The High Point ghetto, by the numbers
• Acreage: 1,096
• Total valuation: $654 million
• Total valuation of all residential properties: $61.9 million
• Total valuation of all industrial properties: $87.1 million
• Total valuation of all retail (including furniture showrooms) properties: $302.5 million
• Total valuation of all government-owned properties, churches and other non-taxed institutional properties: $105.9 million
• Total value of all office and commercial properties: $73.8 million
• Local tax revenue generated from showrooms and other retail properties: $1.9 million
• Percentage of land that remains undeveloped: 21.9 percent
• Total acreage available for redevelopment: 240
• Factor by which developed property exceeds the value of unimproved acreage: 4:1
• Local tax revenue lost annually from underutilization of undeveloped land: $742,560
• Factor by which the matriarch of the Schwarz family’s home exceeds the average value of the family’s High Point rental properties: 115:1
11 largest landlords by number of properties
1. Hughes family, Jamestown — 29
2. Donald P. Vileno, Lexington — 13
3. Schwarz family, Asheboro — 15
4. Davis family, Asheboro — 12
5. William B. Reid & Rosaline Reid, Henrico — 11
6. Henry Lee Briles & Ruth R. Briles, Jamestown — 10
7. City of High Point — 10
8. Cridlebaugh family, High Point — 10
9. Robert L. Bryant, High Point — 10
10. James M. Hughes & Lori S. Hughes, Denton — 10
11. Del Ray Wilson & Rebecca A. Wilson, High Point — 10
The Hughes family, which controls 29 rental properties in the ghetto, operates a rental agency on West Green Drive in High Point, but the family members live in Jamestown, according to corporate records.
The family’s holdings include properties owned by Hughes Family LLC, Carolyn W. Hughes, Nancy Hughes Bailey, Jennie Leigh Hughes and Charles Hughes III.
The average valuation for single-family homes owned by the family is $25,711 — 22.7 percent below the average value of single-family homes in the area.
After a house at 1408 W. Green Drive owned by Nancy Hughes Bailey was severely damaged by fire, the city ordered extensive repairs, including the replacement of fire-damaged exterior walls in June 2016. The house was torn down after the city issued an order for repair or demolition in October.
The city summoned Jennie Leigh Hughes for a hearing to answer a complaint about substandard housing at a property at 1227 Dorris Ave. in September. Among numerous violations cited, inspector Billy Caudle ordered the landlord to replace broken windows and replace deteriorated siding on the house. After Hughes failed to appear for the Sept. 28 hearing, the city ordered her to repair or demolish the house. City council must sign off on the order before the city can proceed with demolition.
Representatives of the family could not be reached for this story. A woman who answered the phone at rental agency in High Point responded to an inquiry about the family’s rental properties by saying, “Not interested” and promptly hung up the phone.
The Schwarz family’s holdings in the High Point ghetto include nine properties owned by Schwarz Properties LLC, a company owned by Todd Schwarz; three properties owned by SHP Capital LLC, also held by Schwarz; one property owned by Southeastern Residential Properties, again held by Schwarz; and three properties owned by Elly’s Place LLC, a company owned by Vivian Schwarz, the family matriarch.
The average property valuation of the family’s rental properties is $20,815 — 37.4 percent below the average value of in the area.
In 2012, the High Point City Council ordered the demolition of the Meredith Street Apartments, a six-building complex with 24 units owned by Schwarz Properties in the east-central area. Among the complaints about the complex were broken windowpanes, missing plumbing and electrical fixtures and holes in interior walls. The apartments were finally torn down in early 2015.
Properties owned by members of the Schwarz family have continued to rack up violations.
The city opened a public nuisance case for a property owned by Vivian Schwarz at 1310 Ragan Ave. in late July 2016, with an inspector reporting that the front door was kicked in. The next month, the city opened a substandard housing case, citing the property for broken windows, damaged interior walls, overgrown vegetation and broken gutters, among other violations. The city issued an order to repair or demolish in early December.
On Nov. 14, the city opened a substandard housing case on the property at 1411 Pershing St., which is owned by Schwarz’s Southeastern Residential Properties. Records show that the city had paid a contractor $100 in late August to board up a window on the house. In November, the city placed a lien against the property in an effort to get reimbursement for the expense. At a Dec. 1 hearing the city found the property unfit for human habitation.
Three other properties owned by companies held by Todd Schwarz have been cited in public nuisance cases for — among other violations — overgrown vegetation, trash piles and unsecured dwellings, but the city closed the cases after the landlord corrected the problems.
Asheboro-based Schwarz Properties boast of being “one of the largest real-estate management companies in the Mid-Atlantic region” on the company website, with more than 500 residential, industrial and commercial locations under its management. Todd Schwarz is the company’s president.
Far from lacking funds to maintain their properties, the Schwarz family appears to have built significant wealth from their real estate dealings: Vivian Schwarz’s home in Asheboro is valued at $2.4 million.
Todd Schwarz did not respond to repeated phone messages for this story.
The research for “Who owns the ghetto in High Point?” is built from a draft copy of a report prepared by the UNCG Center for Housing & Community Studies for the city of High Point entitled “Market Segmentation & Targeted Revitalization: High Point Core City,” which identified six centrally-located Census block groups as “extremely weak” housing markets, with the city’s highest concentrations of poverty. The UNCG report was finalized in September 2016.
Beginning in April 2016, Triad City Beat undertook a nine-month research project to answer the question articulated in the headline: Who owns the ghetto?
With the UNCG map as a reference, the author used Guilford County tax records to manually log 2,556 properties in the six census block groups into a spreadsheet. The research included all types of properties, including industrial, retail, institutional and city-owned, but focused on 1,555 zoned for housing, mostly designated as residential but also a smaller cohort of apartments, condos and duplexes. Properties with no appraised building value were presumed to be empty lots and were coded “unimproved.” Residential properties where the owner’s mailing address matched the location address were coded as “owner-occupied,” while properties that listed a separate owner’s mailing address were coded as “rental.”
Property ownership necessarily changes with sales, making the research subject a moving target. For purposes of expediency, the project was designed as a modified point-in-time count: While the properties were logged from April 7 through Oct. 11, 2016, a second review of the 2,556 properties from Oct. 14 to Oct. 25 captured any changes of ownership that took place as the data was being compiled.
In cases where rental properties were owned by a limited liability company or other business, the author used the North Carolina Secretary of State website to pull annual reports and identify the actual owners.
As an additional layer of research, the author used North Carolina voter registration records to identify the race and ethnicity of residential property owners. The author was able to determine the race or ethnicity of 70.3 percent of residential property owners. The most significant limitation to this method is that many property owners are not registered to vote, including some who may not be eligible because they are not citizens. The review was also limited to property owners who live in the state of North Carolina, which comprise 92.9 percent of the sample, as many states do not make voter registration information public. In consideration of anecdotal reports that the North Carolina Board of Elections does not always accurately record the ethnicity of Latino voters, this study uses Spanish surnames as a proxy for Latino ethnicity.