A plan for working with what we have: Housing in Dayton

It was nice to see the same day the Dayton Daily News covers the candidates on housing, they also did an article on banks walking away from homes that they foreclosed on. I’m the only one who addresses this issue in my answers:

Esrati: Neighborhood associations key

Esrati calls Dayton’s neighborhoods “the building blocks of the city.” He would push for neighborhoods to have an association with a president that meets routinely with the city manager to discuss issues or share ideas that are working.

While campaigning, Esrati has seen blocks with one viable house and others that are thriving, blighted by one vacant structure.

He believes the city has to figure out how to move individual households from otherwise decimated blocks, into a vacant house in an otherwise thriving neighborhood. He suggests property swaps with banks to make it happen.

“We have to figure out where to invest and where to tear down,” Esrati said. “Let neighborhood associations decide which (structures) have to go and which ones don’t.”

Esrati said he would urge the city to develop legislation holding banks accountable for upkeep of foreclosed properties.

He said neighborhood associations should play a role in building data collection, so it becomes quickly known whether a structure is vacant, if the grass needs mowed, or if there are housing violations.

When a bank takes over a property, Esrati suggests the neighborhood association inventory the condition of the building — windows, plumbing, roof, etc. If the gutters need repaired, or plumbing replaced, banks should be held accountable for repairs.

“The banks are just letting houses rot. The (gas and electric) goes out and the water gets turned off. That’s when entropy sets in,” he said.

via Dayton candidates discuss housing crisis plans.

As a banker, you won’t hear Commissioner Williams asking to hold banks accountable for maintaining foreclosed properties. Commissioner Whaley is still talking about both land banking and empty lots, while Rhine McLin is talking about donating homes needing work to college students.

As a college student who bought a home as a sophomore in college (albeit after time in the US Army) I can tell you that not all college students are cut out for rehabbing an old home. I wouldn’t have been able to do mine if not for some amazing help from South Park neighbors like master carpenter Dan Campbell.

Considering neither Rhine or Nan have any experience rehabbing homes (I’ve done 5), I’m not sure they know what they are suggesting. If we provided community tool cribs, training courses and professional help, a student community could be an option- but, I think the way to do it is more the Americorps model- where students would live together, get training and then work on homes together as a team. This may require some modifications to single room occupancy rules- and maybe new provisions for co-housing.

Unfortunately, “the Team” of incumbents hasn’t been discussing any of these options- with a dual focus on tearing down housing as fast as money can come from the feds (and they can funnel into their demolition contractors friends companies) or on building new housing (which has to be heavily subsidized).

If we spend more of our time strengthening neighborhoods, and allowing them to monitor and hold property owners accountable, we’d be much more efficient, and maintain a larger tax base.

According to the early census changes, 2 person households with no children are the largest growing segment of the population- we should be able to easily attract people looking to live affordably in Dayton. What we need is inspired leadership from a pro-active City Manager who understands that 2 bedroom, 1 bath houses for $14,500 like mine- beat a small apartment in NYC or LA that rents for more than that in half a year. Bringing bike sharing to Dayton, working on capitalizing on our amazing parks and rec programs through Five Rivers Metro Parks, our abundant water supply and central location, will give Dayton a real chance to work with what we have.

Your thoughts?

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