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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Volunteers Needed for LRA project

Need anyone who can walk, drive, write or talk and wants to do something about LRA building conditions on the near northside.

What: Old North residents and student volunteers are doing a survey of LRA building conditions in the "Murphy-Blair" historic district. Instead of complaining bit-by-bit as each new problem arises, we want to present LRA with one professional work write-up, with contractor bids and dollar figures. All LRA would have to do is write a check and issue a press release, what could be better?

Why should you volunteer outside of your neighborhood?: Hate the way our beautiful old buildings are rotting? We have concocted a "proactive" plan and want to give it a try. If it works it could be used as a model for YOUR neighborhood.

How: You will be paired up with one other volunteer. The team will get a short list of addresses, a form to fill out for each LRA address, and a map. You can take just one address or more if you like. Go out to the address, complete the paperwork, bring it back to the office for the data entry girl.

Who: Organized by Old North St. Louis Restoration Group, with help from Washington University engineering students. We hope to provide enough city dwellers to pair up with the students one-to-one. The student group is called Engineers without Borders.

When: Saturday morning or afternoon (arrive anytime between 8am-12pm, work for half an hour or longer, wrap up by mid-afternoon). If you are going to the rehabber's club meeting, you could stop by either before or after!

Where: meet in Old North St Louis at the Urban Studio on 14th St (across from the ONLSRG office). The address is 2815 N 14th Street, St. Louis, MO 63106


Anonymous said...

While you're at it, why not organize a phone bank/deputation to pester each building's prior owner to pay the back taxes and penalties that caused the buildings to fall under public ownership in the first place?


Michael R. Allen said...

I did not organize the Saturday event, although I support it. I agree that the past owners should not escape liability for their neglect. Ideally, this event would be part of a concerted effort that would include such efforts as you suggest as well as identifying absentee owners who are sitting on vacant buildings or not paying their taxes on buildings that soon will belong to the LRA.

As someone with socialist tendencies, I think the responsibility for neglected buildings falls squarely on the shoulders of private property owners. LRA could improve itself, and I criticize it when it deserves it, but in the end it lacks the budget needed to behave better -- and is hamstrung by aldermanic control over LRA properties. Most criticism of LRA is a criticism of aldermanic treatment of LRA.

Perhaps you'll come on Saturday to share your time and ideas.

Anonymous said...

ONSLRG has it better than most neighborhoods when it comes to proactive reuse of LRA buildings.

LRA is currently innovating in a partnership effort with the neighborhood by marketing its buildings in a cooperative RFP effort.

Anonymous said...

Brookings man Otis White just blogged on the practice of shaming absentee owners to maintain their properties, and our fair came up:

Anonymous said...

Have you heard about City Ordinance 66857? This new law should help in the fight against neglected properties.

Anonymous said...

Is that the one that expedites fines for code violations?

Code enforecement is great, but does the city offer a program to help average residents with home improvements?

Lots of the city's property owners are lower income and have a hard time keeping up.

And if it's about code enforcement, how will we know if it will be applied evenly across the city, or if an alderman will target certain neighborhoods or individuals with stricter code enforcement?

Michael R. Allen said...

The Healthy Home Repair Program provides assistance to low-income homeowners -- but you have to live in and own a house two years before you can participate in the program.

If you buy a house that's in disrepair, because you cannot afford a "finished product," you have to either get a rehab loan (impossible for anyone other than an "investor" in some zip codes, and pretty hard even in "improving" 63107) or wait as your house crumbles around you.

Anonymous said...

So the way it works, let's see...derelict owner sells neglected property, new buyer tries to sweat equity it back together, and the city has expedited its code enforcement operation. Do the new owners get any relief?