YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – 27 Investigates is looking into Housing in the Valley. We’ve heard complaints about increasing rent costs and have looked into how local land bank programs are helping people purchase affordable homes. Now, Youngstown city leaders are brainstorming additional ways to help people become homeowners.

Nikki Posterli, the director of Youngstown Community Planning and Economic Development., spoke at a Sixth Ward town hall meeting Tuesday and addressed rising rent concerns.

“We know that the price of rent now is tripled in some areas,” Posterli said.

Under the city of Youngstown’s Community Development Division, the agency focuses on quality-of-life issues such as housing. Posterli says many are living in deplorable conditions and paying a lot for rent.

“Sometimes if that’s what you are used to, you don’t even know until you’re out of that situation,” she said

Mike Durkin, Youngstown’s Blight Remediation and Code Enforcement Superintendent, said he also deals with an enormous amount of quality of life issues, and many tenants contribute to their poor living situations.

“The trouble is they’re keeping animals, and they are not trained to go outside. They’re going to the bathroom in the house, and so it just becomes deplorable, and we end up having to tear houses down,” Durkin said.

Durkin says right now, they’re extremely busy with demolition. He says they just received a Mahoning County Land Bank Grant from the state of Ohio for about $9 million.

“We put up, actually, 25% of our funds to leverage that money so in all actuality, it was about a $12 million grant for all the demolition. It’s going to encompass almost 500 houses in the city,” Durkin said.

Posterli’s goal is to ensure every resident is living in a safe environment.

“We want to make sure that our residents have the quality of life that they deserve not what they can afford,” Posterli said.

Posterli says they’re now coming up with ways to hold landlords accountable.

“We want to start assigning some rating systems and some incentives to the landlords to keep their properties up, too,’ she said.

Posterli also wants to work with tenants to see if homeownership is a goal of theirs, saying it may actually make the most sense in the long run.

“Because nine times out of 10, you’ll find out that sometimes it’s cheaper to own your own home than to rent with some of these landlords who are not taking care of their properties,” Posterli said.

This is part of a series of stories that WKBN is looking into involving local housing issues in the Valley. Do you have a housing issue that you’d like us to look into? Send us your information here.