“Very well,” is what Griffin Director of Planning and Development Services Frederick Gardiner had to say when asked how it was going.
He said in 2008, 43 substandard residential properties, three substandard commercial properties and two substandard multi-family structures were demolished.
In addition to the demolition of many substandard properties, many owners of substandard properties have voluntarily improved them. He said 248 alteration/rehabilitation permits were issued in 2008. Gardiner attributed most of the rehabilitation to increased code enforcement - due to the downturn in the housing market, there are fewer people sprucing up their homes for sale or rent.
“That’s a collaboration of some city funds as well as private,” he said.
He said the city has money available for the demolition of substandard properties and has been more forceful in its code enforcement. This has pushed owners of substandard properties to demolish them voluntarily, while developers have demolished other substandard properties in anticipation of future development.
Over the summer, the city established a program that would provide trash bins without charge for 90 days to owners of substandard property who wished to demolish structures themselves. He said many people heard about the program’s success and decided to take advantage of it, including owners of substandard properties lacking the funds to either tear them down or rehabilitate them.
“We’re looking to do that again, potentially,” he said.
He said he has not presented it to the Griffin Board of Commissioners but he thinks the revived program would take place during the summer.
Gardiner said the city has $20,000 left in its fiscal year 2009 budget for substandard housing abatement.
“This year, because the Thomaston Mill neighborhood is our targeted neighborhood, all of the $20,000 will be spent there,” he said.
He said substandard housing abatement in the area will complement other city efforts to revitalize the neighborhood, such as increasing the police presence and repairing the water infrastructure.
Complicating the process of abating substandard housing is the fact that many owners of substandard properties are not local. Gardiner described how, in the case of a notorious substandard house on the north side of town, it took two years for the city to find the owner in DeKalb County and persuade the owner to demolish the house. He said people will put images of the houses from before they became decayed online to sell to people who are interested in rental property.
Carol Rainwater, a code enforcement officer for the city of Griffin, corroborated Gardiner’s description.
“I’ve sent letters to other states,” she said. “I’ve been to other counties.”
She said there are owners of substandard properties in Griffin who live as far away as Washington state.
She said the city is taking substandard housing seriously.
“We’re moving forward,” she said. “We’re going further this time than has ever been done before.”