Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pottstown Land Trust May Get its Chance

Last night's borough council meeting provided a peek into what seems likely to happen at the business meeting Monday -- the Mosaic Pottstown Community Land Trust may gets first chance to see if their model can work.

The borough is in possession of a property at 629 Walnut St. that is in pretty deplorable condition. It was taken for unpaid taxes, water bills, trash bills, you name it.

Two entities offered to take it off the borough's hands, renovate it, and sell it to put it back on the tax rolls.

One, Habitat for Humanity, is well established and has already done good work in town. The other is the land trust.

In his comments last night, Borough Manager Jason Bobst made it evident the staff intends to recommend handing the property over to the land trust.

His reasoning?: Habitat's methods use an all-volunteer work-force, including the future owner putting in "sweat equity." This is how the cost of the refurbished house is kept low. But it is, by its nature, a slow process, sometimes taking as long as two years to complete.

The land trust, on the other hand, intends to use paid professionals. It's method for keeping the price low on the refurbished house, is to maintain ownership of the land beneath the house, and just sell the structure to the new owner.

Bobst said the staff favors the speedier work, so long as the land trust, which has never done this beofore, can keep to a set of scheduled milestones.

"We're ready to prove our mettle," land trust spokesman David Jackson told council. He also said they hope to include as much "green technology" into the home as possible, to keep utility costs down for the new owners.

The group has already proved its mettle, to some extent, in the careful progress it has made in converting a former run-down playground once owned by the school district, into a community garden where food will be grown.

However, this will be the group's first attempt at its main objective, converting former blighted properties into affordable homes for first-time homebuyers.

Whatever physical constraints they encounter, they may also face difficulties in the market. Last month, Genesis Housing Inc., the borough's most prolific non-profit housing developer, asked council to help find buyers for homes they have already converted.

It seems that despite the fact that Pottstown's real estate values were never over-inflated enough to be affected by the bursting of the real estate bubble, people are still skittish about buying.

Council will vote on the matter at its meeting Monday, which begins at 7 p.m. in borough hall and is open for public comment.

1 comment:

  1. UPDATE:
    Council did approve this, so the Land Trust is off and running.

    During a meeting Tuesday of the Pottstown Borough Authority, Bobst said that there are even more houses ready to go free and clear sale but the borough is holding off on them until it can make arrangements to get them renovated in a similar fashion.