The Housing Committee met again on June 28th to discuss vacant residential housing. According to the US Census, Middletown still has over 3,000 vacant housing units as of 2016 (the last numbers available). While there are many legitimate reasons for a house to be vacant, (house is for sale, rentals between tenants, etc.) there are still a number of vacant homes with no activity throughout the city.
The Ohio Fire Code and our own Property Maintenance Code require that vacant houses be boarded to prevent unauthorized entry. Under the property maintenance code, houses that are boarded up more than one year without activity are subject to demolition. We have never been that aggressive enforcing that provision of the code.
We continue to have more vacant property than the rest of Butler County and Ohio as a whole. Middletown lists 14.8% of our housing as vacant. Butler County is at 9.6%. Ohio is at 10.6%. Translating percentages to actual homes, if we wanted to look more like the rest of Butler County and Ohio, we would need to re-occupy another 1,000 houses currently sitting vacant.
We talked about the balance between an individual owner’s property rights to keep their code compliant property empty and pay their property taxes versus the city’s interest in having occupied neighborhoods paying income tax.
If you re-occupied 1,000 of those homes and each home produced the median household income for Middletown of $38,898, then those vacant homes could be producing another $600-700,000 in income tax each year if they were occupied. That’s another 3 streets a year we could repave.
Over 80 Ohio cities have vacant property ordinances of some type. Some have no fees and only require registration. Others impose significant fees each year and require a crime prevention plan and reoccupation plan as part of the ordinance.
There was a good discussion at this meeting, trying to find the balance of neighborhood improvement against individual property rights. We’ll tie the issues identified into our overall housing policy as we move through all of the various topics impacting our neighborhoods.
As always, if you wish to see the meeting or the materials that we are reviewing for discussion, you can view everything at the link below.