There will always be rich and poor, county planners say.
By TIM YOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
LIBERTY -- Trumbull County planners aren't impressed with a study that measures income disparities in communities, including this township and Howland, which show the biggest shifts in the Mahoning Valley.
"I don't think it means that much," said Alan J. Knapp, assistant director of the Trumbull County Planning Commission.
The Associated Press study shows the disparity between the rich and poor in Liberty Township dramatically increasing based on census data between 1990 and 2000.
The income gap in Howland Township significantly decreased during the past 10 years.
"There has always been rich and poor," noted planner Mark Zigmont.
"There will always be the rich and poor," Knapp said.
Besides, Knapp and Zigmont said, they didn't need such a study to tell them where there are pockets of low-income families.
Location of communities, migration patterns and availability of good affordable housing, Knapp explained, influence disparities.
Generally, Knapp said, suburban townships adjacent to urban areas attract the rich.
In turn, the large homes left behind in the cities by those of higher incomes are filled by low-income occupants.
Knapp said this is true in Liberty, where the more affluent have moved north of state Route 304 and the gap at the lower end of the township on Youngstown's border is filled by lower-income minorities from the city.
That's why stores such as Giant Eagle and housing developments like Kline's Farm are in the northern portion of Liberty, he said.
It's just the reverse in Howland, where the gap has decreased since 1990 because of increased income in the lower-income areas.
For example, the low-income section of Bolindale in Howland had a median household income of $9,275 in 1990. It more than doubled to $19,766 over the last decade.
At the same time, Knapp pointed out, income improved in higher income areas, but at a slower rate. Household income in other areas of Howland, which borders Warren and Niles, increased over the years from $34,414 to $43,770, $26,844 to $37,315, $46,050 to $68,017 and $46,050 to $68,017.
Zigmont said the study is simply a snapshot of income levels. The census may have been taken, for example, in a community that, at the time, was experiencing a high unemployment rate.
Howland administrator Darlene St. George said she believes the disparity there has narrowed because of the consistency of people who remain in the community.
As children become adults and leave their parents' home, they remain in Howland and buy a smaller house, she theorized.
St. George, who also served as Liberty's administrator, said she believes the income gap has grown in Liberty because "there's no medium."
"What Liberty lacks is the middle income," St. George said, noting that Liberty has the very rich with their estates, or old money, and Howland has "new money" and a large middle class.
Knapp said the planning commission has been working to decrease disparities in the county with efforts to attract high-paying jobs and improve the housing stock through repairs and even building new houses.
The effort is designed to attract moderate-income families.