Abandoned Houses in Huntington: Why So Many?

By: Randy Yohe Email
By: Randy Yohe Email

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Asking why there are so many vacant houses in Huntington brings up two crucial factors -- economy and history.

WSAZ.com talked with several experts. We found that with the recent economy, many continue leaving rental properties for government subsidized low income housing.

And we found under history that a long ago Huntington building boom that went bust is now at the dilapidation stage.

For 16 years, Cabell County Assessor Ottie Adkins has set Huntington property values. Adkins says a big reason for so many vacant homes is people on both sides are ignoring the rules.

“Probably there are a few being set (fire) by owners because it costs so much to get them to do the needed restorations," Adkins said. "So, it's a good time for an owner to set fire to his own home. And there’s not enough enforcement of the building codes.”

Huntington’s building inspection department is severely understaffed, underfunded and overwhelmed -- with hundreds of board up and demolish orders on their books.

Building inspection Director Scott Poston, who's also the crew chief, says the key to so many vacant homes is minimal owner accountability.

“There are no laws for them to just get up and walk away from a structure they didn't want anymore,” Poston said.

With more than a half century of Huntington real estate experience, the Bunch family says to look at history. They note that Huntington’s Second World War population and housing boom was followed by a drastic decline.

And, now, there are just not enough people for too many worn out homes.

“We've lost the need for 10,000 homes, so we have 10,000 homes that we don't need,” Bill Bunch said.

What are some other factors?

Many see too many absentee, out-of-state landlords who abandon properties to cut their losses. And there are hundreds on Huntington’s delinquent tax list who vacate homes and don't look back.

Currently, Huntington’s real estate listings show there are 130 vacant homes for sale. Those are not the abandoned homes being torched.

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