Two City Neighborhoods Look For Answer To Housing Crisis.

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Today WOSU reports: “Facing The Mortgage Crisis.” As part of the series, WOSU News visits two streets, Blake Avenue in Linden, and Dakota Street in Franklinton to take measure of some of the tell-tale effects of multiple foreclosures.

About a month ago, a backhoe and dump trucks rolled into the 300 block of Dakota Avenue in Franklinton. A burned-out two story house was slated for demolition. Along this block of Dakota, nearly half of the homes are vacant, testimony to economic tough times and the mortgage downturn. Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman says the razing of 300 Dakota and other abandoned houses is part of a larger plan to fight blight in established city neighborhoods.

“We can’t tear down every one of them but we certainly are looking forward to tearing down those that are clearly not habitable.”

Coleman says demolition of some abandoned houses and a city-backed home renovation program are the primary means the city has of stanching neighborhood decline. Its a daunting task. As the backhoe bucket tears through the walls of 300 Dakota, longtime Franklinton resident David Bouldin pulls a child’s wagon down the middle of the street.

“I’m headed to the pantry right now”

Bouldin has lived here since 1959. But, he says most residents come and go after a few years or even after a few months.

“Most people who are here are on low income and they’ll move out when they get late on the rent and go somewhere else.” Says Bouldin.

As tenants scramble, landlords lose money, houses remain vacant for months and some become uninhabitable. Mayor Coleman says the city often struggles to find property owners after a house or apartment building is condemned.

“Some of these homeowners dodge the city as well. I’ve actually seen cases where they transfer ownership while we’re going after them.”

Coleman says Columbus is unable to tear down all of the 53-hundred abandoned properties in the city but he’s looking forward to tearing down ones that are clearly uninhabitable.

While demolition crews complete work on Dakota Avenue, a short trip to the northeast side of the city shows some of the tactics used in other struggling neighborhoods to fight blight Here on East Blake Avenue between Cleveland Avenue and Linden McKinley High School, Donna Hicho, Executive Director of the Greater Linden Development Corporation, has hired 25 teens and young adults this summer, for a door-to-door survey. Hicho wants an up-to-date snapshot of the street-level effects of the housing crisis. She estimates there are currently 900 vacant houses in the Linden area.

” And we have the unique situation that not only foreclosures on people who lived in their houses but investors who owned property in the neighborhood and had it as rental property and when the mortgage became too much for them to handle they simply abandoned the properties.” Says Hicho

Among those vacant properties: 1395 East Blake. The windows of the two story wooden frame house are boarded up. An old sign on the front lawn reads “For Sale By Owner, $9,900 dollars. Records at the county Auditor’s office show the house, built in 1926, sold on July 7th for $2,250..less than the appraised price of the value it sits on. A man on the front porch says he’s the new owner of the house. “Q: how long have you owned the house? Oh about a month now, I just bought it.I’m not responsible for the condition its in.”

Kevin Kineff says the house is still habitable. Unlike the Dakota Avenue house razed by the city. Kineff says he owns 120 properties in the city and works full-time getting them re-habbed and ready for sale. He won’t reveal how much he paid for the property. But, the outstanding taxes were less than $1,000.

“I have no clue what happened to the house before I take charge of it. I’m never in contact with those people. Usually when someone loses their house its from mismanagement of funds. Q: Have you seen more opportunities lately because of the foreclosures? Absolutely, you know this is definitely an opportunist market. If you have the opportunist and you’re an entrepreneur you’re able to make it now more than ever. So its just about having that kind go-getter attitude. Its time to start your own business for a lot of people I think.” Says Kineff.

But, Kineff faces some competition for under-valued properties in Linden. While he prepares to assess the condition of 1395 East Blake, Elliott Smith is headed to another house down the block that he found on the internet and with the help of a tip. Smith says he wants to make a bid before any investor moves to buy the house.

“You can get a house for $600, $1,000 , $1,200 dollars and they turn around and sell it for $50,000, $60,000 dollars. There’s nothing wrong with good business but there is something wrong in robbing people and ripping people off.” Smith says.

Smith wants to move back into the Linden neighborhood where he attended High School and get closer to relatives. Donna Hicho at the Greater Linden Development Corporation says whether individuals like Elliott Smith or investors like Kevin Kineff buy properties in Linden it will help the older Columbus neighborhood. Hicho says new capital is critical for any economic turn-around.”

“We don’t have the capital, we have the desire for improving the neighborhood. They may not know the neighborhood as well, they have the capital. It’s the perfect marriage of the two.” Says Hicho

Hicho says a renovation of Linden McKinley High School and its conversion to the city’s second so-called STEM school with a science and math curriculum will also help the neighborhood rebound.

At the corner of East Blake and Cleveland Avenues Tom Borgerding, WOSU News