the visible hand

it is the theory which decides what can be observed – einstein

codes, damned codes

Posted by ecoshift on March 10, 2008

After reading The Journal’s recent cover story “Codes, Damned Codes” on the county’s heavy handed code enforcement activities in McKinleyville I wondered if there could possibly be a more confrontational way to go about “protecting” renters and future home owners from sub standard building and land use practices. I imagined that some would view the effort as protecting property values for the neighborhood and therefore at least somewhat justified. And of course more than a few people will feel that, jeez, look at all the damn hassles they had to go through to be in compliance with county regs, why should Joe Blow get pass on all the mind numbing paperwork, expensive and arcane compliance requirements and wallet busting fees?

Then I read the piece posted below from the Washington Post where code enforcement actions had an unexpected outcome in Virginia. Now I’m wondering: How many family incomes does it take to buy property these days? And, with real estate prices dropping precipitously only a couple of counties away, what is keeping Humboldt real estate prices from following suit? And, finally are there alternatives to punitive culture based code enforcement practices? Perhaps we should review our options before we have our own unanticipated outcomes. Any property rights advocates out there?


Some Once-Crowded Homes Now Stand Vacant – washingtonpost.com
In Springfield and Herndon, Crackdown on Multiple Occupancies Collides With a Less-Forgiving Economy
By Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 9, 2008; Page C05

The four-bedroom, 1950s rambler on Hanover Avenue in Springfield was an illegal boardinghouse, neighbors complained in February 2007. Some called it the “Hanover Hotel,” a home with too many people, too much noise and a lot of cars.

County inspectors, under pressure from residents and elected officials to deal with a growing number of cases of residential overcrowding, found that the basement had been improperly divided into four rooms and that the house was set up for as many as 15 occupants.

They cited the owner, Elsa DeLeon, for a series of code violations and ordered her to bring the property into compliance. DeLeon, a Honduran immigrant, told The Washington Post at the time that only eight people lived there, all family members who were needed to help make the mortgage on the house she bought for $550,000 in 2006.

By May, it was in foreclosure, sold to Deutsche Bank National Trust of Kansas City for $120,600, according to county records. The house has been vacant for months; DeLeon could not be located to comment. It will go up for auction today, along with hundreds of other foreclosed properties areawide, at the Washington Convention Center. The starting price is $169,000 — less than half the value of surrounding homes.

This situation is not what Fairfax County officials had in mind when they started cracking down on overcrowding. The goal was to restore stability in older neighborhoods where homes had been rented to immigrant laborers or purchased by extended immigrant families that pooled their resources in a region of premium housing prices.

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