LIMA — Three years ago, Naquisha Young and her family moved to Lima and found a rental housing market that didn’t meet her expectations.
“We did things differently in Milwaukee. Half of these houses would have been condemned. We’re not used to that,” Young said.
While she eventually found a place after the initial move, the latest search — to move from a smaller house to something bigger for her family — has caused problems. Many landlords, she said, are hesitant about taking Section 8 vouchers, and when she did find a place, a house built on Chestnut and approved by Lima City Council a decade ago, a subsequent walk-through showed signs of infestation. While the place had been mostly cleaned, mouse feces were found throughout the location, and holes in the walls allowed rodents to enter the basement.
“We were so excited to get that house,” Young said. “We’re basically at a point where we want to move out of Lima.”
Young eventually canceled the lease before she rented the place, but her experiences are representative of a larger issue — the low quality of Lima’s housing stock. This fall, Lima City Council’s elections may very well hinge on who can come up with potential solutions that are agreeable to renters, homeowners and landlords.
In the past year, Lima’s housing stock has seen a jump in value. With unemployment at all-time lows, improvements have been made across the board as people start to reinvest into their properties, but Lima’s housing stock has had a hard time comparing to where national trends are heading. A dive in Allen County housing information provided by the Allen County Auditor’s office reveals that the average owner-occupied residential property is valued at just $117,000 – a 10% increase over last year’s average.
Rentals are in worse shape. The average market value stands at roughly $47,000, which has seen a 6.5% increase from last June 2018.
As a comparison, the median price for a new home in the United States as of July 2019 is upwards of $300,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. A few houses have been built across the county in the last year, but the new stock hasn’t reflected any major shift in owner-occupied houses. When comparing 2018 to 2019 data sets, Allen County’s uptick in the number of owner-occupied residences increased by one quarter of a percentage point.
In other words, housing stock has improved in the last year, but a large portion of houses — close to 40% — remain rentals worth on average less than a sixth than the cost of a new home build.
While Lima City Council has spent a lot of time talking about housing, the number of initiatives to actually receive “yes” votes have been next to null. The two largest — and most controversial — have centered around some form of landlord registry and the allocation of Community Development Block Grant funds.
Of the eight council seats, the four up for re-election have consistently voiced trepidation about moving forward with the idea of a landlord registry without considering a range other options. After pushes by Councilor Carla Thompson this past spring to re-examine the issue, the talks since that time have slowed at the urgings of Councilors Rebecca Kreher and Sam McLean, both who are up for re-election. In the fall, the two will be challenged by Peggy Ehora and Tony Wilkerson, respectively.
As one of the most vocal proponents of updated housing currently up for re-election, Councilor Derry Glenn has been front and center in trying to help the residents of the Chestnut Street houses find an appropriate end to the agreement they had signed when Glenn, who sat on council at the time, approved the project more than a decade earlier. Since that time, 6th ward seat candidate Cleven Jones has challenged Glenn on his record by pointing at Glenn’s property at 218 E. Third St., which currently sits on the city’s tear-down list, as an example of failing to lead by example.
The house in question has had a troubled past. In 2008, Tarika Wilson had been shot and killed on the property by Lima police during a raid on the house. Glenn, who said he’s lost a lot of money dealing with the property, said Friday he plans to announce what he will be doing with it during the fall campaign after talking with the Wilson family.
As for the council president race, incumbent John Nixon served as an established voice during much of the Community Development Block grant debate this past summer. While both sides of the issue leaned into some minor theatrics to get their points across on whether federal funding should be spent on removing blighted housing, Nixon supported the processes put in place that allocated the funds to long-standing agencies and the administration’s needs.
Josiah Mathews, who has had been concerned with housing in the past, is running against Nixon. Like Glenn, Mathews had been involved in the discussions surrounding the New Lima Homes project on Chestnut Street by serving as the head of the “New Lima Homes Research Committee” tasked with examining potential developers of the project back in 2005. In the past, Mathews has also ran for Allen County Commissioner and against Glenn for the 6th ward seat.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.