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Tax liens, foreclosures and vacancies plague Youngstown

Published: Fri, March 4, 2011 @ 12:09 a.m.



By David Skolnick



A study of the city’s 62,569 parcels by a community organizing group paints a bleak picture of Youngstown.

But in issuing a vacant-property report, members of the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative said Thursday there are ways to improve the city’s housing vacancy and blight problems.

With 1,470 structures in foreclosure as of Nov. 30, 2010, Youngstown has a foreclosure rate of about 1 in 40. The national average is 1 in 139.

The report states that 23,831 of the city’s total land parcels, 31.51 percent, are empty. That’s more than twice the national average of 15.4 percent.

Also, 3,246 structures are vacant, giving the city a vacancy rate of 44.8 structures per 1,000 residents. That’s nearly 20 times the national average. Of those vacant houses, nearly 36 percent of them are considered “an immediate hazard to the neighborhood,” the report states.

The current figure of 3,246 vacant structures is an improvement over the 4,566 vacant houses listed in the MVOC’s 2008 report of the city’s housing stock, but much more needs to be done, those with the organization say.

About half of that reduction in vacant structures is a direct result of the city’s having those houses demolished.

The city plans more demolitions.

The city is receiving $1.1 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development this year for programs to stabilize neighborhoods. City officials have asked for a waiver to a HUD restriction that no more than 10 percent of the grant can be used for demolition.

“Demolition activity alone is not enough to face the housing problems,” said Sybil West, a member of the Bennington Block Watch on the city’s East Side, at Thursday’s MVOC press conference.

Without a strategy to stabilize neighborhoods, many of them are in jeopardy, the report reads. They include Crandall Park North, Lincoln Knolls, Cornersburg, Kirkmere, Belle Vista and Rocky Ridge.

MVOC officials listed four recommendations that should be implemented this year to tackle the city’s vacant-property problems.

They are:

Fix the city’s code enforcement, which the report states “is perceived as lacking focus and direction, and failing to provide a systematic approach to code compliance.”

“From the neighborhood perspective, you call the housing department with a problem and they say, ‘It’s not my responsibility,’” said Francine Jeffries, president of the Newport Neighborhood Association on the city’s southwest side. “Then you call the health department and they say, ‘It’s not my responsibility.’ The city needs to have one centralized department instead of being all over the place.”

Mayor Jay Williams, who attended Thursday’s event at the Covelli Centre’s community room, said steps are being taken to coordinate how the city’s inspectors take care of complaints.

“We need to cross-train our inspectors,” he said. “We also need to unify our ordinances.”

Establish a Mahoning County land bank by July 1.

County commissioners have authorized the creation of a land bank. But to receive funding from county property-tax late fees for this year, the land bank has to have a program in place by July 1.

Adopt a vacant-property registration ordinance for the city.

That would require owners of vacant or abandoned properties to register with the city. That would provide a point of contact in case the property becomes a nuisance and may encourage the owner to devise a rehabilitation plan by imposing fees.

The city is working to put such a policy in place, Williams said.

Develop a more meaningful and formal partnership between the city and community groups.

In the past two-plus years, the number of active neighborhood citizen groups has doubled to about 40, according to the MVOC.

The city needs to establish a way for the public to track housing cases in the court system and bring back a citizen inspection program, the report states.

“We’re not going to stop until the right things are done,” said the Rev. Michael Harrison, MVOC board chairman.


1redcent(38 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

The real Q - What are we seeing now that is going to hit us like bricks next? Infrastructure deterioration, loss of existing employers like GM or West, closing of hospital(s), school consolidations, local govs declaring bankruptcy, loss of public protection services, or municipal utilities.

Cities like Youngstown and Warren are obvious casualties of America's lengthy industrial decline. Demos are not the only solution - and urban gardens don't count for anything substantial enough to reverse the trend.

Can't wait to read the recent local report, is it public (PDF) yet? Nice work by the Vindy on this story.

The reality is that our populations have declined, our jobs and employment base have vanished, and the number of houses remaining clearly exceeds what is needed. Lest we explain the urban flight to the suburbs, which are now seeing the trend invade those sanctuaries too.

With the coming wave of stiff "consumer" bank regulations and lending policies, the ability to afford a home will trend downward and more rentals will be needed. This, while the money center banks keep making loads with TARP bucks and local builders and homeowners go bust.

I don't think many can, or will, wait around for the cycle to trend up again. The average lifespan for men is 78 and for women it's 81. Some of us don't actually have the time to wait - if you know what I mean.

Some just don't have the resources to withstand this wave, in addition to no time to wait - therefore, we should expect to see another mass exodus from the area as a result.

It's a real shame, because at one time, and not so long ago, it was one of the greatest places to live and raise solid citizens.

Some will continue to ask: If not now - when, if not us - who?

But who would wish that "duty" on their kids these days?

On an individual basis, it's become just too cost effective to call it a day, cut your losses and move on to a place with more regular sunshine.

A "stop-loss" program for the Mahoning Valley, there should be an App for that ... now there's an idea!

Sorry, don't need employees or a building for that .... does anyone know the telephone number for India?


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2author50(1121 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Lots of reports and talk - no action by the people in charge.

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3Bigben(1996 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

redcent -A lot of those older folks unfortunately are stuck. They simply don't have desirable property to sell nor the funds nor time to take on a new mortgage. This is sad but true.

I have a feeling it weren't so then they would have been gone many years ago.

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4Stan(9923 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

"The report states that 23,831 of the city’s total land parcels, 31.51 percent, are empty."

Housing only has value in Youngstown if the tenants can stay rent free with free utilities . To achieve utopia we must build mare public housing with free utilities . Mankind must be able to express oneself without being encumbered with employment or sobriety .

Would it be politically incorrect to state that Youngswtown is in a state of decay morally and in its infrastructure ?


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5palbubba(717 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

By their fruits you will know them. I will bet the Democrats of the Mahoning Valley won't want to take ownwership or respnsibility of these fruits. This is a direct result of the closed mind effect of a one party area. As a registered Democrat and not a tea party member, let the name calling begin. When there is no logical arguement, it always resorts to name calling.

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6Ytownnative(1114 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Worst school system in the state

High crime rate I would guess over half the city isnt safe to even drive through

One of the highest city taxes in the state

Over inflated property values for tax purposes

outrageous water bills

numerour city officials under investigation/indictment

Who would want to live here??

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7Ytownnative(1114 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

"Worst school system in the state"

You're right. But abandonment isn't going to help.

Why should my tax dollars pay for such a substandard school system? And all the waste? Drive past volney rogers at night one car in the parking lot and every light on

"High crime rate I would guess over half the city isnt safe to even drive through"

Yes, Youngstown's crime rate is relatively high. But lets not get carried away. And again, running away won't help matters. Leaving the city and staying away from the city would keep me and my family safer

"One of the highest city taxes in the state"

Because the tax base has continued to erode over the years.

So instead of cutting down the city workers as the population declined we tax more and spend more that makes no sense. Drive up mahoning ave around 8am and see our tax dollars at work. 2-3 YPD cars at the circle K talking tot he clerks a few youngstown water trucks idling in the McDonalds parking lot with the drivers asleep. Watch the bank on meridian all the city workers usiing the city cars to do thier bank busines

"Over inflated property values for tax purposes"

Not sure what you're talking about here. When compared to the neighboring suburbs, my property taxes are quite low. And, the property taxes on all of the houses I've looked at on the north side (I'm trying to buy one to restore) are obscenely low.

Fair market value is the price your hosue or one like it would sell for. I bought mine for 58k about the same price others in the neighborhood were selling for and I was taxed at 90k right off the bat.

"outrageous water bills"

Maybe. How much should water, sewer, and garbage pick up cost?

I pay twice what everyone else does
water went up 8.75%
Sewer went up 9.8%

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