Like many urban cities in recent years, Dayton still finds itself knee-deep in abandoned, dilapidated properties as the result of the foreclosure crisis and economic downturn five years ago.
All you have to do is take a drive around town to spot the problem.
Boarded up buildings that appear to be on their last legs litter the city as it attempts to recover.
Kevin Powell, the city’s acting manager of housing inspection, says officials plan to use $5.2 million — half from the state’s Moving Ohio Forward program and a matching grant from the city’s general fund — to raze 475 abandoned properties by the end of September.
That will scratch the surface of an estimated 7,000 abandoned properties.
“This will probably be the most money we have ever spent on single family home (demolitions) in the city of Dayton,” Powell told me recently. “I don’t want to give people the impression that nothing is being done. Four hundred seventy five is a lot, but it is not 7,000.”
East Third Street resident Anna Seiber recently bought a home across the street from an abandoned house.
“Tear them down, put something useful there,” Seiber told my collegue Ken Yon Hardy when asked what should be done to address the problem.
She said the property attracts vagrants and she has seen animals like possums, groundhogs and skunks.
“The other day when it was raining, a guy stopped and (urinated) on the porch twice,” she said.
The need for demolition has jumped substantially in recent years.
The city demolished just 109 properties in 2004 — four years before the national economic crisis — for instance.
As of March 31, Dayton had demolished 146 properties this year that were either abandoned by banks or their occupants.
That number represents 271 housing units — apartments and single-family homes.
Dayton Daily News city hall reporter Jeremy P. Kelley says the city is racing against the end of the year deadline to use the funding from the grant program.
“They are moving as fast as they possibly can,” he said. “There are buildings falling everywhere.”
The city knocked down 1,172 abandoned structures — single-family homes, strip malls, multi-unit buildings, commercial properties etc. — between 2009 and 2012, using money that included $8 million in federal funds.
The average cost for a demolition, which includes asbestos removal, is $11,000.
The properties are turned over to contractors for demolition work after the city legally gains possession. Most are demolished without a purposes in mind, officials said.
Powell said the city is aware of the impact abandoned buildings can have on neighborhoods.
“We understand it is a nuisance. We understand it is bringing down property values. We understand it is dangerous for children,” he said.
Abandoned properties have a negative impact on the city’s tax collection, which are used to remove abandoned properties and pay for other city services.
“It’s a complete circle that keeps eating upon itself,” Powell said.
Still, with limited resources the demolitions have to be prioritized, he said.
“The first thing we concentrate on is safety of the citizen,” he said, noting that fire damages are not necessarily the most dangerous. “We concentrate on safety and we also concentrate on economic viability of the places we knock down.”
Addressing blighted housing in areas that impact major employers or that are in major corridors is key, he said.
“Nobody wants to come to a hospital and go through a corridor of 20 burned out buildings,” Powell offered as an example. “We want to assist them (employers) so that we keep up the economic viability of the city.”
Amy M. Riegel of the city’s department of planning and community development said efforts are being focused on “areas with the highest vacancies, large apartment buildings, corridors and special projects.”
What do you think? What is the solution for the city’s abandoned property issue? Do you live next to an abandoned property? How has it impacted your life?
Lindsey Gruen — ….When we have a growing homeless population, and this many empty foreclosed homes just sitting on the market that no one is purchasing and the bank would rather raze and let be an empty lot than have a family be safe and housed, is there not a strong disconnect in society?
Doug Alexander — How about offering a house to any UD graduate willing to settle in Dayton. More college grads in the area would help.
Brad Clark — I’d like to see the city revive the $1 house lottery they used to have in the 1980s. For $1, people could get a home and were required to bring it up to code within a certain amount of time, and then live in it for so long. I think that would attract some DIY types back to the city. There are a lot of great houses that just need some TLC and elbow grease.
Contact this blogger at arobinson@DaytonDailyNews.com or Twitter.com/DDNSmartMouth