City targets substandard housing

Published 6:41 pm Friday, September 16, 2016

Washington is stepping up its efforts when it comes to addressing substandard housing in the city.

During its meeting earlier this week, the City Council reviewed a list of 103 substandard houses in the city, of which 16 are labeled as top priorities. Of those 16 substandard structures, there are 10 the city wants to address by the end of the year, according to a memorandum from John Rodman, the city’s director of community and cultural resources, to the mayor and council members. Several houses on the list have been demolished.

The list was developed by the city’s planning and building inspections personnel, with assistance from the Washington Police Department, which identified structures that have a history of being used for illegal activities.

In recent years, the city has become more aggressive in dealing with structures that do not meet the minimum housing code and/or building codes.

After the owner of a structure had been given a reasonable opportunity to bring the building into compliance with the city’s minimum housing standards and the state’s building code, the city can proceed with demolishing the structure, according to city officials. If city money is used to pay for demolishing the building, a lien likely will be placed against the land. The lien will have to be satisfied if and when the property is sold. Some owners paid for the demolition of their houses.

“The reason we brought this up is there’s been some concern, at least on my part. I’d like to have clean city. When you have individuals, a lot of them are absentee owners, who don’t live in Washington or Beaufort County — they live elsewhere — they have a tendency, because of maybe for personal reasons they don’t have the financial capabilities to take care of the houses,” City Manager Bobby Roberson said. “Basically, the minimum housing code specifies that (taking care of houses). Even though the house is vacant, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not substandard. … I think the process is to identify those houses so it’s an ongoing process for the City Council not only for this year but every year.”

Roberson said demolishing substandard houses, which for whatever reason are not improved and brought up to code, requires the council to allocate money for that effort. Mayor Mac Hodges said some houses on the list, including two in the Macswoods subdivision, may be candidates for rehabilitation rather than demolition, and he believes the city should consider that option.

Of the 16 houses on the priority list, all require major repairs and have no utility services such as water, sewer and power. The 16 houses are vacant.

Seven houses on the overall list are located in the city’s historic district. Thirteen of the 103 houses have been repaired or are being repaired.



About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

email author More by Mike