Combating blight needs regional effort

In the 295 days of 2015 through Oct. 23, the city of Youngstown demolished 163 houses. That averages out to more than one house every two days.

Likewise, Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership also has done an excellent job of operating the Trumbull County Land Bank program. It has seen more than 200 derelict homes destroyed since taking over operations in recent years.

Just this week, the Ohio Housing Finance Agency announced TNP and the Trumbull land bank would share in $13 million of new funding to combat blight. The $500,000 grant to the Trumbull County Land Reutilization Corporation is part of the statewide program designed to help prevent foreclosures and stabilize local property values through the demolition and greening of vacant and blighted homes.

Now more of Trumbull County’s elected leaders are exploring ways to step up the speed in which blighted buildings can be legally demolished by the community and county in which they are located.

The need is great to remove the vacant houses that have become havens for squatters, drug users and other vagrants, not to mention other nuisances like rodents and a reduction in value for neighboring properties. As Ohio Housing Finance Agency Executive Director Doug Garver recently put it, “Neighbors suffer the most profound effects of blight – from increased crime, ugly landscapes and the reduced availability of city services to a drop in property values, which can increase the risk of foreclosure.”

So we are pleased to see more than a dozen elected leaders from area townships, municipalities and Trumbull County meet in recent weeks to discuss ways to combat the problem with a more regionalized effort at attacking the very serious blight problem that is plaguing many of our neighborhoods.

Last month, Warren and Trumbull County officials worked together very expeditiously to demolish the vacant Scott Street NE house where the body of Carly Ginnicks-Cornwell was discovered just 15 days earlier. A demolition process that can take years was cut down to days. The speed of that demolition made clear that it can be done when all entities work together.

We caution, though, that this regional effort must not be bogged down by individual goals of each community leader. While we understand each represents a specific constituency, regional efforts must be pursued for the common good. All must realize that removal of blight in any neighborhood ultimately is a step in the right direction.

Further, the challenges brought on by the growing blight problem do not end there.

We stress that just as community leaders begin working together to clean up the blight, next they must put their heads together to find new ways to redevelop the land and repopulate the communities that once held these homes and the families that lived in them.

editorial@tribtoday.com