YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Efforts to clean up and demolish blighted properties in Youngstown appear to be paying off, according to the results of the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation’s latest citywide survey.

The survey is completed biennually to keep track of the conditions of the city’s residential and commercial properties. The results of the survey are given to the Mahoning County Land Bank and city officials and are used to determine properties that may need to be demolished or repaired.

“I would say the primary takeaway this year is that vacant and abandoned properties continued to go down, so this year, we counted about 740 that we would characterize in that general range of vacant and abandoned that may merit demolition. Last time, we were at about 895 or so,” said Ian Beniston, executive director of YNDC.

Beniston’s team went out over the summer, taking photos of properties and looking for occupancy or exterior deficiencies. This is the first year that commercial properties were included in the survey.

Beniston said the decrease is significant, especially when compared to his first survey.

“When I did the first survey here in 2008 with a group of volunteers across the city, we counted about 4,500 properties that were vacant and abandoned,” he said.

The survey noted the following:

  • Vacant and Tax Delinquent Residential Properties – 740
  • Vacant and Taxes Paid Residential Properties – 1,030
  • Occupied Residential Properties with Roof Issues – 1,738
  • Occupied Residential Properties with Other Exterior Issues – 622
  • Vacant and Tax Delinquent Commercial Properties – 53
  • Vacant and Taxes Paid Commercial Properties – 222
  • Occupied Commercial Properties with Exterior Issues – 56

Surveyors were assisted with data from John Bralich, program director of the Center for Applied GIS at Youngstown State University. The center provides research and technical assistance focusing on community development.

“We see this as providing an important snapshot in time of the current conditions of the city in terms of one, vacancy, but also two, housing quality, so the level of issues that we’re able to easily identify on the outside, and that also doing it every other year as we have been for some time now, allows us to measure progress, particularly when we’re looking at vacant and abandoned properties and how that’s increasing or decreasing,” Beniston said.

Beniston said while progress is being made to tackle vacant properties with a fairly aggressive demolition plan, there are still significant quality issues with homes in the city. Surveyors found roof issues or other major exterior deficiencies at over 2,000 occupied residential homes.

As many of the city’s homeowners are low-income, their team will be following up to give them information on resources that may help, such as YNDC’s roof replacement program. Residents of owner-occupied, single-family homes with leaking roofs can receive roof replacements at no cost if they meet certain income eligibility requirements set forth by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Beniston said he has also seen more signs of people investing in vacant properties and making renovations.

“That’s what we want to see, too, and hopefully, as time goes on, we’ll see even more of that,” he said.

This is part of a series of stories that WKBN is looking into involving local housing issues in the Valley. Do you have a housing issue that you’d like us to look into? Send us your information here.