Efficiently Stabilizing Neighborhoods

July 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

Sometimes, stabilizing a neighborhood can be as simple as consolidating adjacent properties. This strategy utilizes land more efficiently, which can enhance common space and greatly improve the quality of the community, and is illustrated by the Long Beach Housing Development Company‘s recent acquisition of three apartment buildings in central Long Beach.

Located on a troubled street, many of the apartment buildings in this area were built in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, and responded to a growing senior community. Now, however, the demographics have shifted to include families with young children, and many are living in poverty. Thus, buildings that were originally composed of small, one-bedroom apartments must now accommodate the needs of a growing community in need of larger units. This phenomenon has resulted in illegal conversions of garages into units and dining rooms into bedrooms, as well as gardens being covered in asphalt to accommodate an abundance of automobiles. The living conditions in these units are obviously substandard, but we aim to change that.

One aspect of the renovation has been to convert the many small units into fewer three- and four-bedroom apartments. Adjacent 50-foot-wide lots have also been combined, which has allowed for more efficient parking as well as quality open space. These renovations will have a positive impact on the block’s physical character, which the city plans to augment with streetscape enhancements and façade improvements for other multi-family properties nearby. These integrated efforts may actually encourange residents to stay awhile, as well as put pressure on surrounding property owners to improve their own buildings in order to “keep up with the Jones’”.

Reimagining existing buildings can sometimes allow them to better reach their fullest potential; even simpler improvements like landscaping and new paint can make a significant difference. With the help of a caring owner and an inventive architect, these properties can provide something more than bare shelter – they can be given a new life through redesign. Large or small, such renovations can provide cost-effective affordable housing while helping to revitalize communities that are often ignored. Continuing the trend of “from distress to success” can lead to long-term investments in affordable housing while, at the same time, working toward stabilizing the communities that are most in need.

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