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Woodstock talks incentives for housing repairs

‘Downzoning’ on table for distressed housing

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014 9:52 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014 11:56 p.m. CDT

WOODSTOCK – The city wants to create incentives for the repair of eyesore properties, and hasn’t ruled out a more extreme measure that would force multifamily dwellings into single-family houses.

The sentiments were shared by City Council members at Tuesday night’s meeting during a discussion on distressed housing.

The issue – originally brought up this summer by Councilman Mike Turner at a council retreat – stems from complaints from residents about single houses that have fallen into disrepair among neighborhoods of well-maintained homes.

Such houses tend to be multifamily dwellings, as their owners sometimes face economic challenges or view the properties simply as moneymakers.

Turner said Tuesday he’d like to see the city incentivize repairs as a part of a “proactive” approach to the issue. He brought up a neighborhood in town where a bank-owned, $60,000 multifamily dwelling sits among rows of higher level single-family homes.

“Whether it’s a city program that says, ‘You know what, you take that $60,000 house, convert it to single-family housing, put $60,000 into it. ... We have a program where we give you $10,000 or $20,000 when it’s completely done,” Turner said.

He also suggested the city could waive part or all of building permit fees if the property were knocked down and rebuilt.

Councilman Mike Saladin said he’d like to see the city pursue grants and neighborhood partnerships to further assist and encourage property maintenance.

The council also didn’t rule out a process called “downzoning,” which would allow the city to force owners of multifamily dwellings to change their houses to single-family during a to-be-determined “amortization” period. But the city would likely have to compensate such homeowners, and could face legal battles.

“I think it’s something that we have to look at,” Saladin said. “I think we need staff to give us a better idea of – is it isolated? One house here and one house there? Is it a block? I don’t know all of those areas.”

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