Thursday, May 11, 2017
By Graig Graziosi
For more than a decade, Gertie Gross and her husband, Richard, watched as an empty house next to their home on Ivanhoe Avenue decayed into a den for squatters and drug use.
The South Side couple – who had lived in the Lansingville neighborhood for nearly 60 years – didn’t imagine the house would ever be cleaned up, let alone rehabilitated and sold.
Then the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. got involved.
Wednesday night, the Grosses were overjoyed to walk during a YNDC open house through the fully rehabilitated house that had plagued their neighborhood.
“It’s perfect,” Gertie said during a tour of the home. “Unbelievable.”
YNDC crews replaced the roof, windows and furnace and restored many of the home’s original features, including the original kitchen cabinets and hardwood floors.
After nearly 60 days of work, the YNDC had completed its rehabilitation of the 1,580-square-foot property and put the house up for sale, listing it for $45,000.
The house sold in 48 hours.
The Ivanhoe Avenue home is one of 30 houses the YNDC has targeted for rehabilitation and resale throughout the year. So far this year, nearly a dozen rehabilitated homes have been finished and sold by the YNDC.
Each year, the YNDC targets a number of properties within its 10 “action team areas” – regions of the city where YNDC action teams of workers and local residents are actively working toward neighborhood improvement – and designates buildings for rehabilitation and demolition.
The properties are chosen based on a number of factors, including input from concerned neighbors. In the case of the Ivanhoe Avenue house, several neighbors had complained about the property’s condition and criminal issues. Since the property was still structurally sound, the YNDC opted to save the home rather than tear it down.
Seventh Ward Councilwoman Basia Adamczak praised the work, and said it was the first YNDC house rehabilitation to occur in the Lansingville neighborhood. She pointed out that while the city may have a reputation for demolishing old houses, there are also many homes that are saved and brought back to life through efforts like the YNDC’s.
When the YNDC identifies a house it wants to rehab, it often acquires them through the Mahoning County Land Bank. Once it has bought the house and finished work on the property, in the vast majority of cases the YNDC lists the property as any other house, with one important stipulation; anyone that buys the house must agree to own and occupy the building.
Tiffany Sokol, the YNDC’s housing director, said forcing the buyers to occupy the homes ensures that the properties will go to individuals who are interested in investing in the neighborhood.
Out-of-town homeowners control approximately 22 percent of the abandoned properties citywide, and city authorities have been largely unsuccessful in forcing them to care for or sell their properties.
“We don’t want to take the houses, redeem them, and then put them back into a cycle of abandonment and neglect,” Sokol said. “That’s why we require buyers to own and occupy the homes.”
YNDC will continue to purchase and rehab homes across the city. As far as Richard and Gertie are concerned, they’re just happy to see a small piece of their neighborhood redeemed.
“Ivanhoe is a beautiful street,” Gertie said. “It’s where we raised our children and had a beautiful time, and we’re glad this house is all fixed up now.”