The real estate industry says that in housing the issue is:

Location, Location, Location.

   Our society perpetuates the idea that if you live in the older part of our city you are a failure and live in a house that is outdated and unhealthy.  We have promoted the idea that if you get an education and a better job that you must move to a newer house and a more suburban neighborhood. There are physical and social reasons for this negative evaluation of our older neighborhoods.

Government policy and program initiatives should involve cooperation with business and institutional interests for effective implementation.

   We need to improve the physical and social environment in our neighborhoods to make them better places in which to live and raise families.  We need to make sure that our neighborhoods are good places in which to live so that more people will value their homes and increase their maintenance and improve the quality of their homes.

   We need to increase our efforts to encourage, support, and enforce regular home maintenance and the updating of homes in our older neighborhoods. 

   We should find a way to reduce the cost for the replacement of lead pipes supplying water to homes in older neighborhoods.  We should find a way to reduce the cost of the replacement of outdated plumbing and electrical systems.  We should find a way to reduce the cost of the safe removal of lead paint and asbestos.

   We need to change government housing programs that penalize families with parents who are living together and committed to each other, and that reward people who do not establish committed parental bonds for their children.  Unstable families help destabilize neighborhoods.

Abandoned and burned out housing

The revelation that there are nearly 500 abandoned houses in the older parts of the city of Grand Rapids is evidence of a crisis in the administration of our city government and community organizing within our city.
Reminiscent of the Eastown experience twenty years ago the City is re-evaluating their process of dealing with burned out and abandoned houses after exposure and pressure from the Grand Rapids Press.  Hopefully, that re-evaluation will improve their productivity in dealing with these problem properties.  The survival of our older neighborhoods demands it.
It has been clear to me that the City is lax in its process of vigorously pursuing the repair of many properties in older neighborhoods.  It is also clear to me that neighborhood residents have seldom been encouraged or given the legal tools to take any responsibility for homes on their block that have been abandoned.  Neighborhood residents are reluctant to trespass on or take responsibility for property that they do not own.  If our older neighborhoods are to survive this needs to change and soon. 
Besides getting the City to do their job better,  what is needed is a re-evaluation of the part that neighborhood residents should play in the process of stemming this housing crisis and getting these houses to be used as good homes for families.
I suggest that the City meet with and offer a partnership contract with residents to work with the City to defend these properties.  This partnership contract should be for security against vandalism by watching the house, taking some yard maintenance responsibility, and calling the police when vandals threaten the well being of the house.  Some assertive neighbors on my block and one near me have done these things, without a enabling/protective contract, with very positive results for the abandoned houses.
  When the neighbors to abandoned property partner with the City to take responsibility for property on their block, other residents are not discouraged from maintaining their own property.  The result for the house is visible evidence for potential new owners that the block is one that is worth investing in and living on.

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