Janesville84.1°

Central city needs housing fix

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
February 5, 2008
— Residents of the central city neighborhoods believe they and the police have some of the past drug problems there under control.

Now, the challenge is housing.


The city has hired a Madison consultant to write a Neighborhood Revitalization Plan to help efforts move forward. A city employee, Kelly Lee, has been appointed neighborhood liaison.


City Manager Steve Sheiffer has declared this year the year of the downtown, and 2009 the year of the downtown neighborhoods, Lee said.


A public meeting on Thursday will kick off the effort. The plan, which should be ready in about six months, will provide recommendations on redevelopment, rehabilitation and neighborhood stabilization, including public investment and private incentives.


The goal is to increase owner-occupied homes and raze housing that cannot be saved, said Margaret Delaney, a longtime Look West activist.


“People have to have pride in their properties,” she said. “That’s what’s lacking in some of our landlords.”


The Fourth Ward and Look West neighborhood groups have merged because similar dynamics are at play in both areas.


“The housing problems are the same, the drug problems are the same, the landlord problems are the same,” Delaney said. High numbers of rental properties contribute to density because single-family homes have been converted to multiple units.


Look West has about 350 homes and the Fourth Ward, 1,000 homes.


Staff has researched efforts in other cities, including Beloit, where housing is being rehabilitated or torn down with the goal of increasing owner-occupied homes, Lee said.


Delaney said her group has been moving toward that all along.


“We just didn’t know where to go from here,” she said. “The city has stepped up to help us.”


Residents believe they’ve successfully addressed the drug problem with excellent assistance from the police department, Delaney said.


You’ll always find drug houses throughout the city, Delaney said. But “it’s not so concentrated as it was before in our neighborhoods.”


For instance, neighbors noticed a drug house on Jackson Street this fall. Within two weeks, it was taken care of by police.


“We’ve gotten good tools from the police department,” Delaney said. “Now, we’re looking for good tools from the city to address these housing issues.”


That likely will include money and possibly some new ordinances, Delaney said.


She said the city is moving from a reactive stance to a proactive stance in dealing with the central city neighborhoods.


“We’re so excited, so thankful that someone is interested and paying attention,” Delaney said.


If you go

A public meeting to kick off the Central City Neighborhood Revitalization Plan is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in City Hall, 18 N. Jackson St. Goals and desired outcomes will be discussed. Those attending might be asked to participate in a brainstorming session geared toward neighborhood issues. A steering committee has been formed and is made up of residents and representatives of Community Action and Mercy Hospital. For more information, call Kelly Lee at (608) 755-3052.



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