5 of 6 structures in Dayton are occupied

Photo by David Esrati of the demolition of the OOF hall in St. Annes Hill

We tear our city down literally- too well.

The Dayton Daily news headline is “1 in 6 structures in Dayton are vacant” and it sounds horrible.

Of course it does- because the Dayton Daily news thinks bashing Dayton is good for selling papers (not that they are doing a good job of that- you can now giveaway 4 subscriptions with your one subscription for free….).

The real story is in where the vacancies are- and how much money the city is pouring into the hands of demolition contractors, instead of doing things to strengthen the city.

Here are some excerpts from the DDn hack story:

About one in six structures in Dayton are vacant even though the city has spent millions of dollars knocking down eyesores and some areas show strong signs of blight reversal.

Urban decay continues to plague area neighborhoods, including a handful in which more than one-third of structures are empty or abandoned, according to the results of a citywide property survey obtained by this newspaper.

Vacant homes and buildings drag down property values, attract criminal activity and provide neighbors with a disincentive to invest in their properties.

But the survey data show that less than 10 percent of structures are vacant in nearly half the city’s neighborhoods, suggesting some stabilization in the housing and commercial real estate markets.

The city and its partners have removed more than 2,200 structures since 2009. The city has spent $18 million or more on demolition.

“We’re not out of the woods, but I think these numbers show things are improving,” said Aaron Sorrell, Dayton’s director of planning and community development.

Earlier this year, Dayton hired the Ohio-based Thriving Communities Institute to survey all parcels in the city to document their conditions and whether or not they are occupied.

Two-person teams spent months canvassing the city to assess, map and photograph every structure and empty lot. The information will be used to create a database to guide Dayton’s demolition strategy and how it invests community development funds.

The survey found the city is home to about 53,574 parcels containing structures. Of those, about 6,601 — or 12 percent of the total — have vacant homes, buildings, garages and other structures.

No one next door

Blight casts a long shadow over day-to-day life for some residents of the Santa Clara neighborhood.

Santa Clara was ground zero of Ohio’s foreclosure crisis. Five years ago, government data showed it was one of the 10 most abandoned areas in the country…

More than 35 percent of structures in the Santa Clara neighborhood are vacant. It had the highest proportion of vacant structures out of Dayton’s 66 neighborhoods.Some other parts of the city are nearly as empty. More than one in three structures are vacant in the Southern Dayton View and Roosevelt neighborhoods.

There is no directly comparable data for previous years, because the U.S. Census only measures individual units and not structures.

Still, the 2010 Census found that nearly half of units were empty in the Santa Clara area. About 44 percent of units were uninhabited in Southern Dayton View and 40 percent were unoccupied in Roosevelt, the Census said.

Combined, Santa Clara, Dayton View and Roosevelt have 844 abandoned structures, which tend to attract drug users, prostitutes, metal thieves and fire bugs.

But despite the prevalence of run-down properties, the city’s problem with abandonment seems to be receding as decrepit homes and buildings are reduced to rubble.

In Santa Clara, the city has leveled dozens of structures since the late 2000s, including some of the most abominable eyesores. The city has prioritized removing fire-damaged structures and blight along major corridors as well as in “asset development areas” near schools, employers and institutions.

City officials estimated Dayton had about 8,000 to 9,000 empty structures in 2009.

If those numbers are accurate, Dayton’s supply of abandoned structures has been reduced by as much as 27 percent.

“I think in most neighborhoods, there has been a decrease in the number of vacancies,” Sorrell said.

Notably, in 31 neighborhoods, fewer than one in 10 structures are empty.

And in some areas, residents can count the number of empty structures on two hands.For instance, less than 1 percent of structures are empty in the Forest Ridge / Quail Hollow neighborhood.

In the Eastmont, Gateway, Pheasant Hill, Shroyer Park and Patterson Park neighborhoods, less than 2 percent of structures are vacant.

The problem, however, remains daunting.

On average, it costs the city about $11,000 to demolish and remediate abandoned properties.

Based on that rough estimate, it would still cost the city tens of millions of dollars to dramatically decrease the number of vacant structures.

Source: 1 in 6 structures in Dayton are vacant

Let’s analyze the problem. In some neighborhoods, vacancy is running much higher. This means either no one wants to live there because the housing stock is too far gone, there is too much crime, there are no amenities, or, most importantly- there is no security in investing because no one sees a future where they get their money back. This is business 101.

Other neighborhoods the vacancy rates are much lower- but still too high.

Some neighborhoods aren’t having problems at all- and still have some vacancies.

Instead of fixing the problems that cause people to disinvest, we “invest” in demolition. We’ve spent millions of dollars taking tax generating inventory off the shelf. We get zero return for doing this. At an average cost of $11,000 just to tear a property down, that’s $11,000 that could go toward relocating neighbors into the solid neighborhoods- or to the ones where vacancies are just beginning to be a problem. We could also hire a new policeman for every 6 houses we tear down- to try to stop the “drug users, prostitutes, metal thieves and fire bugs” that these vacant houses supposedly attract.

We have not gone after banks to stop foreclosures- or hold them accountable for the properties that they empty out. We not only lose a citizen, we know that when we kick people out- the houses are getting scrapped and become worthless almost overnight. The cost is huge. Stop evicting people, unless you hold the banks accountable for the condition of the homes.

In order to see investment return, there has to be some kind of real plan in place to make the neighborhood attractive to investors. Why not waive all property taxes for any investor that purchases at least 3 homes in the same under-populated neighborhood- and give them $5000 each toward rehab? Condition of tax waiver- at least one tenant paying income tax per property. This means no more mowing lots, no more blight- and the houses have to meet exterior code. We have no problem waiving taxes for employers- why not do it for small investors?

We had a company in Dayton that hired x-cons to tear down houses and recycle the materials- we put them out of business by not awarding contracts fairly or smartly.

There are parts of Dayton that are doing OK- but, they can’t afford to keep paying to tear down others problems. You don’t build a city up by tearing it down. At some point, you just have to give up on providing services and worrying about neighborhoods that are half-empty and start working on keeping others from joining them.

Wake up people. Your leadership isn’t wearing clothes on this one.

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