Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Sheila's plan to convert rental units of owner occupied housing?

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.


Anonymous said...

As one who has coverted a "college house" back to owner occupied on West Monroe my value is 75% higher than is was as a rental. My house is also over 2000 square feet as are most houses on my street. There are many people who want to live in old houses and central Carbondale is far better off with a restored old neighborhood than a ghetto. This is a great incentive that has been applied all across the U.S. with great success. 30 years of rental in this neighborhood has done nothing but allow the degradation of property and to promote Carbondale as a bad and unsafe place to live. Had we not allowed for such drastic rezoning in the 70's the central neighborhoods would have not deteriated as fast if at all and the tax base would not have necessarily fleed to other towns or rural areas thus preserving the school system and perception of Carbondale as a viable place to live. The arbor district is seeing both an increase in owner occupied property as well as vacant rental houses. As students continue their migration to the southeast side, the arbor district and other older high rental neighborhoods are vulnerable to becoming low rent districts with high crime and other negative issues as we all know. Without some type of incentive for the landlords to sell and for people to buy it is unlikely that there are enough people like me willing to take a chance in these neighborhoods to make them viable assets to the community rather than another tax drain. I applaud Simon for attempting to do something in this area, though, I would like to see a more thorough plan with funding sources. Cole did mention this issue in his state of the city address and look forward to his plan in this area. The old neighborhoods are worth preserving and investing in and can be part of both an improved Carbondale as well as S.I.U., as these rundown college neighborhoods could partly be responsible for the university's poor image.

Peter in Carbondale said...

I read things like this that seem so logical and then realize that we disagree on at least one fundamental point, I believe that people who own property should have control over that property. You seem to think that the home owners should give up their zoning status. I assume you were against the CVS project, but for rezoning rental houses? Can you have it both ways?

You are plain incorrect about "rezoning in the 70's". The key date in Carbondale is 1974, before that there was no zoning. The zoning hit and left people with the status they held at that moment (for the most part). Things haven't really changed, except for the breaking of the northwest area by the slum lords in the last 20 years or so. Of course, Glen Poshard plans to build apartments on Oakland and that will destroy the Southwest as a residential area, but that is a different thread.

Since we are at the end of a historic run of housing prices in the USA, I'm not sure what to make of your claim of a 75% increase in property value. I'm going to assume that you are somewhere between correct, hopeful and full of crap.

SIU's poor image is because of the poor results and standards of instruction and work habits, basically their results and not the quality of housing stock or parties. Goodness that was a far jump, you should think about things before writing stuff like that.

Not to worry, if your vision of what people want is correct, then the market forces will just make it happen. If you can get a 50% premium by converting rentals into homes, it will happen almost immediately. If there isn't value to your ideas then it will not happen, no matter if the city kicks in $2000 or not.

I think it would be nice to have a downtown in Carbondale that was truly functional. Walk down and do things, sounds very appealing. As a matter of fact, I think the city government should do more to promote the downtown and help it thrive. Don't you?

Anonymous said...

I think that Peter hit in on the head, but the problem isn't that we have a bunch of industrial property around the University that is decaying, if we had that private business and the University could work together to convert industrial space into lofts. The problem is that we have decaying houses already owned by a slumlord. Now we need to set up incentives to quit having that slumlord having such slum properties. I think Brad has already done that and I don't know if Shelia's proposal does that.

As far as the University goes, they could improve their housing too. The Towers need renovation as well... I think they should stay up, but I'd be all in favor of doing a Wall-Grand setup in the towers. Convert Neely into lofts... and make better use of existing structures before building any more new ones.

As far as SIU and standards go, I think someone needs to say this...

Access and affordability != letting unprepared, lazy, or stupid people into the University. Should we be diverse and be accessible to poor and middle class students? Yes. Does that mean we should lower our admission standards? No.

That's been a problem of this place since Morris. Wendler got too much heat for raising standards, but what he could have done is shut Bryson's unit down. We'd get an instant boost in our US News report and when we boot ill prepared students, our intellectual culture would improve drastically. Yes, he mismanaged finances and was a marketing/PR embarrassment, but that's another topic, a horse that has been throughly beaten to death.

Peter in Carbondale said...

Thanks for the support. I'm going to assume that "I think that Peter hit in on the head" was a little typo and that you think I hit it on the head and not that I need to be hit on the head. :)

I disagree that SIU needs to "raise admission standards". SIU has always had liberal admission standards, really open admission. For open admission to work, you need to have instructional standards too. At the moment SIU's management is pressuring the teachers to pass students who don't know the material. This is leading to sub-par graduates. It can't go on. If you raise admission standards, then the teachers don't need to be as worried and can give a curtsy B to everyone and they will still be fairly good graduates. As usual, SIU goes for the easiest path and that is often the wrong one.

Anonymous said...

A lot of highly ranked schools give curtsy B's... that's the essence of grade inflation. You are right on your point that you need high standards to make grade inflation work.

However, if you have students who are unprepared to meet high standards, then why waste their money right out of high school when they bomb out? I'd rather see those people go to a community college where they can enhance their potential to meet those high standards, then let them in.

Henceforth, that's where we need to rebuild our relationships with community colleges. I think open admissions out of the community college system could work, but not right out of high school

Peter in Carbondale said...

As bad as SIU is about giving away grades to losers, it is clear that the junior colleges have even lower standards. Say it again the junior colleges have lower standards then SIU! You can get a good education at either one, but most junior colleges are babysitting. Using the junior colleges to filter students is like using the toilet to wash food.

How hard is it? Just give students the grades they deserve. Stop giving F students B's. Make sure you don't give a degree to people who know nothing. If there are no standards at SIU, just admit that a diploma can be purchased for the right amount of money. I realize that SIU has been hiring and managing for professors without backbones for many years, but giving away grades is a disgrace.

I have to reject the suggestion that everyone who is admitted to SIU should get a degree with a minimum of a B average. You realize that the students are real universities are working a lot hard then SIU students and have a bigger potential too.

Anonymous said...

Without the students of this university there will be no thriving economy. Without good housing students will not come here.

Peter in Carbondale said...

The market is putting in nice apartments about as fast as a small town can build them. Don't worry, housing in Carbondale is the least of SIU's problems.