At the recent Department of Community Affairs/University of Georgia housing retreat, held in Griffin, GA during February, 2010, the local Thomson/McDuffie Georgia Initiative for Community Housing team developed a multi-activity work plan for the balance of this year -- a plan designed to begin work on a long-term strategy concerning improvement of local community housing on several fronts.
The work includes a publicity component designed to educate and engage the general public and a survey of area housing to take inventory of current housing stock and its conditions, costs, etc. The plan also includes investigation of the steps involved in forming a Land Bank Authority, a tool designed to help put abandoned and tax delinquent properties back on the tax rolls.
Finally the plan includes stepping up code enforcement for ALL properties in general, but in particular, in targeted neighborhoods where rehab efforts are already underway. In Thomson this would include the Strawberry Hill area, east of Harrison Road between Norris Elementary and Whiteoak Road. Also included is the neighborhood normally called 'Pitt Street', but it's larger than that, bounded by Pitt Street north, down to Forest Clary Drive south, and Jackson Street, west, over to Salem Road, east.
The idea here is to improve the marketability and livability characteristics of neighborhoods where we are already spending hundreds of thousands of grant dollars (with local match) to rehab houses and improve infrastructure such as sanitary sewer as well as effective storm water management. Taking that idea one step further, it makes no sense to target neighborhoods for improvement if the effort makes the neighborhood no more attractive to potential homebuyers and families who are looking for clean attractive safe neighborhoods in which to live and raise their families.
Over the coming months, expect to see more public information about the need for effective, consistent code enforcement throughout the City and County. The GICH Housing Team is researching ordinances and laws in other communities that deal with chronic, derelict houses and abandoned parcels, as well as how to deal with places where drug and/or gang activity are suspected/confirmed. We are also working in three areas -- Pinehills, MLK, and Strawberry Hills -- with Neighborhood Associations formed for the sole purpose of improving these areas collaboratively.
As the Housing Team develops strategy and implementation plans for improving neighborhoods and housing stock, please look in the local newspapers for informational articles and feel free to offer suggestions to any of the team members. They will soon be listed on the City-County website.
Thomson and McDuffie County has a long history of being an exceptional place to live and raise a family. We all should be anxious and energetic about doing what is necessary for that history to continue.