By ED RUNYAN
A recent study found Warren has more than 3,000 vacant homes — or roughly 15 percent of the housing stock — and growing.
It said the city will have 4,000 vacant homes by 2018 if the current trend continues — about 30 homes being demolished per year but 150 homes becoming vacant.
But with 57 demolitions since last fall and about 300 more expected over the next year, Warren will take a big bite out of the problem — the biggest bite it has taken in many years.
The demolitions come courtesy of the $1.4 million in federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds the city received in the program’s first round in late 2008.
Eliminating more than 350 blighted homes will reverse the effects of several years’ worth of home abandonings.
Bob Pinti, Warren’s deputy health commissioner, said he believes the effort will improve the physical and mental health of people living near the structures. “Hopefully, we’ll take the most-blighted structures out of the neighborhoods and give hope to those neighborhoods,” he said.
Pinti, whose department determines which structures should be torn down through a process that begins with warning letters and concludes with a ruling by the board of health, said improving neighborhoods through demolition has a ripple effect.
“Hopefully, it will improve the buy-in from landlords,” he said of those who own the homes surrounding a demolished structure.
The health department is processing a large number of condemned homes.
In February, it ordered 31 homes to be demolished. It had another 14 on its agenda for Wednesday night and is likely to process another 50 to 60 by the end of March, Pinti said.
Pinti noted that not every condemned home is demolished. In some cases, getting a letter from the dealth department prompts the homeowner to take steps to bring the home up to code.
Lori Graham, the city’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program coordinator, said demolitions have continued through the winter, but the pace will pick up as the weather improves.
Graham said the city originally estimated that it would be able to demolish around 250 homes with its NSP funding, but contractors have been eager to get the work and have offered lower bids than anticipated.
Instead of a cost of $5,600 each, the cost has been around $3,200 so far, Graham said.
The cost varies depending on whether there is much asbestos inside. About 80 percent have some type of asbestos, such as asbestos-based insulation wrapped around pipes or asbestos-based floor coverings.
It costs between $1,375 and $1,675 to abate that type of asbestos. It costs more if a home has asbestos in the plaster, she said.
The city does try to recover the cost of the demolition from the homeowner, Graham said.
Each of the 57 homes demolished so far has received a bill for it, including at least one mortgage company. So far, none of the property owners has paid the bill.
Pinti said there are three areas that seem to have the highest concentration of demolished homes: the North End neighborhood off North Park Avenue near the city limits, the area around Western Reserve Middle School in Southwest Warren and near the southern city limits off state Route 169.
2009 population: 45,000
1970 population: 63,494
Vacant housing units: 15 percent
State average: 10 percent
Vacant housing units, 1990: 1,503
Vacant housing units, 2008: 3,173
Homes being vacated in 2008: 150
Housing units demolished in 2008: 30
Net increase in vacant properties in 2008: 120
Source: Boulevard Strategies, Columbus, market analysis, part of the comprehensive study done by Poggemeyer Design Group, 2008