Early in the 1930s, Ernest Bohn, a Cleveland Councilman, spearheaded the effort to establish public housing as a replacement for the tumbledown shanties where low-income families lived. His vision was to replace the broken down “fire-traps” with safe, decent, affordable housing where families could get a start in life and then move on to home ownership.
In 1933, the State of Ohio chartered CMHA as the first public housing authority in the country.
Ground was broken at Olde Cedar in the Central neighborhood before any other public housing development in the country. Residents first occupied Olde Cedar in 1937. Lakeview, Outhwaite Homes and Woodhill Homes quickly followed the construction of Olde Cedar; all four of those properties are eligible for designation on the National Historic Register.
Cedar Extension High Rise was the first of the High Rise buildings constructed to provide affordable housing for seniors. It was first occupied in 1955.
While CMHA has constructed many of the High Rises it now owns, it also purchased many during the 1960s and 1970s.
Following enactment by Congress in 1974 of the law establishing the Section 8 Program, which provides subsidies for low-income families to live in privately owned housing, CMHA began local administration of the program.
In the early 1990s, CMHA pioneered the use of defensible space design concepts to modernize family units at King Kennedy, Outhwaite Homes and Carver Park, improving resident safety with private entryways, exterior lighting and perimeter fencing.
In the winter of 1992, CMHA opened Miracle Village (located at Outhwaite Homes), the first residential substance abuse treatment center in the country located within public housing. Miracle Village serves women and their children and combines treatment of addiction with parenting, education, and job training and life skills.
In June 1992, the first primary healthcare clinic opened within a CMHA property at Outhwaite Homes.
In June 1996, CMHA dedicated and opened the Carl B. Stokes Social Services Mall, the first one-stop shopping facility in the country offering a variety of social, health-related, career counseling and training services. The Mall was constructed within the King Kennedy South High Rise building, which had previously housed unmarketable efficiency apartments.