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Old 01-29-2013, 11:28 AM
Location: Youngstown, Oh.
4,783 posts, read 7,350,071 times
Reputation: 4310


Originally Posted by Dayton Sux View Post
gotcha. The paper is reporting 'official statements', which conflict w. the ground truth.
Yes. But like I said, I'm hoping the consultant that was recently hired can help them prioritize better.
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Old 01-30-2013, 10:20 AM
Location: Indianapolis and Cincinnati
682 posts, read 1,389,021 times
Reputation: 610
Lots of things going on with this article which are highly inaccurate.

There are 5000 properties on the city Abandoned/Condemned/keep vacant list. Most, not all of these homes ,are properties with EASILY REPAIRED issues.

"Condemned" does not mean condemned like you would assume. Condemn is an "escalation" used by city inspections when they can't get an owner to do the right thing. Typically what has happened with the vast majority of these properties is Foreclosure. The owner walks away and while its in the legal process, someone breaks in and steals the copper/furnaces, anything not nailed down. Generally speaking the structure of the house is fine.

Ohio chose to spend its settlement money from the mortgage fraud on demo. Indiana (right next door) chose to use their to help people stay out of foreclosure. Ironically the people who lost their homes due to illegal practices get nothing. This is a 'cash cow' for Ohio and demo contractors.

There were some meetings with community leaders here about the way this money would be spent and the vast majority of people wanted this money spent on stabilization, in fact, realizing that Cincinnati's urban core was desirable and people would want these homes in the future. The city demolition contractors are a big lobby and have "close connections" with people in the inspection department. The city inspection department is loaded with too many inspectors. For example, there are three inspectors covering every house. One that would deal with it if its vacant, one that would deal with it if occupied and one that handles normal permit inspections. MOST cities have one inspector who deals with any of these scenarios, we have THREE!

In Cincinnati its about keeping people employed in the city government, not what the city needs/wants. The city had skirted the isssue for years tearing down obviously historic properties. My neighborhood Knox Hill filed a federal HUD citizens complaint in 2009 against the city alleging they were not following federally mandated guidlines for demo of possible historic properties and notified the state historic office as well.

This forced the city to create a section 106 review process, and they have to re-evaluate the properties that were on the old list. The problem is that the Urban Conservator is still "rubber stamping" properties as non eligible and has NO background or training in Historic preservation.He was shifted into that position because monies ran out in the job he was in, not because he is quialified, or even cares, about historic property.

If they are historic eligible, federal HUD monies (CDBG funds) require them to be considered for stabilization rather than demo. Unfortunately no such caveats was put on this federal monies given to the states and they should have been.

I had a meeting with Ed Cunningham last year and we walked our neighborhood. I showed him how our Save not Raze Program which acquired enadangered properties, stabilizes tham with new paint and exterior restoration until they can be sold to a preservation minde owner occupant who will complete the interior restortion. I also showed him how we were bringing people back in and we are starting to turnaround, because we promoted the architecture, proximity to downtown etc.

I did discuss a couple of properties that were too far gone or non contributing and I advised him that if the bulldozers showed up otherwise than those propertries, we would file a federal housing lawsuit in federal court. In our neighborhood the city only is doing those couple of properties that in our opinion meet a real dangerous structural condition and are beyond restoration. We are working with owners of bad properties to help them find a buyer and get out from under a property they can't really do anything with. Credit where credit is due Ed Cunningham seems to understands what we are doing, but could never duplicate our effiorts on a city wide basis. Knox Hill is working with developers on five vacant lots we have acquired and will be building historic style infill.

Other less informed groups and community councils are embracing demo, not understanding that these monies are ONLY for demo and the city has no real concrete plan or funding to do anything with the vacant lots that remain. Westwood is concentrating their monies on Apartment buildings. But most, like Price Hill are demoing. In my opinion to their detriment.

The problem is that we are replacing a 'blighted property' with nothing and we are losing the tax base it created. Had the city used monies on a real stabilization program like Indiana Landmarks FLIP program or Knox Hill's Save not Raze project, more people would be employed stabilizing these homes.

It is a real missed opportunity, and unfortunate, because Cincinnati is on a pathway that may make it look more like Detroit than any other midwestern city. At a time when young professionals are embracing Urban neighborhoods we are bulldozing the very things they want.
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Old 01-30-2013, 10:44 AM
Location: Chicago, IL
477 posts, read 530,405 times
Reputation: 275
"Condemned" does not mean condemned like you would assume. Condemn is an "escalation" used by city inspections when they can't get an owner to do the right thing. Typically what has happened with the vast majority of these properties is Foreclosure. The owner walks away and while its in the legal process, someone breaks in and steals the copper/furnaces, anything not nailed down. Generally speaking the structure of the house is fine.
I know you probably already read it restorationconsultant, but I urge all of you who read this forum to take a look at Building Cincinnati sometime and see the kinds of places that get demoed. Oftentimes what they get cited for is kind of stupid, lots of properties where there is a little bit of debris here or damage here or enough minor code violations that it raises a flag. Usually the owner demos to close out orders, because they have so many VBML fines that its cheaper to demolish the place, for a city with Cincinnati's historic architectural quality this should not be the way things go. There should be an emphasis on fixing the problems or getting the property out of the hands of owners who are repeat offenders of breaking the law and into hands of owners who will restore.

I'm going to also make clear that (to my understanding) this VBML program was originally pushed by mayoral candidate Cranley, if you value preservation at all, DO NOT VOTE for him.

Heck every now and then Kevin LeMaster notes the reason for a demo as a ??? as the property is in sound shape something is very wrong with that if said property is historic.

Building Cincinnati

Last edited by neilworms2; 01-30-2013 at 11:03 AM..
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Old 01-30-2013, 03:02 PM
Location: Indianapolis and Cincinnati
682 posts, read 1,389,021 times
Reputation: 610
Exactly Neil, the VBML program was initiated 15 years ago to deal with the problem of a few properties that had been vacant for DECADES. Most of them in OTR and the thought was that if you 'forced' the owner to pay a few for keeping the building vacant that it would nudge them to sell or fix.

The idea was to protect first responders who might have to enter a structurally unsound building and by enforcing a minimum standard police and firefighters would be falling through floors.

It was designed to deal with the "Worst of the Worst" properties and was never designed to replace repair based enforcement.

What happened was the city became "addicted" to federal funds to offset their budget shortfalls. The city can spend a certain amopunt of federal CDBG on administrations cost. Cincinnati needed to compete with other cities for a piece of federal dollars.

So the VBML program was used to create "need" for federal funding by moving more and more properties into "blight", whether they were or not.

So while other cities used CDBG funding for stabilization , Cincy uses its for demo because its faster and less paperwork.

Its wrong and its a clear abuse of federal taxpayer funds which is why we challenged the lack of process in our federal Citizerns complaint. If its deemed historic eligible the Feds require the city to look at the cost of stabilization rather than demo.

The city is getting around that by having someone in the position of Urban Conservator who meets a minimum requirement ( he has an architecture degree) but is totally unqualified in the field of historic preservation, and couldn't explain the architectural differences between a Italianate vs a Second Empire style house.

It doesn't matter is George Washington slept there if the urban conservator says its not historic eligible, then the city can bulldoze it. Why would you go against the city that writes your paycheck.

We have taken some of these 'rubber stamped ' properties to OHPO to over rule his determination of non eligibility. The problem is the way the city does things in the back room of cronyism. The result is we are falling behind many cities and nationally in the Preservation Community, Cincinnati is pretty much a joke.

If someone wants to run on a platform of preserving our history, leveraging our historic assets, Hiringa qualified Urban Conservator and majorly cutting the waste in building/inspections department..They would have my vote!

Otherwise we are inching ever closer to looking like Detroit!
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Old 02-22-2013, 11:57 PM
1 posts, read 858 times
Reputation: 15
Originally Posted by kjbrill View Post
In comparison look at what Dayton said they will demo with their share of the same fund. Several times more structures in a much smaller city. For every building the City schedules for demolition, is there a purchase price and criteria to prevent the demo? I have not seen this expressed, but I would assume (bad word) there is. It is not up to the City to expend money and stabilize property until the private sector decides it is right for rehab, if ever. If the private sector says Nope to the criteria to prevent demo then demo it. Or are you telling me these properties do not have a procedure to prevent demo?
I am involved in some property in danger of demolition in Cincinnati. The "procedure to prevent demo" is extremely unclear and unfavorable to the property owner. The prosecution of demolition orders is not comprehensive and often properties are grouped together and targeted as a lot.

Naturally the majority owner of vacant properties is the City itself and the City is generally NOT demolishing their own properties. (The derelict City property down the street from me is advertised as a "development opportunity", while the historic building beside mine is termed a "public nuisance" and "processed for demolition".)

Deciding when "it is right for rehab" is an obvious concern of any property owner, but it is no concern at all of the City, when it evaluates the status of private property. ALL private owners of vacant property in Cincinnati are required to purchase a "Vacant Building Maintenance License", which costs over $3,000 EVERY YEAR. Failure to purchase the VBML license leads to the building being Condemned and eventually demolition orders.

When a building is ordered demolished, the City instructs the property owner to demolish the property. This almost never happens. When the City gets the resources, they demolish the property themselves, AS A SERVICE TO THE OWNER. THE OWNER IS BILLED FOR THIS "SERVICE". The owner retains the property, sans building.

This is a subject close to me which I have had more experience with than I would like to have had. I believe that this process is ILLEGAL and I am very interested to educate other people on what is taking place, according to my own experience. ... I am also interested to learn about other people's experience with this stuff. It can be a real nightmare for the property owners.

Originally Posted by progmac View Post
if you had a vacant building next to you, a vacant building that was used for crime, and one that no one will buy, what would you want?
I live in one of these targeted neighborhoods. We are fixing up an old house. The building next door to us is vacant and targeted for demo.


When the building(s) next door are torn down there will be a newly open lot in between us and the section 8 apartment building beyond them. We will lose a great deal of privacy in this process and the goings on of the public housing tenants (drug dealing etc.) will be even more a nuisance than they already are.

The City is not concerned about improving neighborhoods. This is all about money. The "complaints" that initiate these demos come from the inspectors themselves. Right now they are rushing to tear down buildings because they have a limited amount of time to claim that grant money. The grant money can only be used for building demolitions. (Not sure how that is an equitable use of settlement monies from mortgage companies)

This is more or less how it was explained to me by the inspector who is trying to get our house torn down along with the ones next door.

Last edited by Yac; 02-25-2013 at 04:53 AM..
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