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Vacant houses down, property values up: Youngstown stabilizing with demo efforts

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — One of the most serious problems facing Youngstown over the past 20 years is improving — the number of vacant properties is way down and property value is going up.

The vacant property situation seems to be stabilizing. Vacant properties are now being added a few at a time, rather than hundreds at a time.

Retired steelworker Bill Watson remembers the vacant house that once stood behind his on Buckeye Circle on Youngstown’s south side.

“It was just nothing but a hazard in there,” he said.

A year ago, the house was demolished, which pleased Watson.

“Took them about a week but they did a nice job tearing it out,” he said.

Last week, the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation released a study showing vacant structures in Youngstown falling 43 percent — from 4,000 five years ago to near 2,200 now.

REPORT: 2014-2018 Neighborhood Action Plan Impact Analysis

“It’s an encouraging sign that it’s gone down,” said Ian Beniston, who runs YNDC.

But he still thinks 2,200 is too many vacant properties.

“First of all, we’re coordinating the county land bank, city government, YNDC, neighborhood groups, other civic organizations. We’re prioritizing and then we’re not just looking at demolition, but we can renovate it,” Beniston said.

Five years ago, YNDC created a Neighborhood Action Plan — 12 Youngtown neighborhoods that were prioritized in a concerted effort to save them.

“If this neighborhood has a hundred houses, let’s start with these 25. These two we’re going to do because this block only has two and it’s going to stabilize that block,” Beniston said.

While the vacants are dropping, property values are rising. The average value of a home in the 12 action areas has increased from $35,000 to over $50,000 — an increase of 30 percent in five years.

“But if we look at national averages, a home should be worth $200,000,” Beniston said.

He said the city’s code enforcement efforts and tools like spot blight eminent domain, where the city can actually take a blighted but still usable property from an owner, have helped.

“For me, it’s encouraging. I’m never satisfied, it’s not enough. We want to see things changing much faster.”

The report actually broke out the number of vacant homes remaining in each of YNDC’s neighborhood action area. The most were 116 in the greater McGuffey area, followed by Crandall Park with 50, Cornersburg with 47 and the upper west side with 44.

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