Guest Column: Would you buy this house?

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11605887641002.jpg’, ‘Photo by Marianne L. Garvens’, ”);

Look close. Do you see anything really wrong with this house?

There’re no holes in the roof; there’s a newer vinyl window; the exterior walls and roofline are straight/true; the foundation appears solid; and the outside’s reasonably maintenance-free.

Do you see potential? It could be a starter home or investment property.

Do you see any reason why a city would want to tear it down?

Sure, the porch needs attention, some windows need stripping and painting. But really, it just needs some TLC and an occupant.

In court, the judge asked Freeport’s Community Development director, “What specific defects make the building ‘dangerous and unsafe?’” The best the Community Development director could do was say, “It’s derelict,” “It’s dilapidated” and “It’s deteriorating.”

When Freeport’s city inspector took the stand, he said the same. When pushed by Freeport’s city attorney, he said, “The paint was peeling.” Both city witnesses admitted neither inspected the inside, and neither is qualified to inspect for structural integrity.

Based on their “testimony,” the judge entered a default order for demolition as the owners did not appear. The city’s inspector claimed the owner didn’t respond.

The 2000 census said Freeport’s vacancy rate was 12-plus percent. Is Freeport’s solution to a high vacancy rate the demolition of such private property?

In a community where tax revenues are stagnant, incapable of supporting the rising cost of government, it makes little sense to tear down a house that could be rehabbed and kept on the tax rolls.

With organizations such as Neighborhood Housing Services, Habitat for Humanity and Rebuilding Together along with CDAP grant programs, why would we tear down communities instead of building them up?

Does such policy serve the public interest? Surely, taxing bodies don’t want their tax base reduced.

If an adjoining property owner wants the lot, then he or she should buy it and pay for the demolition.

Contributing Writer Marianne L. Garvens is a Freeport resident.

From the Oct. 11-17, 2006, issue

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