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Editorial: Housing demolition project was a big step for Huntington

Oct. 13, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

When you hear the call to "bring in the National Guard," it is often a sign of a natural disaster or turmoil.

But the West Virginia National Guard's visit to Huntington over the past month has been nothing but good news.

A group of 16 guardsmen from engineering units across the state worked with the state Division of Highways to demolish 54 dilapidated structures in the city in 28 days. The city and the Huntington Urban Renewal Authority used grant money and funds generated by the land bank to help pay for the project, but all agree that it would have cost much more and taken about three years without the state's help.

Like many cities in the region, Huntington has developed a huge backlog of abandoned and dilapidated properties that hurt neighborhood property values and promote crime. A number of steps have been taken to address the problem, but still the costs and work involved in taking down the buildings and removing the debris are significant. Typically, the city has done about 20 a year.

So, this project is a real step forward for these neighborhoods and for HURA's land bank, which owns 27 of the properties. Those now-vacant lots can be sold to developers to build new housing, including some projects that will help replace the aging Northcott Court public housing project.

Either way, a troubled property is returned to a productive use.

After decades of population declines and economic challenges, Huntington has learned doing nothing just leads to more decay. This project and the land bank system provide a successful road map for saving neighborhoods and building a better future.

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