As the Jewel City demolishes more than 100 buildings, a new project helps old homes ‘shine’

Community

HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) — Vacant, abandoned, and condemned buildings can cause a lot of problems, including house fires, squatters, and infestations.

One city in our region is tackling the problem with an ambitious goal and is pushing a new initiative to get to the foundation of the issue.

Last October, the City of Huntington laid out a plan to demolish more than 100 unsafe buildings by the end of June.

They’ve nearly reached that goal, but now city officials are turning their attention on how to preserve some of the older structures of the Jewel City.

“The mayor announced that we would clear the city’s unsafe building commission list of 119 properties, and the goal was to get rid of the nuisance properties and create a safe environment for the neighbors in the community. Today we’re on number 102 to be demolished in the city,” says Christal Perry, demolition specialist for the City of Huntington.

With the end date for the project June 30th, the city is confident they’ll get those last 17 structures down in time.

“Demolition is a tool that we have in our toolbox. It is not going to solve our problems in Huntington,” Perry says.

Instead, they are now focusing on helping homeowners before it comes to the demolition stage—and it’s called ‘Project Shine.’

“Shine’s about a rejuvenation of housing stock, about rehabilitation; it’s volunteer rehab,” says Ben Newhouse, community development specialist for the City of Huntington.

Homeowners who need help fixing up their homes apply with the city and volunteer crews from around the country are coming in to rebuild.

The best part?

“It’s all free,” Newhouse says, “The city’s covering it or the foundations or the state funding we have is covering all these situations.”

The work will be done with around 1,000 volunteers coming in to help through July.

Mary Perry, whose mother is receiving a new ramp for her home to increase accessibility, says she feels blessed to have this done for her family.

“I think it’s a positive impact, for the neighborhood overall. Just because of the damage that was with the old ramp, I mean it was an eyesore to me. So I think with what they’re doing it’s just going to help the property value,” Mary says.

Not only that, Mary’s nephew William Eli Perry says he thinks it’s kind of the volunteers to help them build a new ramp, and:

“It looks much sturdier!” William says.

Officials with Project Shine expect to have the 85 to 90 homes on the roster done by July 31st.

“Last time I checked, we will be the largest rehab provider in the United States this year,” Newhouse says.

The rehabilitation projects began Monday. The Shine Project is no longer accepting applications for this summer but is still taking inquiries about emergency situations. They are looking at getting around 300 houses rehabilitated over the next three years.

For more information about Project Shine, visit their website here.

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