Neighborhood housing reinvestment, Atlanta style

I’m throwing this out for discussion- because it’s an alternative to explore in Dayton. I’m also bringing this up because I’ve had to listen to Mayor McLin talk about giving derelict homes to young college graduates to rehab- which in my opinion is an unrealistic and unnecessary “solution” if you think about it.

One thing to clarify: foreclosed homes are only valuable for a short time after the last residents leave. The moment these homes stand vacant, entropy steps in (or thieves) and the homes go from being habitable to a rehab project. The difference is huge.

In Atlanta they’ve got an incentive plan for foreclosed homes:

The foreclosure crisis is creating an investment opportunity for police officers and other emergency personnel who want to live and work in DeKalb County.

Federal stimulus funds will be used to help county personnel buy foreclosed homes in DeKalb County.

AJC file Federal stimulus funds will be used to help county personnel buy foreclosed homes in DeKalb County.

DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis announced a new program Monday that will use federal stimulus funds to help county personnel buy foreclosed homes in DeKalb.

The program has earmarked $1.5 million for police officers and another $1 million for firefighters, sheriff’s deputies and other sworn “first responders.” It will provide a subsidy of $14,150 for those who stay in a home at least five years and $25,000 for those who remain a decade. It aims to stabilize neighborhoods dragged down by foreclosures while also assisting with the recruitment and retention of officers. As of August, there were 7,000 foreclosed homes in DeKalb County, said Chris Morris, the county director of Human and Community Development.

via DeKalb police to get subsidy to buy homes  |

(Note they call their “County Administrator” the CEO. Hmmm, maybe we’d get our pecking order right here if we switched terminology?)

The assumption that safety force personnel would want to live in areas in need of stabilization is a big one. In Dayton, we see a majority of our safety forces living in one area- Forest Ridge/Quail Hollow which is in Dayton, but part of the Huber Heights School district.

Secondly, it assumes that safety force personnel like to rehab homes. This is the fundamental flaw in Rhine McLin’s young graduate plan- not everyone can rehab homes, nor do you want them doing it. I happen to have the handy gene that skipped my father. I can frame, hang and finish drywall, and do a bit of finish carpentry, roof, paint, and do a little electrical work. That’s not the norm these days.  If you can’t do the work yourself, some of these homes will never be a good economic proposition. That’s why we have to work on the value of neighborhoods more than on homes. The value of the community has more to do with the value of a home than the value of the home. Need proof- look at some of the Dayton View mansions- and compare purchase prices to bungalows in Belmont.

What do you think of Atlanta’s idea? I’d love to hear from some of Dayton’s safety personnel.

I’d rather give them a guarantee of no increase in property tax valuation for as long as they live in the home as an incentive. The jump in valuation on my office once the abatement came off was a shock to me- with the tax rate 40% more than my home across the street that is bigger, with a garage and a bigger lot. Talk about a way to discourage fixing up things.

The real issue in all of this “reinvestment” is that the value of our city isn’t based on the value of the bricks and mortar, but the value of our people and their values. If we put people first- the rest will follow.

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