Top owner of Dayton nuisance properties explains why he’s buying up eyesores

A significant share of properties on the city of Dayton’s nuisance list have been bought and sold in recent years, including some with large delinquent tax bills, according to a Dayton Daily News investigation cross-referencing the nuisance list with Montgomery County property records.

Todd Kinskey, Dayton’s director of planning, neighborhoods and development said members of his team have discussed this but they have no idea why this is taking place. He said very few of these properties are ever repaired.

A 38-year-old Dayton resident named Donatian Mahanga is the listed owner of seven properties on the city nuisance list, more than anyone else, according to the newspaper’s analysis. He has purchased six residential properties on the list within the last two and a half years.

Mahanga said he is in the process of renovating a few of the properties on the nuisance list and he plans to finish renovations on all of the properties by the end of the year. He says they need to be occupied by then.

Mahanga said he is fixing up the properties to rent out mainly to refugees who often struggle to find housing they can afford and that will accept them. He said many refugees do not have credit scores, which is a hinderance since landlords often use this information to screen rental applications.

Mahanga said he was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo but his family fled war and conflict and he lived in a refugee camp in Uganda for two decades before resettling in Tucson, Arizona.

Mahanga, who worked in construction while in the refugee camp, said he discovered Dayton when he visited here to perform.

Mahanga says he is an emcee, singer, DJ, social entrepreneur and owner of a construction and arts company. He goes by the stage name of DJ Grin the Peacemaker.

He moved here in 2019 and auditor records show he has purchased nearly two dozen properties in the city, many of which he claims are in various stages of renovation and repair.

“It takes a lot of time to raise funds to renovate,” he said. “But I’m more than ready, I’m more than willing ... There is high demand: People are badly off. People need this help.”

Mahanga, who moved to Dayton with his wife and five children, said he was shocked to learn that many people struggle to find housing when there are so many vacant and abandoned homes in the area that can be rehabbed.

“It breaks my heart,” he said.

Mahanga said he hopes to get his properties removed from the nuisance list. He said he needs rental income to pay the bills, such as delinquent taxes.

Removing a property from the structural nuisance list requires a special inspection from the city’s building services division, which will determine what needs to be addressed by a licensed architect or engineer who must provide stamped drawings showing the proposed work and how it will address the problems. Only then would the city’s nuisance abatement supervisor consider removing it from the list, according to city officials.

Mahanga said he wants to get on payment plans to gradually pay down what are sizable delinquent tax bills. He said he’s been denied that. He also said ideally he’d like to get the delinquent taxes waived.

He paid between $1,000 to $15,000 for the seven properties on Dayton’s nuisance list, but each of those properties owed between $9,500 and about $41,340 in back taxes, Montgomery County Auditor’s Office records show.

Mahanga said vacant lots don’t generate tax revenue and aren’t productive and don’t do much for neighborhoods. He said renovating properties should be prioritized over demolition.

He said he only purchases homes that he thinks can be restored.

“Before I pay for them, I go examine them,” he said. “I take the ones that I see that realistically (can be) renovated.”

Other residential properties with large delinquencies on Dayton’s nuisance list were owned by people who died or walked away from the properties for unknown reasons. The Dayton Daily News was unable to reach multiple people who appeared to own some of the most delinquent housing.

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