Well, the house next door to me has been condemned. On the south side of my house, there was a foreclosure about two years ago. It finally sold last month, and the guy is treating it as a flip-job. I hope he does good work on it and sells it to a nice young family, but who knows? On the north side there was a rental that was owned by a man who also owned half a dozen or so other properties in the neighborhood, and rented them all. Apparently (according to officer Jackson of the distressed properties division of the MPD) he lost all of his rentals to foreclosure. This particular one was peopled with a large family of many children who would spend afternoons out playing in the back yard. I once fell off a ladder saving their cat, who'd gotten stuck on the roof above their porch in the January chill. They seemed like decent people.
The big orange placard on the plywood over the front door says the reason for condemnation was "lack of required utility water." So from what I can gather, the renters (the decent people) must have left on the first of the month, when I was out of town and Lisa was at work all day. Since that day, we've seen people in the yard poking around the house on several occasions. We assumed they were employed by the owner to fix it up for the next renters. However, they were apparently looting the house for its copper pipes coming in from the street.
Such is life in 2009 on the North Side of Minneapolis. Yesterday there was a garbage truck that came down the alley and idled for a while. Its occupants spent the better part of an hour collecting the detritus from a family hastily vacated and carting it all off to a dump in some unknown and distant suburb. I can only hope the bulldozers are not close behind.
Over the past year or so I've watched as at least twelve homes in my neighborhood have been quickly leveled after default. Perfectly good, sturdy homes that have stood for decades erased from the landscape because the owners couldn't make the payments and the banks that owned the mortgages didn't want them. As nice as it would be to buy the vacated lot and plant my neighbor's yard into a giant vegetable garden, I really hope someone steps up to restore this house. When I drive down West Broadway I see homes that are surrounded by six, sometimes ten vacant lots, and all I can think is that it looks a lot like the farm houses you see in rural Minnesota. Enveloped by naked ground, these homes don't belong in the city. We live in a community that is defined by density. If we can't pack people into a city block, we don't deserve to be classified as an Urban Area. The answer to this housing crisis is not to push more people into the few apartment buildings on Penn Ave, but to allow a giant family of many children and an errant cat to inhabit a perfectly good house a block off the main drag that is solid and unwanted, except by said family. Good luck to whomever owns it now, in getting the copper replaced, and in selling it I hope to a couple of people who will love it for what it is: the beginning of a spectacular life. We don't need more flat vacant ground on the North Side.