YNDC facing challenges despite decade of success

Ten years ago, a partner- ship between the Raymond John Wean Foundation and the city of Youngstown gave birth to a nonprofit community organization dedicated to spreading the early successes in rejuvenating the downtown area of Youngstown to many of its aging, blighted and time-worn neighborhoods.

To many pessimists, that task stood as herculean at best, impossible at worst.

Today, 10 years later, that organization – the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. – rose to the challenge and proved those naysayers wrong. The proof is in the ever-expanding organization’s tangible results clearly visible in transformations of what once were some of the city’s most dingy and neglected residential sections.

We salute the YNDC for its determination, its resilience, its hard work and its forward-thinking mindset toward revitalizing sections of all four quadrants of the city and for its efforts to expand its outreach to achieve even more impressive and broader-based success stories in the near future.

A recently released study prepared by members of the Geographic Information Science department at Youngstown State University analyzed the efforts of the YNDC, the city and the Mahoning County Land Bank since the organization’s implementation of “neighborhood action plans” about five years ago.

The jaw-dropping findings of that impact study cover these neighborhoods: Brownlee Woods, Cornersburg, Crandall Park, Greater McGuffey, Idora-Indian Village, Lincoln Knolls, Pleasant Grove, Powerstown, Rocky Ridge, Taft and the Upper West Side. Among the noteworthy specific achievements are:

Abandoned housing in the city has dramatically tumbled, from 3,927 vacant structures in 2014 to 2,226 in 2018. That’s a whopping 43 percent decline.

Overall crime has fallen significantly, with decreases in the majority of action-plan neighborhoods surpassing citywide declines.

Property values have increased significantly, from an average home sale price of $35,235 in 2014 in action-plan neighborhoods to $50,544 in 2018.

Homeownership rates have stabilized in multiple action plan areas in contrast to long-term trends of rapidly decreasing homeownership in most neighborhoods in the city.

Tax delinquency has decreased in action-plan neighborhoods; half of those neighborhoods had a decrease in tax delinquency while the citywide rate increased between 2014 and 2018.

Collectively, those trends point to a clear record of success in YNDC’s larger mission to slow down and reverse at least 50 years’ worth of rapid population loss and out-of-control urban decay within the many once-vibrant neighborhoods of Youngstown.

Of course, the YNDC relied on considerable help from many quarters, most notably from the generous philanthropy of the Wean Foundation, which recently awarded the organization a $550,000 grant to the resources of city government to numerous private-sector investors in the group’s mission.

According to the YNDC’s first-quarter 2019 performance update, those investors now number more than 60. In 2018, a record number of 31 banks contributed to the organization’s mission.

Such support will remain in strong demand in the foreseeable and long-term future. Despite its incredible record of success in its first decade, many more challenges confront YNDC toward maximizing its progress.

For one, home ownership – one of the key barometers of stability and pride in neighborhoods – remains a large hurdle to overcome in many city neighborhoods.

“Home ownership has seen a long-term decline since the 1980s, and in some areas, it’s been going down at a fairly rapid pace. We’ve seen some success in the Idora neighborhood – since 1980, home ownership here has decreased by more than 35 percent, but in the last four or five years, the decline has stopped and started to go back up,” said Ian Beniston, executive director of YNDC.

We’re confident Beniston and his loyal army of employees and volunteers can expand those promising results throughout the city.

In addition, YNDC has launched a relatively new partnership with ACTION, the Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods, a community-action group dedicated to social justice. That new union bodes well for the city as both groups share mutually inclusive goals of enhancing neighborhoods and improving residents’ quality of life.

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