I have two vacant houses on my block. The most recent was lost by a family who, from the moment they moved in, demonstrated that they would be a failure at home ownership.
When they first moved in, it was obvious that the amount of furniture they had was too much for the small house they chose. The backyard, smaller than most, was overwhelmed with lawn furniture. The two dogs were much too large for the amount of yard. Worst of all, they moved in with a portable basketball hoop, which they immediately placed in the alley, even though a neighbor two houses away has his in the backyard and his children never drag it into the alley.
So when they lost their home, it came as no surprise. And my block is again quiet.
But the good is often overshadowed by the bad. We now have a second empty house. We are fortunate that neither of the vacant houses on my block is boarded up.
Now if you juxtaposed my block with the 800 block of Laramie Avenue, what you have is a situation where good homeowners are being overwhelmed by too many boarded-up houses for a single block. At my last count, I believe there are at least six vacant frame houses on that block. Many of the boarded-up houses are not being taken care of. So the property value for the rest of the block is being affected by those houses.
Many of the problems with boarded-up houses can be attributed to predatory lending and the current mortgage crisis. Homes that were once people’s dreams are becoming the rest of the community’s nightmare as each block gets its own vacant house to worry about. I’m fortunate that on my block the homes are not boarded. But how will having multiple vacant boarded-up homes on a single block affect the psyche of that block?
First and foremost, crime is a factor when it comes to having vacant homes on a block. On the block north of mine, some fool wrote all sorts of stupid gang signs on a beautiful vacant bungalow. The signs lasted about a day or two and then someone else came along and covered the signs with blue paint. The brown bungalow is free of gang signs but now has what looks like neon blue bandages covering it. That bungalow has also become the hang out spot for teens who congregate on the front stoop as if they lived there. Repeated calls to the realtor in charge of the property has yet to bring out the graffiti blasters to remove the blue paint.
So an eyesore exists.
The problem of vacant and abandoned houses in Austin is now greater than ever before. Combine that with huge increases in taxes, the effects of adjustable-rate mortgage changes and job losses and it makes a big impact on the vitality of Austin. Where once it was common for folks to hold down two full-time jobs to meet their financial commitments, many are now lucky to have one job. As more and more factories close up and move to foreign lands, the jobs that are available as replacement jobs are in the service industry and not higher-paying manufacturing positions.
A number of community groups are addressing the issue of housing as it relates to Austin. Everyone needs a place to live. It is now time for the politicians at every level of government to step to the plate and offer reasonable and viable solutions to prevent what I am now seeing as the norm.
A vacant house on every block is not the standard we want to live with.