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Vacant Houses Plague Older Columbus Neighborhoods

On Thursday, Columbus City council turns its attention to the growing list of abandoned and vacant properties in the city.  Because of the housing crisis and the weak economy, some neighborhoods face what one city official calls 'vacancy epidemic. At last count, Columbus city attorney Richard Pfeiffer identified 6,117 vacant houses in the city. That number has increased by more than 30% since 2006. "Five or six years ago you were at a 4-thousand number . But with every passing month our code officials are finding more vacant houses." Pfeiffer says the so-called 'vacancy epidemic' in Columbus effects neighborhoods closer to the city core in Linden, the near south and east sides and Franklinton just west of downtown. "Private capital has literally walked away from those neighborhoods." Without private investment, Pfeiffer says it's extremely difficult to re-vitalize a neighborhood   Now, an estimated 800 to 900 of the properties are so deteriorated that the city wants to demolish them. Steve Monaghan has owned four rental properties for nearly 25 years in Franklinton. During a late morning brunch at Tommy's Diner of West Broad Street, he says a couple of houses next to his properties are vacant and boarded up. But, he cites pros and cons to demolition. "If the property has been vacant for many, many years it's a great idea, the only problem is what do they do with the vacant lot then. Do they let it become overgrown? Do they keep it maintained? Or what? I mean that's just as much of an eyesore as a boarded up property , you know, trash being dumped on an empty lot." In a corner booth, Lorraine Tipton and Jamie Dyer say they both have lived in Franklinton in the past but have since moved. "I don't care for it, I don't care for it at all."  Says Dyer Tipton  suggests the city restart a program from several years ago when it used a lottery system to sell some abandoned homes for a dollar with the requirement that the buyer live in the home. "Somebody had a home and they take care of it, it's their home. And you know, it helps the neighborhood. They're not sitting vacant. They're not knocking the windows out. They're not knocking the doors down, sleeping on mattresses." Even though the city officials have  identified up to 900 houses to demolish, the city proposes spending only $100,000 for demolition.  That's enough to demolish nine houses.