FAIRBORN -─ Fairborn City Council is looking at a residential housing strategy that will help revitalize targeted areas of the city.
During the June 12 city council work session, Fairborn Assistant City Manager Mike Gebhart told council members that city leaders continue to face an ongoing need to improve the housing stock and are focused on expanding a residential housing strategy for the city.
“The two neighborhoods we are presently looking at are Wright View, which is just southeast of Kaufman Avenue, north of West Funderburg Road and west of East Dayton-Yellow Springs Road and Pleasant View which lies east of North Maple Avenue. It is also known as National homes and is essentially the neighborhood behind Baker Intermediate School,” Gebhart said. “We felt that we needed to concentrate on these two neighborhoods right now.”
Currently, the city’s housing strategy has consisted of the demolition of blighted structures and rehabilitation loans to qualifying homeowners for needed repairs to their existing properties. According to Gebhart, more than 100 houses have been demolished, and 85-to-95 percent of those demolitions occurred in the Wright View and Pleasant View neighborhoods.
“The city has used Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding for these projects, such as new roofs, doors, siding, windows, plumbing and electricity,” he said.
Gebhart pointed out that a number of questions, such as how the city would finance these efforts, needed to be answered before a broader housing strategy could be established. However, Deputy Mayor Paul Keller expressed his concern about setting a specific goal before moving forward with a plan.
“Are we taking the same type of approach that we are using for commercial redevelopment in the city? My concern is, if this is the approach we are planning on taking, we are going to get some pushback from residents,” Keller said. “Can we state in terms what the goal will be before we discuss the objectives?”
Fairborn City Manager Rob Anderson explained that the city would consider neighborhood stabilization when addressing nuisance properties.
“It is not our goal to take down the houses there and move the people who are there out and bring in different people. It is not going to work. It is not what our goal is,” Anderson said. “We want a redevelopment strategy that will stabilize those neighborhoods with affordable housing. We would use a multifaceted approach.”
Anderson noted that the city would also have to take a tougher approach with landlords who are not taking proper care of their rental properties, pointing out that the city already owns a number of properties in those neighborhoods.
“Can we use the lots we own to work with a developer to build new housing that is affordable for these folks? This is a question we should answer,” Anderson said. “We need to not only improve the housing stock, but the bones of the neighborhood, such as curbs, storm water management and sidewalks.”
However, Council member Marilyn McCauley cautioned that city council members first needed to understand the dynamics of the residents in the targeted neighborhoods.
“We must truly understand the needs of the people who live in these neighborhoods,” McCauley said. “Some of the families who live in these homes are second, third and fourth generations. We, as a group, need to work with these people.”
City Planner Kathleen Riggs agreed that community involvement is needed when developing a doable housing strategy.
“A community organizing component is an important part of starting the whole process and you have to have the community’s buy-in if you want this to be successful,” Riggs said.
City Council member Tim Steininger said he shared the same opinion with McCauley and Riggs but pointed out that some of the housing stock in the city had “aged out.”
“Some of the homes in this city have not been taken care of for years and years. Therefore, a new toilet or a heating or air conditioning unit is not going to cut it. It’s got to go,” Steininger said. “I’m not sure that this is the way we want to spend our money.”
Steininger suggested establishing a “toolbox” that would allow city council to select a targeted area or areas of the city and pick a variety of methods to resolve the housing issues in these areas.
Gebhart proposed that city leaders hold a meeting with landlords and residents about stabilizing these neighborhoods.
Anderson also recommended that city leaders give thought to buying and renovating a rundown house that could be used as a model home for those residents who are interested in making improvements to their homes.
“Any homeowner that wants to fix up his or her property could come and look at what we have done to a house. We could also have a list of contractors that are approved to do this type of thing. Maybe we could provide a small grant for people to fix up their properties,” Anderson said. “We will probably roll out one thing at a time and start building on previous successes.”
City Council member Rob Hoffman suggested that city leaders look at housing strategies other city leaders used which proved very successful. Missy Frost, City Development Services manager, told Hoffman and the other council members that the City of Hamilton has a nuisance appeals board that determines whether a property, declared a public nuisance by the City of Hamilton Health Commissioner, should be rehabbed or demolished.
City leaders continued to brainstorm ideas regarding an expanded housing strategy. Mayor Dan Kirkpatrick proposed establishing focus groups in the targeted neighborhoods that would work closely with city leaders, and Keller suggested approaching landlords about setting up a line of communication. Anderson proposed holding a block party in the targeted neighborhoods where residents and city leaders could become more acquainted and discuss the housing strategy. City Council member Donna Wilson suggested that council members go door to door in the targeted neighborhoods and talk with residents.
After a lengthy discussion, city leaders agreed that they needed to establish a clearer vision of a housing strategy and decided to continue the discussion during the council work session slated for Monday, July 10.
Linda Collins is a freelance writer for the Fairborn Daily Herald.