YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Four houses came down on Helena Avenue Wednesday, thanks to demolition funds provided by the state of Ohio to the Mahoning County Land Bank.
The land bank has received $4.3 million through the Ohio Housing Finance Agency to combat neighborhood blight. The land bank is also tearing down one house on Lora Ave. on the city’s north side.
The land bank is focusing on neighborhoods that were hardest-hit by predatory lending practices in the early 2000s.
Barbara Norris has lived on Helena Ave. for 60 years.
“Next door to me was the Dohars. They lived there for 30 years. The house next door to that was the Hammond house. And the house next to that that they aren’t ripping down was the Downses house. I knew everybody in this neighborhood,” Norris said.
Wednesday, four of those once-loved homes came down. They’ve been vacant for years, victims of a housing crisis that started more than a decade ago.
“You just think, thirty years ago, about how nice these neighborhoods were and all the families that got together,” Mike Damiano with the Mahoning County Land Bank said. “It’s just not like that any more. These neighborhoods are tough.”
The Mahoning County Land Bank is overseeing the multimillion-dollar demolition program. Officials with the bank say they are targeting “tipping-point areas”: Once-strong neighborhoods that were ravaged by the banking crisis and housing market collapse.
“A tipping-point neighborhood is exactly what you see here on Helena Avenue,” Deb Flora with the Mahoning County Land Bank said. “A neighborhood that has both strengths and weaknesses. The strenghts are the people who are still here, caring for their homes. The weaknesses are the homes that have gone vacant for various reasons.”
They left eyesores for neighbors.
The residents here have been mowing these properties, and welcomed the land bank’s offer to buy the lots.
“I said absolutely, because that was my plan from the day I started mowing the lawn, that one day if that house came down that I would own this, and that is finally going to happen,” Helena Avenue Resident Dan Matthews said.