When you are not pleased with the appearance of a home in your neighborhood, what do you do?
You complain to a friend or family member
You file a complaint with the City’s Neighborhood Standard’s office
You confront the situation directly and potentially offend your neighbor
You give up.
Why not consider an option that is likely to give you a better result? You could take the time to get to know your neighbor, be a friend and when the timing is right offer a helping hand. Identify a means of working together to make things happen. Maybe they can help you with something and in return you can help them.
Years ago, when someone was ill, we would lend a hand, by providing a meal, mowing a lawn, or transporting them to and from medical visits. When a barn burned, or a farmer was too ill to harvest his crops, neighbors from near and far would join together to ensure a new barn was built and the crops were harvested.
Imagine – beautiful neighborhoods because young people were focused on providing services to those who are now too old to do the heavy lifting. In addition, those who know how to garden or perform home repairs were teaching younger generations the tools of the trade.
Why Block by Block?
BECAUSE– we have aging neighborhoods that are falling into blight and decay.
BECAUSE – we have young professionals moving to Decatur to work, but choosing to live elsewhere due to their perception, (real or imagined) of our lack of housing choices.
BECAUSE – Decatur deserves to have numerous safe and desirable neighborhoods.
BECAUSE – Decatur has proven we can achieve goals, if we gather the right people and focus on implementing viable solutions.
The City of Decatur is working to tear down many of the abandoned homes in Decatur. Efforts are also underway to implement a variety of strategies to revitalize neighborhoods.
Block by Block is one of the strategies focused on decreasing the incident rate of abandoned homes. It costs $16,000 to tear down an abandoned home. Often times, a simple repair of a damaged roof or broken window, if down in a timely fashion can prevent a home from becoming a blighted property.
Block by Block is an opportunity to utilize private funding to promote neighborhood connections and revitalization. The primary focus will be to providing homeowners assistance with curb appeal upgrades. Since nearly 70% of our housing stock in the central city are rental properties, we will also identify viable solutions to promote rental stock upgrades. However, these upgrades will require matching funds from the landlords.
This will not happen overnight and it will not be easy. A recent study of neighborhoods indicated a number of factors that will require a long-term focus and a variety of strategies.
· Landlords own anywhere from 49% to 90% of the homes in our central city neighborhoods.
· Average net values are declining
· Our housing stock is aging and low values impede investments
· We need to build trust, between neighbors, with city officials and with law enforcement.
On a positive note:
· We have numerous quality neighborhoods throughout our community.
· A similar process has been utilized elsewhere and has proven to be successful
· We have numerous community leaders who are willing to make this a reality
· We have investors who are willing to make it happen
· Last but not least Decatur volunteers are phenomenal.
Our process - A work in progress
- Utilize private donations and volunteers to assist homeowners to make curb appeal upgrades. Build sense of community and pride in place by forging positive relationships.
- Work with community experts to guide the way and identify methods to overcome the barriers.
- Starting small with one home, to test and refine our process.
- Over-time based on available funding and volunteers …adopt full blocks
- Promoting community-wide neighborhood clean-ups – each Spring and Fall
- Provide an opportunity for individuals to apply directly for assistance.
- Provide an opportunity for neighbors to support neighbors by inviting them to participate and supporting their plan to give back.
The attached article is an excellent example of how Block by Block could work.
New Jersey couple gathers neighbors to assist an elderly woman to avoid city code violations – a perfect example of how concerned citizens can make a huge difference in a neighborhood.