May 17, 2006

Once-Thriving Area Blighted by Abandoned Property

Left: View from backyard

(Toledo, OH) Sheets over open windows at 1244 Vance billow in the spring breeze, bringing fresh air into the house.

Those same windows, however, have also been open for many months, letting in animals and vagrants.

“No one has lived in that house for over a year and a half,” said neighbor Antoine Davis. “I haven’t seen the owner or anyone from the city over there in a long time.”

The city has foreclosed on the property for back taxes, which currently total $1783.94.

The back door of the house has been ripped from the frame, and passersby have easy access to the house. Litter and clothing suggest that the house may have had recent unauthorized inhabitants.

“A place like that attracts rats, stray dogs, and crackheads,” said Davis. “It also brings down the property values around here.”

Davis, who has lived on Vance Street for 23 years, can remember when it was a thriving neighborhood. He pointed out the locations of a former church, a small glove factory, and the houses of relatives.

In most of those lots, though, all that remains is grass. Approximately half of the buildings that once stood on Vance between Junction and Hoag have been demolished over the past 20 years.

Also of concern to Davis is the proximity of a local elementary school to the house.

“Kids walk down this street to go to Pickett School on Blum. When a building is unsecured kids might go in and get hurt or start a fire,” he said, adding that another nearby abandoned house suffered a similar fate several months ago.

Davis said that it has been hard to watch his neighborhood struggle.

“I grew up on this street, and my family lives right around here,” he said. “This is a neighborhood where everyone knows everybody else, and people look out for each other.”

This article is part of a regular feature I write for the Toledo Free Press called the ABLE Squad - "Abandoned Buildings Looking for Entrepreneurs."


M A F said...

As an investment, the house is a steal at $1783.94. It could be fixed up as either a rental or put up fr sale and the owner should be able to make a sizable profit. Then again, if the house is in the wrong neighborhood, I wouldn't expect the city or anyone else to make the effort to rehabilitate the house.

-Sepp said...

That area has been a hole for as long as I can remember. The problem with investing in some of those houses is that unless you are able to fix it up and guard it 24/7, some A-holes will strip it of all the good you've done to it and somehow never be seen.
I recently found a picture of my grandparents sitting on a nice freshly painted porch with flowers planted and kids playing in the yard. I didn't recognize the house and asked my mother where it was taken. It was taken at their old house on Fernwood in 1948. I'm betting that if the house is still standing, it has the exact paint still on it as seen in the picture. Too bad, looked like a pretty nice house at one time.

Kate said...

(I clicked on the wrong link and posted this to the Mary Winkler article - can you delete? Sorry!)

Lucas Co Auditor's AERIS service says that this property owners name is Shana A Newsome. Purchased the house for 11k in 2002. The property taxes have been current at least, at 1/1 of this year as only this year shows owing.

This house has had three owners in the last 7 years. The assessed 100% value is 13700.00 yet the tax liability is $3386.00 per year or about 35% of the value.

Something's badly out of line with this story... Why'd somebody pay 11,000.00 for this property, how can that taxes be this high and why is there a foreclosure noted against this property yet it appears from the same resource that the taxes are current?

I have no answers whatsoever - just thought I'd take a look after reading your article Mike and this just doesn't add up at all.

historymike said...

The AREIS system is tricky to read, Kate. No payment has been made on the taxes since 6/17/2003 ($169.31).

Yearly taxes on the place are $349.44 at the last assessment.

It looks "current" because the government is foreclosing on it. My guess is that they will tear it down at some point.

These houses change hands a lot because of unscrupulous real estate companies that sell a place like this on land contract, charge outrageous rates, and grab the house back when the buyer defaults.

This particular house, though, appears to have just been abandoned. People realize that the amount needed to fix it up and rent it out exceeds their available capital.

Do said...

Mike - I believe that there is considerably more to this story.

In doing some checking - there is no deed recorded for Shanah Newsome. In tracing the 'lineage' of the title it appears as though it was sold by Isaiah Shaffer - an attorney - to this Newsome woman. There is no record of the sale in the Recorders office, but that's not against the law. Ohio does not require a deed to be recorded.

If you check the mailing address for Newsome it is a home on Baden - a home owned by Luke Ulmer (of the Westhaven Ulmers).

The biggest problem with this type of situation is that the City has to pursue the owner of record regardless of who is ultimately to blame for the property condition. If someone deems that the repairs to make a place habitable are excessive and they can't afford it, most likely they will walk away. Especially in areas like Vance/Hawley/Hoag. A lot of those homes are sold on land contract or lease option with contract provisions for the purchaser to be responsible for all taxes, insurance, repairs, etc. When that gets to be too much ...

Sepp - in some ways you are 100% correct. And it's extremely unfortunate. There are numerous folks in our town that would willingly take that house and rehab it for a market rate rental or to resell. Without round the clock security they may as well take a stack of money and put it on the porch - the result will be the same.

I know for a fact that some property owners that offer land contract homes have it written in their contracts that they will pay the taxes (they roll it into the payment) but when you do a little research the taxes don't get paid till the 11th hour of a courthouse sale. It's called floating money. As far as I know it's not technically illegal, but it sure as hell is immoral. People are expecting that their taxes are paid with their mortgage/contract payment and then they receive a foreclosure notice for back taxes because they are the owner of record. Most of these folks don't have the resources to sue the hell out of the contract holder, so they walk away and hope to start over. It's a horrible circle.

I buy investment property, and I'm pretty forgiving as far as area and rehab needs, but I won't touch anything in Central City. Even with the Community Reinvestment Areas/Act it's not worth my time.

Sad but true.

Katie - there is always something out of line with this type of story. It's chronic in our city, it's sad, and it's disheartening. While none of us like to look at it, we have to wonder the circumstances that caused it. Not all in foreclosure are losers, deadbeats, druggies, etc. There is such a thing as "bad things happening to good people" and it stinks.

Do said...


In doing further research, this may well be part of the cause for this foreclosure. It appears as though Miss Newsome has been a guest of one of the state operated hotels.

2/23/2006 1 Title : SRV:COPIES MAILED
OHIO 43229

historymike said...

Thanks for the research, Do. The Ulmer tentacles extend far across this city.

Do said...

Mike - we should sit down sometime and chat. If you want some substantive stuff to write about in regard to blight and abandoned will make your head spin.

Let me know when you're game. You have my email.

Brian said...


I think you're being a bit idealistic to describe this neighborhood as "once-thriving". Maybe when Roosevelt was president, but probably not since.

Do said...

These houses change hands a lot because of unscrupulous real estate companies...

Mike - there are only two 'real estate companies' in Toledo that I know of that sell properties on land contract. The other brokerages would not typically touch those deals.

MOST land contracts are between private individuals.

historymike said...


Can you email me:

I'm not sure I have your email.

historymike said...

"Thriving" is a relative term, Brian.

The neighborhood was thriving into the 1970s and 1980s, at least in terms of neighborhood businesses, churches, and homes.

It is much like the neighborhood in Detroit that I grew up in.

The street I lived on from 1964 to 1972 was called Mettetal, and now every third house is torn down, and many more boarded up.

In 1972, though, every house had a family, and every business on Plymouth Road, Greenfield, and West Chicago was busy.

Today - many abandoned buildings take the place of such businesses.

Kate said...

Thanks for explaining the deal on the taxes - I was wondering how on earth they could be so high in the first place!

The Baden/Ulmer connection is interesting. My neighbor is an investor with some partners in Westhaven properties - so I've been following this story pretty closely.

You can go to the audito's online resource and check out the filings. Put in John Ulmer - Scot (one't') Ulmer, Constance Ulmer or Westhaven and see how many transactions have taken place. It is simply amazing. Some of the mortgage releases have been forged and houses that were sold years ago are just being discovered now.

It's a real mess. I worry about my neighbor - he's a sweetheart and I love him. I worry more about the home owners who've purchased on a land contract and are likely to lose their homes and everything they've put into them. I don't see any other possibility than that they will lose their homes. I'm praying for them. No family should be put out like this and yes - in this day and age of hide the credit rating and identity theft and over 35% mistakes in our credit report records - alot of very decent people can only own homes on a land contract.

Hooda Thunkit said...

"He pointed out the locations of a former church, a small glove factory, and the houses of relatives."

My mom's first job was in the glove factory and mine was working in a now torn down building near Vance St. on Junction.

I recently revisited the old neighborhood; it was a very sobering experience...

And, you're right, the neighborhood was thriving in the 60's and into the 70's, the place where I worked pulled up roots in 75, and headed for greener pastures.

Anonymous said...

the ulmers are going to prison finally!