Oh where was I? Oh, I had my inner Libertarian all out. Well before I stuff her back into the basement there are a few other issues relating to property rights and restrictions on personal freedoms of expression.
There are rules the city imposes on all property owners, such as zoning restrictions, building codes, restrictions on farm or other animals, and such that most homebuyers know about before they purchase. If they have issue with those rules and regulations then they need to seek housing elsewhere. If they, like myself, bought in an area, where certain onerous restrictions do not apply to property, and how I currently use that property, then it is alarming when one suggests imposing rules and restrictions that I (and possibly others) took such pains to avoid. Being able to put my stamp on my property and express myself through home repair, by what exterior doors, windows, paint colors, additions, etc I put on the house, is a property right I currently enjoy. I bristle at the thought that someone wants to take it away, especially without just compensation. I don’t get any free money by simply being in an historic district. Oh, and before you mention tax credits read the New York Time’s Tax Breaks on Historic Houses Face Restrictions by Josh Barbanel (December 26, 2004) I’ll talk about that Friday.
A subject I have been touching and dancing around has been maintenance, one of the biggest problems with living in an historic district. Usually maintenance issues are poo-pooed by those with OHJ values towards people with TOH or Better Homes & Gardens/ Metropolitan Home values. And the most touchy topic within maintenance is the issue of windows and window replacement. First off, I know that when an area becomes an historic district there are no requirements to retroactively modify buildings in an historic district, nor is there anything to force property owners to maintain properties or make improvements, other than the general city ordinances for all properties in the city. That’s not my problem. My problem is when the vinyl windows that a homeowner in a newly designated historic district has, needs replacing because the window broke or as part of general upkeep. That homeowner typically cannot replace his vinyl window with another vinyl window. His options are limited to wood windows or other historic windows, typically not the more easy to care for, cheaper, energy efficient vinyl options. You cannot run to Home Depot or Lowes to pick up a replacement if some kid/ robber breaks your window if you live in a restrictive historic district. It is a similar story with doors. But you’re more likely to break your window (or have it broken for you) than your door. Then there are gutters, repointing brick, and such. Once you are no longer able to use materials that are easily available or cheaper because of the retailer’s volume discount, your home maintenance costs go up. Oh and then there is the extra red tape. I believe, and this is not something I’ve done any amount of research on (my research for this is also write the paper the day before it’s due quality) but as far as I know, paint and paint colors, luckily are not an maintenance issue in DC historic districts. So that’s not an issue, ‘cause if it were I’d have a whole ‘nother paragraph railing against that and trying to find which of the limited 20 historically correct paint colors I could work with. And if I read it correctly, (once again proof of my slap dash research) the view of the house from the alley can be subject to these restrictions as well.
Okay, tomorrow big wrap up, of Gentrification and Historic Preservation pt 3: When is it right.
Why I vetoed the historic district ordinance by William Welch (Pennsylvania )