Eyesore Next Door: Dayton neighbors call for cleanup of urban blight

Local News

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Juanita Robinson walked down Santa Clara Avenue in the city’s west side, pointing out her neighborhood’s vacant and abandoned properties.

“Everywhere you go, there’s a ‘bando,” said Robinson, using a common term for the dilapidated houses scattered throughout her block.

Robinson, a mother of four, has lived in a two-story house on the street since 2007, but she’s felt increasingly uneasy about the dwindling number of neighbors surrounding her home.

“I’m ready to move,” she said. “I don’t want to come out and just keep seeing this. I hate it.”

Broken windows, overgrown lots and boarded up entrances mark many of the vacant properties. Robinson believes they often attract drug activity and said she’s taken extra precautions to protect her house from thieves.

“I hate these ‘bandos because people go in and out on the side and it’s dark over here,” she said. “I have to keep my porch light on and stuff in my windows so my house doesn’t get broken into.”

Shauna Hill, the division manager for Dayton Housing Inspection, referred to the almost 6,000 vacant and abandoned houses as a ‘perfect storm.’ She said a devastated housing market during recession years never fully recovered and a nationwide opioid crisis is now exacerbating the problem.

Benny Hamilton has lived near the Twin Towers area of Xenia Avenue for more than 55 years. In recent years, Hamilton’s neighborhood has been plagued by vacant house fires, many ruled as arson by Dayton fire investigators.

“I just hope that they can get this end of Dayton straightened out and back to what it used to be,”

“I just hope that they can get this end of Dayton straightened out and back to what it used to be,” Hamilton said. “It used to be a real good place to live… You just wonder why it all got out of control.”

Two vacant houses directly across from Hamilton’s home were the target of arson fires in 2017.

At its current rate for the year, the Dayton Fire Department reported fighting at least one vacant house fire every week. It classified all but two of those fires as suspicious.

“It does make it more complicated,” said Dayton firefighter Bryan Adams of controlling such fires. “Often times arson fires can be crimes of opportunity, and when there are more opportunities, there are going to be more fires.”

The city says it’s taking steps to limit such opportunities.

“I share their frustration,”

“I share their frustration,” said Hill. “We are working, and I know it might not seem like it, but we are working diligently to try to address some of these issues.”

The Division of Housing Inspection maintains a structural nuisance list of properties considered too dangerous to remain standing. In mid-October, Hill reported to 2 NEWS the list had 1,085 houses slated for demolition. The city of Dayton declined to disclose the list, citing safety concerns.

The nuisance houses include most fire-damaged structures, including two on Xenia Avenue across from Hamilton. Hill said both should be demolished by early 2018.

Demolishing every structurally unsound house on the list could cost up to $18 million. The city earned a grant in 2015, allocating enough funds to knock down 800 vacant houses between 2016 and 2018.

Hill said other, more structurally sound houses, are getting a second chance through the city’s Lot Links program. The interactive, online tool allows interested applicants to find eligible properties and purchase them for $2000-$2500. A vacant house located in Dayton can qualify if it’s at least two years in arrears on taxes, hasn’t had the tax lien sold, has no active delinquent tax payment contract or foreclosure started by another entity.

At least one home adjacent to Juanita Robinson is listed on the Lot Linker website. 2 News found the owner of the Santa Clara Avenue property hasn’t paid taxes on the house since 2008.

Though the city says mitigating vacant and nuisance properties is one of its top priorities, neighbors like Robinson and Hamilton said they’re frustrated about the drawn-out process.

“It’s crazy. It’s really sad to see.”

“It doesn’t make any sense. I know they can do better than this,” said Robinson. “It’s crazy. It’s really sad to see.”

As part of its Thriving Communities initiative, non-profit Western Reserve Land Conservancy surveyed all properties in the city of Dayton in 2015. Of the nearly 74,000 properties surveyed, 167 were determined to be “dilapidated.” Here’s a look at where the dilapidated houses were found.

The survey divided properties into five categories based on the condition of the property.

2 NEWS also took a look at how median home values have been affected in some of the hardest hit neighborhoods. The Montgomery County Auditor’s Office provided this data.

Dayton Neighborhoods Median Home Values
201120142017
Five Oaks$50,855$39,280$39,020
Roosevelt$33,330$27,500$29,660
Santa Clara$46,940$33,960$32,810
Southern Dayton View$37,815$27,115$24,030
Twin Towers$32,750$28,765$27,500

This map shows the 2017 median home values.

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