Friday, March 7, 2008

On second thought . . .

In looking at yesterday's post, I'm realizing I presented an exaggerated, and pretty darn glib, assessment of multi-unit buildings in the neighborhood. I've decided to call myself on this before someone else can. In truth, I'm a great fan of multi-units, assuming they're affordable and well-maintained (a marriage this city hasn't always been successful in fostering. Affordable housing, for a good long time, was also divested housing. The flip-side was condo conversion--where deteriorated buildings got fancy makeovers with stainless-steel appliances and craptastic Home Depot doors. After a hefty price hike for quick re-sale, developers' pockets were filled to bursting. Their chortles were heard round the city).

The truth of it is this: for every absentee landlord and Section 8 disaster (which is not to say that all Section-8 buildings are disasters, just that the Section 8 program--relying on private property owners as it does--has its frailties) is a functional and affordable complex, run by dedicated nonprofits offering amenities like community gardens and bike-repair classes. For every three-flat overrun by drug dealers is a mission-driven co-op, like the one just down the block from us named for Emma Goldman. And for every broken-windowed building with unreliable heat is a well-managed rental property, providing options for those without the means or desire to own.

I actually find the slowing market to be a friend to rental property. Developers aren't so keen to jump in the conversion waters anymore, and condos are sitting on the market for much longer than they used to. As recently as a year ago, rental units on the north side were so depleted you had to get on a waiting list as a tenant, and after that you better have a good credit rating and references or you didn't have a prayer. One hopes the downturn might have the unexpected fortune of reversing this trend. Gentrification needs its checks and balances, and multi-units seem to be the bellwethers of where the process stands.

1 comment:

leslie said...

I agree with you that, unless one loses her/his job, this economic downturn can be beneficial. Most of us are living too large as it is; a downturn will make the rapid & unchecked monster of Progress slow enough to perhaps allow some consideration to back it.

As one who enjoys speaking in blacks & whites, I applaud how you've checked yourself on this one, too!