Ohio's Dayton, Once `Full of Families,' Has 21% of Houses Empty

By Ashley Lutz, Bloomberg When Vaughn Bullman moved to Drummer Avenue in 1961, thousands of people built cash registers at the NCR Corp. (NCR) in Dayton, Ohio, and assembled cars at a General Motors Co. plant in nearby Moraine. Now, 10 of Drummer Avenue’s 30 houses are empty; throughout Dayton, the city north of Cincinnati where the Wright brothers planned the first airplane, the proportion of vacant homes is one in five. NCR and General Motors are gone, and so are many middle-class wage earners. “This whole street used to be full of families who owned their homes,” said Bullman, 59, who still lives on his boyhood street with his wife and grandchildren. “Today, the neighborhood is so different because there is no feel of community and no way to take pride in living here.” Dayton has 21.1 percent of its housing stock vacant --nearly double the national rate, U.S. Census Bureau data show. The city exemplifies a trend in Ohio of depopulation and de-industrialization. That means less tax revenue, fewer jobs and less political clout. The population of Ohio, the seventh-largest state, grew 1.6percent during the past decade, compared with 9.7 percent in the U.S. as a whole, according to the data. The state, which has been pivotal in presidential elections, will lose two of its 18congressional seats, the bureau announced in December. The agency will release details on state populations through the end of March. Starting Again Ohio, once an industrial powerhouse, has lost 610,100 jobs in the past decade, Republican Governor John Kasich said yesterday in his State of the State speech. The state’s unemployment rate in January was 9.4 percent compared with 9percent in the U.S. The state may face a deficit of $8 billion, the governor has said. Kasich plans to release his proposed budget for the next biennium March 15. He promised that it will not include higher taxes. “If we push and we work together, we’re going to save the state,” he told lawmakers. “I have no doubt.” There are fewer residents to cooperate. Dayton’s population decreased 14.8 percent over 10 years to 141,527, the data show. Cincinnati lost 10.4 percent and Toledo lost 8.4 percent. Columbus, the capital and a university town, gained 10.6percent. It is the state’s biggest, with 787,033 inhabitants. Cleveland’s Loss In the 2010 Census, Cleveland lost 17.1 percent of its residents, to 396,815. Its population fell below 400,000 for the first time since the 1900 census. As recently as 1960 it was the eighth-most-populous U.S. city; in 2000 it was 33rd. “Ohio doesn’t have the jobs to attract people,” said William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution in Washington. “States like North Carolina are quickly growing and expanding, while Ohio cities are either declining or showing only modest gains.” In Dayton, falling population and real-estate values are sapping city coffers. Property-tax revenues were $19 million in2009, down from $24 million in 2008, according to the city’s financial report. On Bullman’s street, the Silver Slipper Bar and Lounge and Sam’s Chilibowl Diner long ago closed. Children’s toys and a faded pink flamingo litter overgrown yards, with orange notices on doors forbidding entry. Many houses have been gutted by fire, Bullman said. Gone to Georgia NCR, once called the National Cash Register Company, opened in Dayton in 1879. The company now makes automatic teller machines and kiosks and moved to Duluth, Georgia, in 2009,taking more than 1,000 jobs. General Motors, the largest U.S. automaker, shut down a 2,400-employee plant in 2008, citing the global recession. Dayton’s largest employer is Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where 27,000 people work, according to its website. Other employers include five hospitals and three universities. The city’s unemployment rate in January was 11.8 percent, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. When Bullman graduated high school, manufacturing jobs were plentiful and he worked with his father at Price Brothers Co. making water pipes. After the company moved its headquarters to Irving, Texas, he worked as a welder for the city of Dayton. In 2004, he started a neighborhood association with his wife to raise civic pride and interest. It is “close to impossible” to mobilize people, he said. Only his next-door neighbor attends the meetings. Now retired, he and his wife, Vivian, have scheduled a meeting with city officials to discuss revitalizing the neighborhood. If the city will not renovate the homes, he said he wants them torn down and turned into green space. Houses to Grass “A few years ago, the city’s plan was to just mothball the houses, boarding them up until people came back,” said Nan Whaley, 35, a city commissioner. “Realizing that people may not come back, we are using federal dollars to deconstruct and demolish those empty houses.” The city plans to use $11 million in federal tax credits to tear down buildings, Whaley said. “It will be sad to see these houses go”, Bullman said.“They are more than a hundred years old, and I’ve been looking at them my whole life.” Bullman said that if he and his wife fail to improve the neighborhood, they may move back to Tennessee, where he was born. “This just isn’t a good place to raise your kids and grandkids anymore,” said Bullman, as he stood outside the empty diner where he used to eat bowls of chili with his father after work. “We’re always looking for something better, and Ohio might not be it.” Read original post here