The incipient slum

Fayetteville Road urban homesteading property after teardown and new 3,564-square-foot home construction.

Formerly high-grade neighborhoods are subject to extraordinarily rapid obsolescence, since there are few takers for the aging and oversized dwellings vacated by the departing elite. Their prohibitive purchase price and maintenance expense rule out their availability to successively lower income groups and their continued use as single-family homes …. (Hughes and Bleakly 1975: 49).

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In contrast,  houses of intermediate socio-economic status, designed for use by families of moderate size and income, are readily transferable to successive groups as structures age. Although there may be some depreciation, perhaps only relative, in their value, the buildings are still suitable for their original purposes. And the steady supply of prospective residents for intermediate rental neighborhoods assures a certain level of value stability. These mid-level areas are prime candidates for policies governing future residential maintenance (Hughes and Bleakly 1975: 49-50).

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In 2011 I asked E.J. Sadler — a resident of Decatur, Ga.’s Oakhurst neighborhood and a builder — what his longterm legacy would be. He replied,

As to how historians will write about all of this, I’m a pretty lousy prognosticator, so I have no idea. Whether or not the new builds will last as long will depend upon what it always has, build quality and regular maintenance. It’s not a coincidence that the bulk of the historically authentic housing was perfectly fine until 1970. And I know of two modern builds in OAK that will be around well after all the historically authentic housing has dry rotted back into the soil.

“What’s your longterm legacy going to be?” – My house is going to be the one that in 120 years a historic preservation committee will be fighting to preserve as historically authentic housing, the first fully contemporary house in South Decatur, and first 100% energy independent, carbon neutral residential build on the East Coast.

Reference Cited

Hughes, J. W. and K.D. Bleakly (1975). Urban homesteading. New Brunswick, N.J: Center for Urban Policy Research, Rutgers University.

© 2015 D.S. Rotenstein