Councilmember Justin Outling said to me last week that I couldn’t possibly be against the concept of the proposed “Good Repair” ordinance for nonresidential buildings.
But I am.
I have at numerous times in my life rented office space that would not pass the Durham good repair ordinance standards and the city staff was instructed to model the Greensboro good repair ordinance on the ones in Durham and Charlotte, so I’m assuming they will.
The offices I rented had problems such as peeling paint, crumbling plaster and loose tiles. Sometimes the roofs leaked but only when it rained. The plumbing was usually not up to the standards of the Durham good repair ordinance. They also often had cracks in the floor, holes in the ceiling tiles and one space had a carpet that I believe was purchased when Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, but it could have been during the Truman administration.
One office I rented was in a building where the elevator would not stop on my floor on the way up. I usually walked up but some days I rode up to the next floor and then rode down to mine. Perhaps the building should have been condemned for having an improperly functioning elevator, but the rent was right so the people on my floor put up with the inconvenience.
I rented the spaces gladly fully knowing what I was getting for my rent. I rented what Outling and others consider a blight on the city, because that’s all I could afford. If the owners had been forced to fix all the problems in the buildings the increased rent would have priced me right out of the market.
I was going to give a theoretical example of an entrepreneur, but here’s a real one. Double Hung, LLC which does window repair and restoration, now employs 35 people and has had jobs all over the Eastern US. Double Hung moved from founder, David Hoggard’s garage to a space that wouldn’t come close to complying with any good repair ordinance I’ve seen. I know because I was one of the building’s owners who rented Double Hung space in the basement.
For example, there was a working sink and toilet but they were sitting out in the open and of course there was no hot water. Crumbling is too kind a word for some of the plaster walls which had become wet when the basement flooded which it did on occasion. What was left was removed with a shovel. We were never sure what the ceiling in one room looked like because there wasn’t enough left to tell. Cracks, holes, peeling paint the basement had it all.
But Hoggard rented it, knowing exactly what he was getting.
Hoggard said, “At the time it was all we could afford and it was the right space for us.”
Double Hung prospered and only moved out when the business had expanded into every available corner of the basement and still needed more room. Hoggard also left the basement far better than he found it, making many improvements along the way including enclosing, more or less, the bathroom area.
I happened to be at Double Hung on Patton Avenue a few months ago and it has nice offices and a great work area. I imagine the building would easily comply with any “Good Repair” ordinance the City Council chooses to pass. But if Hoggard had started out in that building or one in a similar state of repair, he would have almost certainly gone broke trying to pay the rent.
Hoggard is a true entrepreneur he took an idea, that it was better to restore old windows than to replace them, and turned it into a thriving business. But it didn’t happen overnight and enough money to rent class A space was not available when he started out.
The City Council claims to support entrepreneurs, but doesn’t seem to understand that entrepreneurial space is not class A office space, or class B, in some cases it may be class F.
If Greensboro is going to fine owners for cracked plaster and peeling paint, then the city is going to force entrepreneurs to go somewhere they can rent space they can afford.
As long as the tenants know what they are getting for their rent, why is it any business of the city how that space looks and much of the good repair ordinances the city is modeling its proposed ordinance after is about appearance. As long as the building is structurally sound and isn’t a fire hazard, what difference does it make if the roof leaks a little or if the plaster walls are not pristine.
The ordinance will be anti-small business, anti-entrepreneur and anti-private property owner and the current City Council loves the idea.