Housing has been a hot button topic in Sikeston for quite some time now. Our community, for a variety of reasons, has a disproportionate number of condemned homes or homes in desperate need of repair. Blame it on greedy landlords, blame it on lousy tenants, blame it on the foreclosure madness that hit our community - there is ample blame.
But there are solutions and it appears that both the City Council and the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority have taken an aggressive, proactive approach in addressing the issue. Granted, the effort should have started much earlier. But that aside, the process is now under way and all of Sikeston will benefit.
As of right now, city officials are addressing the removal of 106 structures in Sikeston that have been condemned. First, that will remove eyesores that have become health and safety issues and second, it will be a shot in the arm for adjoining properties.
But sadly, this is only the beginning. By the time these 106 properties are removed, I assure you other homes will be added to the list. The process is slow because of legal issues and it's costly as well.
There are those who are clamoring for the redevelopment phase of this process to begin. But what must be understood is that no development can occur until the bulk of these properties are cleared. No developer is going to take the financial risk of building a home in a neighborhood that remains blighted. And few people would want to live in a nice home that is surrounded by blighted properties.
There is general agreement that we need more moderately priced homes for sale in Sikeston. But for the process to work effectively, you first must clean up the mess that has been created over the years before you begin to reseed neighborhoods that have suffered.
Though census numbers are still two years away, I believe Sikeston continues to lose population. Our electric customer hook-ups are down from last year and our student population in school is down considerably. Both of those point to a declining population.
If we are to attract newcomers and welcome them to our community, we first have work to do. We have by any measure a disproportionate amount of low income housing in Sikeston and insufficient moderately prices homes. Our population will not increase until we address this issue.
I'm encouraged with the efforts on the housing front here but I also recognize that this is simply the first step. As is always said, it took us a number of years to reach this point and it will take time to work out of these issues.
But the first step is to remove these eyesores. And that is an important and essential first step.