A Sikeston City Council committee created a bit of a firestorm this past week with their proposal to give away lots acquired by the taxpayer-funded Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority to potential developers.
Our phones have been ringing nonstop since the plan first surfaced. The opposition stems not from the desire to redevelop lots where former condemned properties were located. It's the plan to give the lots free that's created the brouhaha.
By way of a disclaimer, I am a board member of the LCRA so it seems inappropriate for me to weigh in too heavily on the city's proposal.
But I can say this.
The purpose of the LCRA is two-fold: First is the removal of substandard houses that were allowed to create blight in neighborhoods for far too long. That task alone is formidable. Until I was appointed to the LCRA, I did not realize the scope of the problem here. And believe me, I can throw numbers at you all day long but until you take the time to see each of these properties, you cannot imagine the depth of this issue.
The second function of the LCRA is to redevelop these blighted neighborhoods. That task is proving much more difficult than the removal process.
Removing these houses is costly and that is the primary issue facing the city at this point. But believe it or not, progress is being made and literally hundreds of formerly problem properties have been razed.
To complete the removal task will take upward of a million dollars or so. Now perhaps you see some of the problem.
But jumping to the redevelopment aspect, that issue is even more perplexing.
The goal of all those involved in this ongoing discussion is to eventually have new homes available for home ownership. The rental rate in Sikeston is nearly 50 percent of the homes. The need is not for rental properties but for homes available for home buyers.
But constructing a home is an expensive process and we have few residents who can qualify for home loans.
It's a vicious cycle.
The city committee's plan to "gift" some of these properties at least is a plan. I may strongly disagree with the concept. But first, the LCRA will need additional information. That will soon be forthcoming.
In the end, we have an ongoing issue with housing here that may be the most important issue we have faced. It was not created overnight nor will it be solved overnight.
Stay tuned. You might be in for a bumpy ride. But it will never be boring!