900 houses set for demolitionWritten by Caitlin McGlade | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Demolition crews will go to work in a few weeks in South Toledo, crushing more than 80 houses on the neighborhood’s most blighted blocks.
This marks the beginning of a 17-month process to destroy about 900 houses that have been gutted and stripped, burned out and flooded. The Lucas County Land Bank announced Aug. 7 that the agency received a $3.4 million grant from the Ohio Attorney General for the project. The county is matching the grant with fines collected from local delinquent taxpayers.
The state money comes from a lawsuit settlement, in which the attorney general sued mortgage companies for contributing to the housing collapse.
This news comes at a time when the assessed value for Lucas County properties is 20 percent lower than it was six years ago.
Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz hosted the news conference Aug. 7 in front of two foreclosed-upon houses on Colburn Street.
“The land bank isn’t about the 551 and 559 Colburns of the world — it is about the beautiful homes, that, through no fault of their own, have seen property values go down,” Kapszukiewicz said.
Grass and trash overrun the facades of both houses, which are empty shells of siding and mortar with jagged holes where glass once covered window frames. At 551 Colburn St., a tiny window in the attic reveals a charred interior, where a fire took hold just a few weeks ago.
The house next door to 559 Colburn, on the other hand, stands before a yard of peach and pear trees, vibrant flowers and a white trellis that shades the sidewalk leading to the front door. This house’s facade is an even purple, with not a chip peeling. The Ponce family has lived in this house for eight years and 17-year-old Jasmine Ponce said she has watched the house next door fall apart.
But now, they have big plans.
The land bank sold 559 Colburn to the Ponce family for $100, as part of the agency’s latest demolition project. The Ponces will extend their garden onto the lot. Kapszukiewicz said the agency is offering this deal to homeowners who live on their property, with the idea that they will foster the vacant land into a productive space.
“These properties looks like nobody loves them,” Kapszukiewicz said, gesturing to the houses behind him. “That will change.”
Landlords will have to pay $250 for the cleared lots, because the agency is trying to promote owner/occupant activity. This upsets Landlord Elvin Smith.
“I love the Old South End, but it’s a losing battle,” he said.
Smith said he thinks landlords should have been given the grant money so the government could have stayed out of the reclamation process. Some rules that the city enforces, he said, works to create more blight. For example, any time he has a property for sale or for rent, he has to put out a sign — a law, he said, that brings unwanted guests.
If he didn’t have to post these signs, he said, fewer people would break into his properties to steal pipe and metal. He attributes this as the root cause for many of the properties that fall into disrepair.
“Most of these could have been converted right after they became vacant,” he said.
The land bank compiled its list of demolition-ready houses through neighbors and organizations that submitted information about blighted properties. The Broadway Corridor Coalition, for example, sent volunteers out into the neighborhoods a few months ago to take stock of the condition of the houses and mark which ones were empty and damaged.
The list will be continually updated, as county employees inspect each property to verify that demolition is the best option. The project will utilize city equipment and crews. The city typically demolishes less than 300 houses a year.