The general theme of a meeting Wednesday night about the housing situation in Niles was that there are problems, but the city is working to resolve them.

Many people in Niles will say there are too many rentals, but that’s not necessarily the case.

“So we realize that we have a blight problem. The blight problem is not all rental properties,” said Housing and Zoning Code Enforcement Officer Jeff Crowley.

Crowley says 37 percent of Niles’ 8,300 housing units are rentals, some of which are apartment buildings.

Niles is one of the few cities with a rental registration program.

“I was dealing with an investor today, he has 93 properties in the state of Ohio and we are the only city that has a registered rental program and basically brought him to court to fix up his home,” Crowley said.

But he says to not fully blame Niles’ blight issues on rentals.

“Just because you’re a homeowner doesn’t mean you’re taking care of your property,” Crowley said.

About 2,500 people have left Niles in the past 25 years.

“So the people may leave your city, but they don’t take their houses with them,” Crowley said.

This means Niles has a housing surplus.

One of the people in the small crowd asked, “Are we doing anything as a community to maybe bolster demand through incentives for potential home buyers?”

Answering that question, Niles Service Director Ed Stredney said the city has talked with two different banks about a down payment assistance program.

“What it’s going to look like in Niles — if the administration and council ever want to push it, I don’t know. But we’ll probably present some sort of rough draft of a plan for them to consider,” Stredney said.

The city also works with the Trumbull County Land Bank to deal with their vacant houses. So far, 10 houses have been approved and bids to demolish seven have already gone out.

One more note on the rental properties, landlords in Niles are responsible for paying the back utility fees of their tenants.

Some of the landlords at the meeting want to make sure those tenants aren’t allowed to rent somewhere else in Niles without paying them back first.

City officials say they’re working on that.