Equity Zones

Equity Zone Criteria


Equity Zone Indicators:

  • Homeowners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) Area Map Grades (Data Source – 1940 HOLC Redlining Maps):
    • In June of 1933, a federal agency known as the Homeowners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) was created by the United States Congress. The HOLC was created to refinance mortgages in default to prevent foreclosures. As part of this process, the HOLC created “residential security maps” of major American cities to indicate the level security for real estate investments. These maps designated areas into four (4) categories: best, still desirable, declining, and hazardous.
    • In brief, the maps indicated the areas considered high risk and for which lending was discouraged. “Hazardous” areas did not receive federal backing and “declining” areas were eligible to only receive up to 15% backing. “Best” areas and “still desirable” areas were eligible for up to 80% federal backing.
    • Criteria: “declining” (Grade C) and “hazardous” (Grade D) areas on the HOLC Maps
  • Residential Property Values (Data Source – Cuyahoga County Fiscal Office 2021 Residential Property Valuations):
    • Criteria: Median residential single-family property value less than County median residential single-family property value ($142,400), at census block group level
  • Below Poverty (Data Source – U.S. Census Bureau Data):
    • Criteria: ≥ 20% of population below poverty (U.S. Department of Transportation RAISE Grant Program), at census block group level
  • Median Life Expectancy (Data Source – Cuyahoga County Board of Health 2018):
    • Criteria: Average life expectancy is less than Cuyahoga County’s median life expectancy (76.2 years), at census tract level
  • Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Improvement Target Areas (ITAs) (Data Source – Department of Development – latest available designations (Urban County, entitlement communities)):
    • Areas as delineated by the applicable general local government that meet a definition of slum, blighted, deteriorated, or deteriorating area under state or local law
    • Also, area must meet the following conditions:
      • At least 25 percent of properties of the area must experience at least one of the following: physical deterioration, abandonment of properties, chronic high occupancy turnover rates or chronic high vacancy rates in commercial or industrial buildings, significant declines in property values or abnormally low property values relative to other areas, or known/suspected environmental contamination; and
      • The public improvements throughout the area are in a general state of deterioration
    • Criteria: CDBG designations of areas meeting criteria of slum/blighted based on local housing/commercial physical conditions


Equity Zone Criteria:

  • Equity Zone Criteria: Census Block Groups with ≥ 20% of population below poverty OR Census Block Groups with predominant aggregate score of 3 or higher (2 – HOLC Area Map; 1 – Median Life Expectancy; 1- Residential Single-Family Home Median Value; 1 – CDBG ITA)


  • Equity Zone Impact:
    • Area = 121 square miles out of 460 square miles in Cuyahoga County (26.3%)
    • Estimated population = 565,586 out of 1,221,310 people in Cuyahoga County (46.3%)

Equity Zone Investment Goal


The Cuyahoga County Equity Zone Policy is an intentional effort to improve equity by encouraging investment in areas of historical disinvestment. As denoted previously, the equity zones account for 26.3% of the total area of Cuyahoga County and impact approximately 46.3 % of its population. As such, all factors being equal, it would be expected that over time, correlating percentages of infrastructure and infrastructure development projects would impact the identified Equity Zones.  To address the decades of historical disinvestment, the “target” overall goal for the percentage of investment as applicable via infrastructure, construction and development projects and programming that directly impacts the identified equity zones is  40%.

Background Information

On July 26, 2021, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish issued Executive Order No. EO2021-0015 directing the establishment of a map of Cuyahoga County identifying areas of historic disinvestment to be known as Cuyahoga County Equity Zones and the development/implementation of policies and procedures that will result in the County providing additional consideration to investments in road projects, building projects and development projects in identified Equity Zones. In an effort to ameliorate the effects of past disinvestment, it is the policy of Cuyahoga County to focus and prioritize present and future investments on infrastructure, construction, and development projects and programming to benefit areas of Cuyahoga County that have suffered historic disinvestment.

An internal team consisting of the Clerk of Courts, County Planning Commission, Department of Development, Department of Equity and Inclusion, Department of Public Works, and the Office of Innovation and Performance developed the equity zone criteria and resulting Equity Zones Map. On February 15, 2022, County Executive Armond Budish issued Executive Order No. EO2022-0003 accepting the Equity Zones Map.

View the Cuyahoga County Equity Zones Map