Gentrification and slumlords

I've been writing this post in my head ever since I dropped one of Cora's friends off at her house. She'd been randomly left at the park with me while her mom took her two little sisters home to get a head start on dinner. When I walked up to the house, I instantly noted the tattered blinds, the boarded up attic windows, and the way it stuck out like a sore thumb on the block, well, it and the two houses on either side. All three are white, with some sort of window boarded up somewhere.

I took my suspicions to the county assessor site, entered the address, and low and behold, the house is owned by someone who lives in one of the more prominent areas of the city. So were the other two. This person owns 25 properties around the city, including their own home in Quail Creek and a commercial property on Western. I've looked at several of these properties, and they all look pretty much like this (except for their personal property of course - and for real, are the following properties (plus several others) this person's dirty little secret when they drive through their neighborhood and up to their home every night?):

(Imagine this one without shutters because that's what nearly 7 years worth of more dilapidation has done)
 (I wish this front door belonged to Dot)

 (I think it looks festive enough...)

What's my point?

Our neighborhood is an historic neighborhood that has largely undergone the gentrification process. Home values range from ours (not too much) to the multimillion dollar range. This is the neighborhood where all of the first movers and shakers of the city lived. It went through hard times, but overall, people have moved back and proudly made it their own. But there are still the property owners that bought several of the homes when they were going for nothing, and then didn't do much with them, and I'm sure they have no intention to. Easy money. They don't live in this community, they have no investment in it (expect that they own part of it).

Why does this yank my chain? The obvious answer is that this is my community and I care about it. But that's not it. I know it doesn't have to be this way. Before moving to Chicago, Jake and I lived in a lovely duplex in Jefferson Park, one block east of the Paseo (the city's self-proclaimed Arts District). Our property owner owned our building and three others down the street. She flipped a home across that street that Jake and I loved before we ever lived in our duplex. She single-handedly revitalized an entire block in a vulnerable part of town. And way before it was cool to live there, mind you. Dianna Harding, you are a pioneer of revitalization.

 (Our old duplex on Hudson)

She bought low and reinvested money into the properties and inevitably the community. When we moved back from Chicago, we lived in another one of her homes in a different neighborhood. It used to be the eyesore on the block, but she made it lovely. Her rent isn't ridiculous, and aside from our one CRAZY neighbor who lived below us in the duplex for a few months, she has wonderful tenants. In the last email I shared with her, she was excited that three of her duplexes were going to be paid off soon so she could rebuild the garage behind our old duplex. She's an exception, I know.
 Our post Chicago house before Dianna got it.
 After (I wish I had a better picture)

I want to know is if there's a way for a community to stand up for its homes. Can it put pressure on landlords who don't care to fix up the homes to the standards of the neighborhood? 

Disclaimer: I don't think that renters are bad, not in the least. I just wish property owners would take care of their properties and add to a community rather than take away from it.


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