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Saturday, May 03, 2008

Home demolitions tend to be concentrated in two neighborhoods, 4A Tearing down tears through city funds

Please click onto the COMMENTS for the story.


Blogger Bob said...

St. Paul says firm stance on eyesores makes a difference
By Jason Hoppin
Article Last Updated: 05/02/2008 11:52:00 PM CDT

St. Paul is plowing through its budget for bulldozers.

The city is accelerating the razing of obsolete, trashed and vacant homes, a process that began last year as the nationwide mortgage crisis unfurled. But things appear to be picking up even more now: Through the first four months of 2008, city housing inspectors have exhausted their budget for tearing down houses and are seeking hundreds of thousands of additional dollars to get through the end of the year.

"As the vacant buildings started increasing, we put pressure on the homeowners to rehab their properties," said Bob Kessler, head of St. Paul's Department of Safety and Inspections. "And if they didn't, we threatened to tear them down."

The city is following through on many of those threats.

Much of the bulldozing is concentrated in two neighborhoods — the lower East Side and North End, two of four neighborhoods the city has targeted for revitalization. Kessler will ask for an additional $640,000 from funds set aside for those neighborhoods to help pay for knocking down homes, which costs about $15,000 each.

But in Dayton's Bluff, another neighborhood ravaged by vacancies and foreclosures, razed homes are virtually nonexistent. That reflects a difference in philosophy about how to approach a widespread problem.

There, neighbors have organized a tour for today of vacant homes in an attempt to attract home buyers interested in a little sweat equity. In a sign that there still is a market for historic homes, the tour had to be reworked at the last minute, because offers have been made on several of the homes.
"Dayton's Bluff has a really unique housing stock. It's what makes us a unique neighborhood," said City Council President Kathy Lantry, who represents the neighborhood and has broad authority over whether a house is razed. "We don't want to lose one of our assets."

Dayton's Bluff neighbor Amy Handford agrees. In 1988, she and her then-husband bought a run-down Victorian for $35,000 and restored it to its current crimson, French blue and charcoal splendor. It has been appraised at more than $400,000.

"Sometimes, you've just got to draw a line," Handford said of her neighborhood's homes. She said frequently cited problems such as squatters and copper thefts aren't always cause for tearing down a house.

"That is because of people's behavior. It isn't the house," Handford said. "We've always had a really strong neighborhood."

By contrast, the North End's District 6 and lower East Side's Payne-Phalen planning councils — two of 17 district councils citywide — saw a combined 44 homes leveled in 2007. The other 15 planning areas averaged a little more than two each.

Council Member Lee Helgen, whose 5th Ward encompasses parts of both the North End and lower East Side, said decisions on whether to raze properties are based on a number of factors, including the home's condition and whether the property is a nuisance for neighbors.

But those neighborhoods, Helgen added, are not filled with historic homes — unlike Dayton's Bluff. They were working-class areas built on poor, sometimes peaty soil, and sinking foundations have led to structural problems.

"They were never built to last 100 years, anyway," Helgen said.

Kessler said the city's aggressive stand toward dilapidated homes is paying dividends. Homeowners now take the city's threats to fix up substandard housing seriously, and several homes under city abatement orders are being renovated.

Sixth Ward Council Member Dan Bostrom, who represents much of the East Side (and sometimes is referred to as "Demolition Dan" around City Hall), said he supports demolitions as a way to help flagging neighborhoods.

"I'm not pushing for demolitions. That's not my big thing," Bostrom said. "But you've either got to fix it or it's got to be taken down. They can't simply linger out there and be a drag on the neighborhood."

More than 100 homes have been razed in St. Paul since the beginning of last year.

"I think people need to know that the city is trying to maintain the value in their neighborhoods," Bostrom said.

What's left behind raises other questions.

Once the housing market picks up, the city expects investors to buy the vacant lots for new construction. Discussions are under way about what kind of design standards, if any, should be in place for those new homes.

Bostrom, Helgen and Lantry all support some sort of design standards to ensure the new homes are in keeping with the neighborhoods. What hasn't been decided are what those design standards should be. Should they include the garage's location or the home's orientation on the lot? Should they go so far as to say how many stories a new home should be?

"It's to protect the neighbors that continue to live there," Bostrom said. "I think a lot of these folks have spent their life savings on these homes, and they'll want to protect that asset. I think we've got a responsibility to try to help them."

Jason Hoppin can be reached at 651-292-1892.

5:05 PM  
Anonymous Jeff Matiatos said...

Sure, the city knows that tearing the homes down would lead to new homes one day being built there.

That would in turn bring new reveue to the city through construction permits and raising of property vales because of new expensive homes and increased property taxes.

This it seems, falls in line as to why the city wants to rid the city of RICO lanlords who the city claims are slum lords.

See the connection ?

Jeff Matiatos

5:15 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

I think the city should consider this blog a public service and give notice of this forum to all home owners in the city. :-)

After the citizens read through the archives here they will be TERRIFIED into code compliance.

FACT IS, I happen to know a big landlord who read through this blog and immediately fired his staff and went to work cleaning up his property. Prior to reading here he didn't give a damn.

5:20 PM  
Anonymous Jeff Matiatos said...


It wont be the poor rebuilding.

The city wants to rid itself of poor people and change the population base from poor folks to rich tax paying citizens.

Thats why they dont tear the vacant homes down in the Daytons bluff area because they want to preserve its potential for rich to come in and maintain the value of large victorian homes.

To hell with homes in the Payne area the city says.

Jeff Matiatos

5:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

400 Homes since the 1st of the year....that's 100 a month evaporating and not available to the poor and low income who once occupied them. It won't be long now! No more poor people, just tthe elites and way less crime.

5:26 PM  
Anonymous Jeff Matiatos said...

The city believes that the typical landlord in St.Paul is a slumlord who cant afford to maintain its property or won't.

Solution ?

You force them out through illegal code enforcement tactics and threaten demolition.

Then demolish and sell the land to developers.

This time though, the city will get a say in who is buying the vacant land to assure that the owner can keep up with the cities expectations and that the homes are not rental property but single expensive family homes or a new place of buisness.

ie the city wants to become very involved in who will own the 3m plant property when its sold.

Just like they wanted to bud in when the ford plant was sold .

Jeff Matiatos

5:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like a racketeering scheme to me!

6:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have told you (people) that the the great city of St.Paul was going to do this.

About three or four months ago.
This is just the being. Wait and see the big taxes increase.

Less homes to taxe more that you will paid.

Leslie k. Lucht

7:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So lets see......we have a recession going on, gas prices are going through the roof, food costs are going up constantly, the DFL just passes the biggest tax increase in the states history, record numbers of people are losing their homes to forclosure, the taxable value of real estate is dropping like a rock, the city of St Paul has a 17 million dollar budget gap and they are out destroying their tax base at the rate of approx. 100 homes per month. Does that sound like good leadership to anyone except Kathy Lantry? Come on back to town Swiftee.....we need your tax money. We'll be nice to you.

7:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you bumbling idiots there is new condos paying tax's everywhere the city's revenue is increasing.

new homes paying higher tax's will replace the gang banging rat traps.


8:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

7:13 PM,

Right on!!

Poor leadership in St. Paul by the DFL city council and mayor has put St. Paul in the WORST situation since Jim S. was mayor.

You get some city leaders blaming the Governor, but the finger only points towards poor leadership and discrimination against the poorest of the poor.

What out city council is doing is just plain wrong!

11:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eric these homes that the city tends on tearing down are homes that are homes of the black community.Rental or not.Is this alright?Where are they going to go?

Good news for the landlords that can tough it out.Less supply of housing-more tenants, its a win win.You can tighten you application standards. No section 8. No criminal records. 2 1/2 times you rent income. No emergency assistance. No evictions. And credit scores in the 600's.

This city policy is going to end up being devastating to the blacks and low income in town.

If landlords follow the standards I said above and with more quality renters in the market there won't be anything for the bottom teer.

Tim Ciani

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tim, you said it! We are getting rid of the bottom of the barrel. We don't need them!

11:35 AM  
Anonymous Jeff Matiatos said...

I like your thinking Tim.

Jeff Matiatos

12:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If they're doing 100 houses per month at $15,000 per house, the $640,000 they want isn't going to last them for even a month. What then? Another $640,000 and another! What would you expect from someone as stupid as Kathy Lantry who makes the statement that we don't have a spending problem, but rather a revenue problem at a time when we have a 17 million dollar budget problem.

6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good point Tim. You hit the nail on the head. What do you say Chuck and Eric.

8:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tim said;
"This city policy is going to end up being devastating to the blacks and low income in town."

Why would the policy be devasting to the blacks? I agree that it may be to a majority of them but that is the individuals choice of lifestyle, they are welcome to work and purchase a home just the like the next person, and if they fit the strict criteria of the city they can even live in St.Paul!

7:18 AM  

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