Despite a continued decrease in Logan County population, adequate housing continues to be a problem as many county residents attempt to find a suitable place they can call home. The dilemma is particularly plaguing to the town of Logan, which has seen fires and resulting condemnations force residents to seek shelter elsewhere. There are some people in the town that became and remain homeless, while others live in sub-standard housing. An added problem for Logan is the fact that several places, like the former Browning Hotel location behind McCormick’s Department store, were in the process of being razed when owner Mike Urioste died suddenly following a motorcycle accident. Urioste, who had purchased many properties in the local area, had plans which seemingly would have helped the community tremendously. His plans and his work currently are in limbo, while the half torn down structures remains an eyesore and a possible danger to the townspeople who walk the streets. The settling of Urioste’s estate is said to be the real problem with the incompletion of certain projects.
Another major issue plaguing Logan is that even through there is some ideal vacant lots available — like the lots across from the Logan Post Office, the railroad track that has divided the town in half since early in the 20th Century, prevents the building of apartment complexes that could have any possible governmental funding. The possibility that a train could block the tracks during an emergency situation is reportedly the main problem for the unavailability of funding. Multi-story complexes such as the highly successful Chapmanville Towers apartments in Chapmanville, which has a long waiting list for residency, simply are out of the question on the north side of the C&O railroad tracks in Logan.
Mike Urioste, an Alabama resident, who referred to Logan as his second home, lived in the upstairs of a structure on Dingess Street that previously served as Logan Wholesale and Grocery before the death of then owner Kenny Cox. Urioste, also obtained the historical White and Browning Building in downtown Logan. “Mighty Mike,” as this writer liked to refer to him as, replaced the roof of the White and Browning structure, and he had intentions of converting the five-story structure into either a motel or apartment complex. It has not been reported as to that building’s future.
On a more positive note, a 2.03 acre parcel of property in the unincorporated town of Switzer in Island Creek District, which formerly was the site of the dilapidated Julia Apartments complex, is now the property of the Housing Authority of Mingo County. That organization on August 15, 2015 entered into an agreement with the West Virginia Housing Development Fund to construct a 20-unit multi-family apartment complex to be known as Island Creek Estates. The cost of the loan to finance the project is $3,315,000, according to documents filed in the Logan County Clerk’s office. The property, which has been abandoned for many years, was sold to the Housing Authority of Mingo County by local businessman Delmer Baker and his wife, Elizabeth, March 20, 2015. As a non-profit, public corporation, the selling price is not required to be listed in the County Clerk’s records. However, it is public record that the Baker’s paid $115,000 for the property in August of 2011.
According to the agreement on record, the Island Creek Estate complex will consist of nine one bedroom apartments, six two bedroom apartments, and five three bedroom apartments. All of the living quarters will be subject to the enforcements of Affordable Housing and Income Targeting Requirements provided by Federal regulations. The Housing Authority of Mingo County reportedly is looking into finding other suitable properties for affordable housing in Logan County. PRIDE Community Services of Logan County has fortunately already located properties for a separate Federal government program to provide homes for qualified applicants. The Single Family Housing Program instituted by PRIDE, also in an agreement with the West Virginia Development Fund, has allowed the local organization to build homes and sell them to lower income individuals who qualify. Buyers are eligible for financing as low as one percent. Thus far, PRIDE has built three homes — two at Peach Creek, and one a Mud Fork. The Mud Fork house located at 132 Dupont Road (Rockhouse) has been appraised at $115,000. It consists of three bedrooms and two baths, and includes a refrigerator, dishwasher, electric range with built in microwave, and a utility room with a washer and dryer. Ground has been broken for two more houses to be constructed in the Peach Creek area. The two homes already built at Peach Creek are now occupied and appraised for more than the Mud Fork house, which is in the process of being sold, according to a spokesperson for PRIDE, who said the organization has also been offered the opportunity to take on the challenge of possibly constructing apartment buildings in the county. The PRIDE official indicated that the non-profit organization is also looking into the rehabilitation of some existing properties that could be converted into rental units.
“The problem we always run into is either railroad tracks, or property that is located in the flood zone,” explained Karen Burgess, who serves as assistant to PRIDE Executive Director Reggie Jones. “We’ve built some really nice homes for people that needed them.”
Despite the challenging economics of today’s times, it could be said that, despite obstacles that Loganites have learned to love—like water, railroad tracks and mountains — progress is being made.
Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.