Nothing unites Dayton residents quite like their distaste for blight.
A huge majority of Daytonians recently said they want the city to step up the number of vacant structures it demolishes, a new survey found. However, that’s unlikely to happen.
Federal funding for blight demolition has dried up, ending the primary source for the city of Dayton to knock down dilapidated properties.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley insists the city remains committed to blight removal. But she says new funding sources or partnerships likely are needed if the city is to avoid having to significantly scale back its demolition program.
“This is a big deal for us and continues to be,” she said.
Residents badly want removals
More than four in five residents (83 percent) think the city of Dayton should demolish more vacant structures than it currently does, according to the results of a citywide survey released earlier this month.
Another 14 percent of residents would like the current level of demolition to continue. Just 4 percent of residents want fewer properties leveled.
Routinely, Dayton residents visit city commission meetings to voice frustration about the vacant and decaying properties in their neighborhoods and urge the city to remove them.
“It needs to be gone,” said Monica Williamson, at a May commission meeting, about the fire-damaged rubble near her mother’s house in the Santa Clara neighborhood.
The city has concentrated on blight
The city made blight removal a priority years ago.
Between 2009 and the end of 2015, this newspaper reported that the city and its partners had spent more than $18 million to remove more than 2,200 structures.
In the last few years, the city has demolished 437 structures using federal Hardest Hit funds through the state’s Neighborhood Initiative Program.
Almost 290 additional properties in the city are in the process of being acquired for removal using the funding source, according to the city.
But when those dollars are gone, there may not be others to replace them.
Where will money come from?
Applications for the final funding round to the state for the Neighborhood Initiative Program (NIP) were due Thursday, and the local land bank did not bother applying since it is already a program participant and ineligible.
The city right now does not have any funding sources for demolition for 2018 except for its general fund, said Brian Inderrieden, Dayton’s acting director of planning and community development.
City leaders will discuss putting general fund money toward demolition next year, but obviously the budget and the city’s funding priorities will be debated, said Whaley.
‘Eat this elephant one bite at a time’
The city has made significant progress to reduce blight, prevent abandonment and stabilize neighborhoods, Whaley said.
Whaley said she remembers after being first elected to the commission in 2005 how some residents urged her to not “waste” time and money on demolition because the problem was too large.
“We’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “I said, ‘We’ve got to eat this elephant one bite at a time,’ and if we don’t start eating it, we’ll never get them.”
Whaley said property values are stabilizing and the housing market is heating up in parts of Dayton, especially downtown.
“We still have work to do on demolition, and absolutely we’ll need to find dollars to continue that,” she said.
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