The basics: Black male, 52. He works as an executive in a small area company and lives with his wife and two children in West Akron. He and his wife make more than $75,000.
His house is a 70-year-old wood-frame structure in an established neighborhood. His parents bought it in 1963 and he and his wife took it over after they died in the 1990s. It once was worth more than $80,000 but now is listed on tax records at less than $60,000. An abandoned home is across the street. The city has been called to cut overgrown grass on the abandoned property and he and his wife have raked leaves and done minor landscaping there.
Who’s responsible? “I think the big banks. There are also smaller like mortgage companies that worked …. predominately in low-income urban areas and took advantage of folks that were less educated.”
What are you doing about it? He belongs to a neighborhood group that buys abandoned homes. “The objective is to revitalize the community and put folks in homes so you don’t have abandoned property and you don’t have three-and-a-half-foot grass and things like that.”
And your neighbors? “They feel the same way I do in that they value the neighborhood. They understand the value of maintaining the values in your property. So they don’t want abandoned properties on the block they live on, either. This area does better than other areas in the city, so I think for every story you hear about a house across the street, someone in another neighborhood could tell you there are two or three.”
Would you like to move? “There’s no value in your home so you can’t move. I mean, hopefully you like where you are but if you don’t, there’s not much you can do about it. There’s no value in your home, so you can’t sell your home, and that’s kind of depressing. … But I do like West Akron. The neighborhood is not a bad neighborhood. But I would prefer to have options.”
For the first time since the Great Depression, home values on average have declined. How has this affected your short-term plans, and what are your thoughts about the future of home ownership in general?
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