One bad apple

Those of us who take good care of our houses and yards know that a single run­down prop­erty on an oth­er­wise tidy street can turn a neigh­bor­hood up­side down with worry in no time at all.

That’s be­cause an er­rant prop­erty can quickly be­come a haven for drug deal­ers, a home for un­der­age drink­ers, a hub for van­dals on the prowl for de­struc­tion. 

People who live near such a prop­erty usu­ally talk to each oth­er, trade in­form­a­tion and gain sup­port for the view that the so­cial con­tract of the neigh­bor­hood  — you mow your lawn and I’ll mow mine — has been severed.

Of­ten they seek help by reach­ing out to their civic as­so­ci­ations, con­tact­ing their city coun­cil­men, com­plain­ing to po­lice and city agen­cies. Then, they wait for ac­tion. 

Our cov­er story this week is an ex­ample of what can hap­pen in even a very nice neigh­bor­hood when a va­cant house be­comes a mag­net for may­hem.

Neigh­bors told us of im­promptu parties in the back­yard pool after fun-seekers tossed a little chlor­ine in the wa­ter and jumped right in. They said tres­pass­ers partied in­side the house, tossed ce­ment in the plumb­ing, punched out walls. Thieves walked away with the home’s cop­per plumb­ing.

For the last three to five years, neigh­bors had to live with the peace of their neigh­bor­hood shattered and their fears that someone would get hurt on the va­cant prop­erty. Nev­er mind their very real con­cerns that one bad apple can spoil their own home’s value.

The house in Nor­mandy star­ted off as a neigh­bor­hood nuis­ance and soon gradu­ated to an eye­sore. A fire in Janu­ary left the struc­ture such a safety haz­ard that the city plans to tear down what’s left, if the own­er doesn’t do it him­self. That’s the good news.

But we have to ask why the good people liv­ing around Nor­mandy Road, and count­less oth­er res­id­ents around the city fa­cing sim­il­ar is­sues in their own neigh­bor­hoods, have to wait for years to get these prob­lems re­solved. 

Why doesn’t com­mon sense trump leg­al wrangling when it comes to va­cant prop­er­ties?

We urge the city to cre­ate a fast-track solu­tion for nuis­ance prop­er­ties. A neigh­bor­hood pe­ti­tion could set things in mo­tion. From there, the loc­al civic as­so­ci­ation could re­view the com­plaint and for­ward it to a city agency to say “Fix it up or we’ll tear it down.”  

A va­cant prop­erty own­er is more likely to show a little con­cern for the neigh­bors when he or she sees a wreck­ing ball parked not far from the front door. •• 

You can reach at

comments powered by Disqus