Eminent domain and receivership to "cure" habitual nuisances
One of the people that Suzanne works with doesn't live that far from us--about one mile away, but south, much closer to Kennedy Street--which is one of the problem streets in our greater neighborhood, so the quality of life for her family is much different, because they have nuisance properties on the block (one vacant, in another the resident is engaged in prostitution, but she goes over to the vacant house, etc.), nuisance neighbors, and terrible luck--the most recent being a stolen car ran into their sidewall (they live at the end of a block of rowhouses, abutting an alley) doing significant damage to the masonry.
The stories remind me of how f*ing hard it used to be to live north of H Street NE back in the day--the burglaries, muggings, assaults (the car we rented for our honeymoon was stolen), etc. that I experienced, the crime in general, the murders and drug sales in the area, etc. I stuck it out but my ex-wife didn't and frankly, it takes way too much energy to have to deal with it. I don't have the energy to live in such conditions now.
It also reminds me of the critical mass of "revitalizers" being necessary to turn around problem areas. See "Revitalization in stages."
Receivership statutes. In talking over the latest b.s. that Suzanne's colleague is dealing with, I mentioned receivership as a needed option in DC--because it takes years and years and years to force changes with recalcitrant property owners and how I used to testify a lot recommending that the city enact receivership statutes to facilitate this ("Receivership for housing," ""Why I hate DC" or the appropriate tactical strategy to apply to nuisance properties/ disinvestment is investment, not demolition," and "Pennsylvania passes receivership law with regard to vacant/nuisance properties") comparable to the State of Ohio.
Instead, DC's property abatement laws and regulations are incredibly complicated and put too much responsibility on the city government to act, when typically government agencies aren't supple enough and have a limited number of tools to work with when it comes to individual properties.
As a kind of example, see the article in the Post ("Old home's restoration helps to restore pride in Anacostia") about how the L'Enfant Trust is rehabilitating a property in Anacostia that has been vacant for many years. That's the kind of action I anticipate if we had the right receivership statutes and procedures in place.
The shotgun-style house at 1229 E St. SE is seen in the Capitol Hill Historic District. (Ileana Najarro/The Washington Post)
Eminent domain. But earlier this evening we we had been talking about the shotgun house debacle in Capitol Hill ("Pre-Civil War shotgun house in the hands of D.C. preservation board," Washington Post) which has been going on for more than one decade ten years (this City Paper article is from 2002, "Dwelling in the Past: Larry Quillian wants to raze his shotgun shack") ... and I said, the city should have taken the property by eminent domain years ago.
Sure the city would have had to pay for the property, but if they would have exercised that sort of power even just a few times against particularly egregious property owners, word would get around, and negligent property owners would start cleaning up their act, knowing that a property seizure was in the realm of possibility.
(Not unlike how the DC Department of Housing and Community Development seized the Park Southern Apartments, because of financial improprieties mostly, but also poor management. Although that was by receivership, not eminent domain. See "D.C. housing complex’s decline raises questions about management, politics" from the Washington Post.)
Note that at the National Trust for Historic Preservation national meeting in Portland, Oregon in 2005, eminent domain was suggested as an option, in one of the sessions I attended. With regard to checks and balances on eminent domain, see "Making eminent domain fair to alL" from the Boston Globe (2005).