Thursday, April 26, 2012

When is direct intervention in a neighborhood by a government (at any level) justified and appropriate?

   Why would the City Purchase 3 boarding Houses?

Starting in the 1920’s and continuing through the 1980’s, boarding houses had a place in Lakewood’s housing mix. These boarding houses offered affordable rooms with shared bathroom and kitchen facilities. Transient residents- newly arrived or temporarily dislocated persons could find very modest and affordable living accommodations in a city that was safe, easily accessible by mass transit, and most of life’s necessities could be purchased within walking distance.
1436 Grace Boarding House: 6 roomers
As Ohio and our region’s population growth became negative, the market forces provided many more options for these residents. By the year 2000, the demand for this type of housing applied more to individuals dislocated from mainstream life. Demands for city services such as police, Emergency medical, building and Housing, and fire safety grew substantially.  The surrounding neighborhoods were forced to deal with increasing  levels nuisance activity, and therefore a threat these entire neighborhoods. Ward 4 Councilperson  Mary Louise Madigan and Ward 2 Councilperson Tom Bullock each handled hundreds of complaints from nearby residents.
1446 Mars Boarding House: 8 roomers
How does this cycle get corrected? Who would have the economic capacity and incentive to challenge these trends? The current owners of these boarding houses would not have this incentive. Only the Lakewood Local Government (City Council and Mayor) could and would step in.
Opportunity presented itself when a Grace Ave resident brought to my attention that The Grace Ave Property might be for sale. To make a long story short, our government recognized and took advantage of a once in a generation opportunity to purchase these properties and reintroduce them in their original form which were as single family homesteads.
Newman and Madison Ave Boarding House: 15 roomers
While this is a very aggressive move, it is clear to me that there are unique and compelling circumstances which makes this appropriate governmental action. Government is obligated to identify and protect to collective good of all.  The private sector has no such charter.   Government’s broader duty allows it to take a longer view, and can put heavy weight on opportunity cost and, as in this case, the stabilization of values of all other homes in the neighborhood. It does so with confidence that the return will be evident in the pocketbooks of these neighbors. No private sector investor could make such a justification.
We expect to get most of the taxpayer’s money back by reselling these properties with deed restrictions preventing them from use other than single family, or possibly two family homes. But Profit is not our motive.  Neighborhood stabilization and enhancement is our goal.
This was government doing some of its best work.

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