Sunday, August 30, 2009

Blame it on the Preservationists?

I guess the "blame-the-teachers-for-the-state-of-schools" argument was so successful, folks are now taking up a "blame-the-preservationists-for-the-state-of-disrepair." This has been going on for a little while, but the article is a large pointing finger.

"Please pay attention only to the preservationists," goes the narrative. "Blight has nothing to do with different contracting rules for contractors recieving FEMA money and contractors recieving block grant money," they say. No mention at all about how "well" that block grant money was handled last time.

The narrative also does not discuss the obviously tremendous absentee/neglectful landlord problem in this city. It is one thing when an owner is having trouble quickly restoring a primary residence, it is another thing entirely when the owner is stalling the process until large planned developments increase the value of the property years from now.

Brunswick, Georgia had a tremendous blight problem eroding its stock of historic homes. Their new mayor and city council went to work - identifying problem structures, contacting owners, and giving the owners a reasonable but not dragging timeframe in which to respond (six months). Then they set about proceedings to acquire and demolish blighted structures in order to allow for updated buildings accessible to low and moderate income families. (Example of a working city plan (PDF))

Brunswick is much smaller than New Orleans, but they have been able to pull off historic preservation while removing or remediating blight and increasing housing and homeownership opportunities for low and moderate income families. This can be done.


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