Here we have yet another one of Brad's good ideas and Sheila trying to make it her own by adding something stupid to it. Like many of Sheila's ideas it would be super-d- duper if there was a fantasy world where it might work, but on this earth they are going to work.
Here is the lowdown. Brad figured out that Carbondale needed more houses built and he figured out the reason they weren't being built was it cost more to build in Carbondale then just outside of town. Brad came up with a cheap tax break to help cover the cost difference. I think the numbers are there have been more houses built in Carbondale in the last 4 years then in the previous 20. This is a home run success for Brad and his simple and smart ways to improve Carbondale.
Sheila's stupid add-on to Brad's successful plan is to make the incentive apply to rental housing in Carbondale. I guess there might be someone out there who is willing to convert rental housing to single family, but let's run over how it might work. As I have written in this blog before, the houses in Carbondale are small, have very few garage spaces and are old.
In the 1990 US Census, Carbondale has the smallest houses, with the fewest garage spaces of any small city in the USA. It turns out our small houses, that are a little trashed, are worth a whole lot more as rentals in Carbondale. A guess would be that converting the rentals on Cherry Street from R-4 to R-1 would lower their value by 50%. In other areas it would be more.
As you know, the average house being built in Southern Illinois is around twice the square footage of the average rental house in Carbondale. The normal house being built has a 2 car garage. Bottom line, families don't want to live in a house that is 1,200 or 1,500 square feet with no garage space. A big house with a garage is the current American dream.
To fix up a house that has been rented for many years requires a massive fixup and resurfacing. New carpet, new floors, new kitchen cabinets, new paint, new roof, new gutters, replacement windows. I bought, fixed up and sold a house around the corner from my house last year, spent well over $50k on it (we wanted to use the house for a while, but also we wanted to make it nice enough so it wouldn't become a rental). For many of the rental houses in Carbondale, you are looking at more then $50k to make them right.
There is a market for these old and worn houses as student rentals. There is a large contingent of students who want to live in a house and howl at the moon. They pay their damage deposit and beat it up. Part of owning these houses is fixing them up every summer.
It turns out that capitalism is taking care of many of the problem houses. When they get to a really bad state, someone buys the bunch of them and puts up student apartments. We saw this around the old Lincoln Junior High building and Home Rentals is doing the same on College Street in the form of those lovely, formerly blue barracks. That you don't like the way it looks or the building owners really doesn't matter, when there isn't enough housing for students, someone will build it without the City of Carbondale needing to give them money.
Who are those nice folks on Cherry Street that are buying houses and fixing them up and renting them out? Jane Adams and D. Gordon (sp?) isn't it? I wonder if they are going to convert their houses to R-1 and kill the resale value? They don't need the city to do it, they can just write it into the contracts. That would be a real service to the city wouldn't it? Have to think about that one.
In a Senator's daughter view of the world, I guess spending government money on everything makes sense. On the Earth the rest of us live in, Carbondale doesn't need to do anything about rental housing. The capitalist market is doing fine without them in this area.