Housing Goal 2
Residential structures will be maintained in a manner that promotes the aesthetic appeal of neighborhoods, supports property values and ensures the safety of residents.
2.1 Adopt a Residential Property Maintenance Code
STRATEGY: Adopt and enforce a strong residential property maintenance code that requires the maintenance of residential structures and their surroundings in a safe, sanitary an aesthetically compatible manner. Such an ordinance should ensure that sufficient remedies and penalties are in place to encourage the voluntary compliance with notices of violation, while leaving the Town with broad authority to abate health and safety issues if voluntary compliance is not achieved.
JUSTIFICATION: The failure of a single residential property owner to adequately maintain their dwelling can have an outsized effect on an entire neighborhood. Blight tends to breed blight as apathy about the appearance of homes grows, which in turn can lead to declining property values and negative impacts on the quality of life in a neighborhood. Ensuring that the town has the ability to assert itself and bring blighted residential properties up to the standards of the town will help to maintain property values, give residents confidence in the strength of their investments and support the quality of life in neighborhoods.
2.2 Develop a Homeowner Assistance Program
STRATEGY: Work with community organizations to develop homeowner assistance programs to provide volunteer assistance to lower income homeowners to maintain and repair their residences.
JUSTIFICATION: Adopting and enforcing ordinances aimed at requiring the maintenance of residential properties is often not enough to ensure that a town’s housing stock will be well maintained. Lower income homeowners, in particular, often have difficulty providing for the routine care and maintenance of their properties. By working with community groups, such as churches, civic clubs and similar organizations, the town could leverage the resources of volunteers to meet the needs of lower income residents and prevent routine maintenance issues from growing into issues that could lead to a home becoming unfit for habitation.
2.3 Provide Technical Assistance to Owners of historic properties
STRATEGY: Explore options for providing free technical assistance to owners of historic residences that are interested in improving or restoring their properties.
JUSTIFICATION: Homeowners who would like to improve their historic properties can be at a disadvantage as they navigate the approval process to get permission from the town to make changes to their homes. Developing a program whereby local architects and others that are familiar with historic design requirements are available to assist homeowners with minor issues, such as window and door replacements, roofs, shutters and similar exterior features, can help to create a more efficient approval process, and potentially lead to the renovation or rehabilitation of more historic homes. This type of program could also provide more extensive assistance to property owners that have major exterior rehabilitation projects, if resources are available.
2.4 Revitalize Substandard Housing
STRATEGY: Prepare an inventory of substandard housing in the community, with a particular focus on unsafe structures. Utilize the inventory to prioritize the rehabilitation of historic residences and the demolition of non-historic residences that are financially impractical to restore based on their state of deterioration.
JUSTIFICATION:With an inventory in place, the town could seek funds through the Community Development Block Grant program or similar state and federal programs to repair or demolish substandard residential dwellings. Repairing or removing substandard structures will help to stabilize neighborhoods and remove potentially blighting influences from the community.
2.5 Financial Incentives for Rehabilitating substandard historic homes
STRATEGY: Consider options for implementing a financial incentive program directed toward homeowners to encourage the restoration of substandard historic residences.
JUSTIFICATION: Renovation and restoration costs for historic properties can be financially restrictive for property owners. While tax credits are available for income producing properties, such incentives are not available for owner occupied dwellings. Establishing a matching grant program, providing local tax incentives or a similar financial benefit, could help to bridge the financial gap for property owners who might not otherwise be financially capable of undertaking restoration projects.