systems, vendors and clients; the future upgrade roadmap for systems; and standards designed to meet availability, security, performance and goals.

Rick has been with Safeguard since 2011. During that time, he has led the system upgrades necessary to support Safeguard’s growth. In addition, Rick’s team has designed and implemented several innovative systems.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Rick was director of enterprise architecture at Revol Wireless, a privately held CDMA Wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana, and operated his own consulting firm providing services to the manufacturing, telecommunications, and energy sectors.


AVP, Technology Infrastructure and Cloud Services

Steve Machovina

Steve Machovina is the assistant vice president of technology infrastructure and cloud services for Safeguard. He is responsible for the overall management and design of Safeguard’s hybrid cloud infrastructure. He manages all technology engineering staff who support data centers, telecommunications, network, servers, storage, service monitoring, and disaster recovery.

Steve joined Safeguard in November 2013 as director of information technology operations.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was vice president of information technology at Revol Wireless, a privately held wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana. He also held management positions with Northcoast PCS and Corecomm Communications, and spent nine years as a Coast Guard officer and pilot.

Steve holds a BBA in management information systems from Kent State University in Ohio and an MBA from Wayne State University in Michigan.


Assistant Vice president of Application Development

Steve Goberish

Steve Goberish, is the assistant vice president of application development for Safeguard. He is responsible for the maintenance and evolution of Safeguard’s vendor systems ensuring high-availability, security and scalability while advancing the vendor products’ capabilities and enhancing the vendor experience.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was a senior technical architect and development manager at First American Title Insurance, a publicly held title insurance provider based in southern California, in addition to managing and developing applications in multiple sectors from insurance to VOIP.

Steve has a bachelor’s degree from Kent State University in Ohio.