Since the housing market collapse in the late 2000s, Dayton and Montgomery County have been demolishing hundreds of abandoned houses per year.
But in the Wolf Creek area of West Dayton, more than a quarter of the homes are still empty. And lots of those fall into disrepair, and become hazardous or attract crime and arson, and a lot of them are bank-owned or owned by absentee landlords, which means it can be difficult for community members to do anything about the houses.
I took a ride with three community advocates who want a more aggressive plan for cleaning up the west side. Here's an abbreviated version of our tour:
“You can live in Dayton proper and never ever see this,” said Dayton resident Joel Jones. “Unless you’re coming to visit someone, what reason would you have to come over? There’s no stores. There’s no auto center, there’s no dry cleaners. The only thing you’re gonna get is chicken and hamburgers.”
Her group, Neighborhoods Over Politics, is asking Dayton to work with residents to create a demolition and redevelopment plan for each neighborhood.
“We haven’t done neighborhood by neighborhood plans citywide in quite some time,” said Aaron Sorrell, head of the city’s planning department. He says he’s met with the group and says he understands their concerns—but money is always the issue. Right now there’s a targeted plan for the worst structures in certain areas of Montgomery County, but even that is moving slowly. Sorrell says some of the sites we see on the tour are on that list. But, he admits, “Our processes aren’t always transparent...sometimes that’s for a reason.”
Sorrell says they’re worried that publicizing the list of planned demolitions could encourage vandalism. And in some cases, it might encourage false hope, as plenty of homes that have been on the list for a while are still sitting there because the city has to triage homes that are vandalized or become imminently dangerous.
In Wolf Creek and Dayton View, there are more than 200 homes on the city’s urgent list for demolition—timeline TBA.
Take the visual tour of some of the sites of disinvestment WYSO visited:
This interactive map was created by Eric Rhodes, a student at Antioch College as part of his project, Coloring The Gem City: An Urban History of Housing and Race in Dayton, Ohio.