It appears the push for the passage of the proposed Greensboro $126 million bond referendum has started.
But hasn’t started with the usual campaign signs, balloons and brochures. It has started with a series of articles in the News & Record about the Summit Executive Center apartments. The N&R rarely sees a bond it doesn’t like. If it involves raising taxes and taking more money from the people and giving it to the government to spend, the N&R is in favor of it.
Admittedly, it is odd to start a campaign with a series of articles about a dilapidated apartment building at the corner of Summit Avenue and Sullivan Street.
As David Wharton, who lives in the Aycock Historic Neighborhood, told the City Council, that building has been a problem for 20 years. He also noted that a neighborhood improvement plan that the neighborhood and the city developed 10 years ago included doing something about this long-time eyesore.
And suddenly, this long-time eyesore is front and center in the N&R, which prompted the city to do something about it. It is the city’s job every day to do something about housing that doesn’t meet the minimum housing code and not to wait for the N&R to put it on the front page. It shouldn’t have been news to the city that these apartments were dilapidated.
The whole point of this exercise, unfortunately for the Aycock neighborhood, which deserves some relief, and for the people who currently live in the apartments, appears to be all about demonstrating that the city doesn’t have sufficient low-income housing.
And if there was any doubt about the purpose of the exercise, Brett Byerly, executive director of the Greensboro Housing Coalition, spoke to the City Council Tuesday, Sept. 6 about the awful condition of the apartments and the problems he was having finding alternative places for people now in those apartments to live because there is a lack of low-income housing in Greensboro.
The apartments are by all accounts in terrible shape, with broken light fixtures, stopped up plumbing, broken windows, leaks and the like. But the problem that seems to get the most attention is bedbugs.
The maintenance contractor for the apartments when speaking to the council agreed the apartments were in bad shape, but said that the bedbugs came from one tenant and the only apartments infested with bedbugs were the ones he visited.
Some city councilmembers suggested the building be condemned because of the bedbug infestation, but Harris and City Attorney Tom Carruthers agreed that was not possible under the current law.
Councilmember Jamal Fox suggested the law be changed.
The city has started the process to get the apartments repaired to meet the minimum housing code, or demolished. It starts with a public hearing on Sept. 22, and then the property owner has 30 days to make the repairs or make substantial progress on the repairs.
Assistant City Manager Barbara Harris told the City Council that if the property owner didn’t make the repairs, the city would make them, and if the property owner didn’t pay the city, then a lien would be taken out against the property for the cost of the repairs. She said that the violations the inspectors found didn’t appear to rise to the level where demolition would be an option.
The $126 million bond referendum on the Nov. 8 ballot started out as a housing bond, and everything else was added in as city councilmembers saw a chance to get money for their pet projects.
So the city, it appears, is starting the bond campaign where it started the bond discussion, with bonds for more low-income housing for the city. It will be interesting to see if the N&R follows up with articles about the terrible shape of downtown Greensboro, which is slated to get $25 million of the community and economic development bond money. Articles about the condition of the parks and the need for $34.5 million in bond money and articles about potholes to encourage people to vote for the $28 million in street repair bonds should follow