After Dayton nuisance structures knocked down, delinquent taxes could hinder reuse

Dayton plans to remove more than 1,000 nuisance structures, which officials hope will help transform neighborhoods and counter growing dissatisfaction with housing conditions.

But what the future holds for these properties after demolition is unclear since many owe large amounts of delinquent taxes that could be a major obstacle to their redevelopment, a Dayton Daily News investigation found.

Dayton Daily News reporters cross-referenced the city’s nuisance property list against Montgomery County property tax records to identify the listed owners of 1,354 nuisance properties, many of which contain dilapidated buildings that will be torn down at taxpayer expense. Our investigation found:

- Roughly 18% of the nuisance properties had owners listed with addresses outside of Ohio.

- More than half of the properties on the list owed at least $10,000 in back taxes. Out-of-state owners accounted for 22% of the total $19.2 million tax delinquency.

- Nearly a quarter of the nuisance properties appear to be owned by companies.

- Since 2020, at least 382 of the properties have sold or changed hands.

Residents and neighborhood leaders interviewed by the Dayton Daily News said eliminating blighted structures will be hugely beneficial for their neighborhoods even if the lots aren’t redeveloped any time in the foreseeable future.

Tracking down the owners of many delinquent properties is no easy task. Some of them are dead or relocated to other communities and states. Nearly a quarter of the properties appear to be owned by companies, some of which were formed by unidentified individuals.

The Dayton Daily News spoke with a local man who has more properties in his name on the city’s nuisance list than anyone else. That man, a 38-year-old refugee named Donatian Mahanga, said he intends to renovate the seven properties on the nuisance list and rent them out to help provide housing for refugees.

Mahanga said he is concerned the city will tear down the buildings before he gets a chance to fix them up.

Mahanga purchased all of the properties in the last several years. The bulk of the delinquent taxes owed on his properties predate his ownership. But the properties owe a hefty amount of back taxes that have not been paid.



Want them gone

Dayton plans to spend about $22 million eliminating more than 1,000 nuisance structures, and a large chunk of the funding will come from the city’s $138 million in federal COVID relief funds.

City staff and leaders said they hope this and other planned investments using the federal relief funds will help improve neighborhoods and enhance the housing stock.

The overwhelming majority of Dayton residents — about 80% — think abandoned homes, blight and decay are an important issue, and more than half of residents think the issue generally is being poorly addressed (58%), according to the results of a citywide survey that were released this month.



A shrinking share of residents — 41% — said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the condition and quality of housing in their neighborhoods last year, which was a nearly 7 percentage point decline from 2021, the survey said.

Nearly 35% of residents said they were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with housing conditions and quality in their neighborhoods — a nearly 8 percentage point increase from 2021.

Residents consistently have said in surveys and interviews that they want to see more demolition taking place in their neighborhoods.

Fed up with blight

S. Davis, 35, would like to see the vacant house down the street from her home demolished.

Davis said the house has been empty for all 11 years that she’s lived on Meredith Street in the Old Dayton View neighborhood and its condition continues to worsen.

“It’s irritating,” she said. “It’s not a sight you want people to see when they are visiting your home.”

Davis said the home — which is on Dayton’s nuisance list — is probably in too bad of shape to repair. But she said if it is torn down it would be a great place to put new housing.

“You are close to everything,” she said, noting that the property is not far from the interstate, downtown and its amenities.

However, the abandoned home owes more than $50,000 in delinquent taxes. Only four other residential properties on Dayton’s nuisance list had larger delinquent property tax bills.

The nuisance list used for this story was obtained from the city in January using Ohio public records laws. It contains more than 1,300 properties. It was compared to property tax data obtained from Montgomery County in February.

More than half of the properties on the list each owe at least $10,000 in back taxes, and the most delinquent properties had tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid tax bills, according to the Dayton Daily News analysis of city and county data.

Combined, the residential properties on the nuisance list owed more than $17.5 million in delinquent taxes, while the commercial properties owed about $1.5 million.



Demo plans

Dayton has the legal authority to demolish nuisance properties when the owners have been non-responsive and ignored legal orders and other requests by the city to care for their properties, said Todd Kinskey, Dayton’s director of planning, neighborhoods and development.

“Allowing a property to decay to the point the city has to spend public funds to demolish the building is the definition of irresponsible,” he said.

Ownership of the properties will not change hands before or after the demolition process and the city also will not assess demolition fees on properties that it tears down using COVID relief funds, Kinskey said, because federal program rules make that difficult.

The delinquent taxes the properties owe will remain and will be the responsibility of the current or future owners, Kinskey said.

The only real benefit the owners of these properties could see from demolition is a future reduction in the amount of annual property taxes they owe, he said.

That’s because after the nuisance structures are removed, the properties’ tax valuations eventually should be updated to reflect their conversion into empty lots.

Asked about whether the nuisance-abated properties could be redeveloped, Kinseky said that really depends on their location and the strength of the market.

“Redevelopment is only possible if the future owner can pay the back taxes or finds a way to have the back taxes eliminated,” he said.

Montgomery County Treasurer John McManus said delinquent taxes are removed when they are paid, sold to a third-party as a tax lien or a tax foreclosure takes place. Owners also can get on payment plans to pay the back taxes in installments.

McManus said properties oftentimes have significant delinquent tax burdens after the structures on them are razed.

“Traditionally ... delinquent taxes are certainly an impediment to redevelopment if the property is being purchased through a private sale,” he said.

‘That needs to come down’

But some community members, like Gene Walker, say that demolishing blight is important and urgently needed — even if there’s little reason to believe the lots left behind will be redeveloped.

Walker, 82, has lived in a home near the corner of North Euclid Avenue and Superior Avenue in the Southern Dayton View neighborhood since 1967.



Walker’s home is surrounded by empty and abandoned properties, including a few that are on Dayton’s nuisance list.

A duplex on the 900 block of North Euclid Avenue behind Walker’s home has been vacant for a dozen or more years and sometimes attracts trouble like trespassers, he said.

“That needs to come down ... it just bugs you and there’s nothing you can do about it and if someone goes in there I can’t reach in and grab them by the neck and pull them out,” Walker said, with a laugh. “All you can do is call the police and all they do is put them out and send them on their way and then probably a couple hours later they are probably back in there.”

The duplex owes more than $72,000 in delinquent taxes — which was the most of any residential property on Dayton’s nuisance list.

Walker said it would be nice to see new housing built in his neighborhood but the biggest need is to demolish the abandoned eyesores.



About the Authors