By Sean Barron
Many people who are familiar with neighborhoods that make up the city’s 7th Ward likely will tell you that one defining feature is diverse demographics — in everything from population trends to home vacancies.
Such diversity was one of the themes running through Thursday’s Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. meeting at Faith Community Covenant Church, 1919 E. Midlothian Blvd., on the South Side.
About 60 elected officials and residents attended the seventh of nine such sessions in the city to gather people’s priorities, feedback and concerns regarding greater neighborhood stabilization in the city.
Their input will be used to develop detailed strategies and neighborhood plans against a backdrop of limited financial resources, noted Thomas A. Hetrick, a YNDC neighborhood planner.
Several trends vary widely in the 7th Ward’s neighborhoods, which are Lansingville, Powerstown and Buckeye Plat, Brownlee Woods, Boulevard Park and Cottage Grove, Hetrick explained. He also noted that the area’s assets include a large number of parks, places of worship and businesses, especially along Midlothian Boulevard and Youngstown-Poland Road.
For example, calls to police were significantly higher in the ward’s western section. Also, population loss varied considerably in the area, he continued.
More than 80 percent of the homes in Brownlee Woods were built after World War II, while other sections have a much-older housing stock, Hetrick noted, adding that Boulevard Park has the highest percentage of residents with college degrees.
By contrast, Cottage Grove and parts of Lansingville have seen higher rates of poverty and home vacancies, he said, adding that the entire ward saw a large increase in the number of home foreclosures after the recession.
Nevertheless, Hetrick said, “Vacancies are something that affects all parts of the 7th Ward.”
A big challenge is that Youngstown has been losing population every year since 1960, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures.
Having fewer homebuyers usually leads to a higher number of vacancies, which often contributes to a decrease in home sales and values and an increase in neighborhood deterioration and home abandonment, Hetrick pointed out.
The average home price in the city was slightly more than $30,000 in 2007, before the economic downturn, and was $21,000 in 2013, he noted.
A few people expressed hope that enough city funds will be available to continue demolishing vacant homes, which encourage criminal activity.
One man complained about what he sees as a large amount of blight along South Avenue and said he hopes Mayor John A. McNally will follow through with efforts to tackle the problem.
“Work with us; please, just work with us,” he pleaded.