Blighted homes, Toledo Rises

Drive down any street in central Toledo, the homes tell a tale of the Glass City. Neglect and weather have taken their toll year after year as thousands of houses sit empty and battered.

Norma Ardrey has begun the process of fixing up one of the properties that isn't too far gone. She acquired the home from the Lucas County Land Bank.

"I found the Land Bank and put in an application. I put in a bid and was able to get the house for a reasonable price. And the rest is history," said Norma.

She paid just $15,000 for the house though the Land Bank, who is charged with demolishing blighted homes, or putting them in the hands of folks like Norma.

"We believe that there are about three to four thousand properties that are vacant, abandoned, blighted, that need to be demolished," says Lucas County Land Bank Chairman Wade Kapszukiewicz.

According to the US Census, the population peaked at over 383,000 in 1970 in Toledo, but it's been declining ever since.

Wade says, "In a census of 2010, Toledo had about 285,000 people. So in 40 years, one generation, the city of Toledo lost almost exactly 100k people."

Now, the city's unoccupied homes, which were built for the population boom of the 1950's and 60's, are crumbling.

"There's frankly more homes now, more structures in Toledo, than there are people," says Wade.

Boarded up windows and rotted wood are a constant. They pose a threat to everyone around.

Wade says, "Nothing good comes from a vacant home. Nothing good comes from it."

Firefighters spend countless hours battling blazes started in these vacant homes.

"Whenever you have an unmaintained home, there can be sources of possible injury that you woulnd't se in a normal home," says Tiffin Fire Deptartment Captain Charles Nutter.

The city is working to eliminate these blighted properties, which sometimes become a residence to drug dealers or used for prostitution. One by one, they're being razed to the ground.

"900 homes being torn down. The worst, most blighted eyesores in the community. The ones that are bringing everyone's property value down," says Chairman Kapszukiewicz.

This aggressive plan to turn them into open space is helping turn toledo around.

Wade says, "I do believe this is a piece of the puzzle in terms of reinventing a Toledo that can be strong and vibrant again."

To our South, the small town of Tiffin is turning their blighted homes into a mechanism for learning by burning them down, on purpose.

"You can never simulate a structure like that for training," says Captain Nutter.

Inside the home is no simulation. Instead it's a controlled setting where firefighters experience how truly dangerous a house fire can be.

Nutter says, "They can have an understanding of how long it takes. What it looks like and what it feels like... That way when you get a fire, you've been there and you know what your looking at."

And what could been a safety concern, is now a safety tool.

Norma Ardrey, who was born right here in Toledo in 1951, has seen what this city can be.

She says, "If you didn't like your job on Monday, you could have a new one by Wednesday."

She hopes to see that image return once again.

"Toledo is still a great place to live. When it's your home, it's your home," says Norma.

She'll watch as the sad scene of blighted homes will give rise to new and promising opportunities for the city she loves. And with a little help, she'll see ther house become a home.

Norma is optimistic, "A little here, a little there. Catching sales at Menards and Home Depot, and loving the Home & Garden channel and learning everything from there along the way. It's been a labor of love."