Something of a philosophical shift also has happened.
In working with Historic Savannah and the Metropolitan Planning Organization, city inspectors and administrators also are recognizing that calling for demolition isn’t the end-all solution.
Instead of an abandoned home, the city ends up dealing with a vacant lot. It becomes quickly overgrown, attracts loiterers and isn’t as marketable as a historic home that, with work, adds unique value not only to the housing stock but to the property tax digest.
Rather than resort to “demolition by neglect,” the groups have been more willing to work together. Sometimes it’s a matter of citations, but other times it’s a matter of offering resources, education about tax credits for historic renovation or finding assistance programs that offer homeowners help with repairs.
“We have an underlying, visible, continual element of deteriorating buildings,” said Tom Thomson, executive director of the planning organization. “Part of it relates to poverty, but I’m guessing a large majority are under-producing income properties, so landlords don’t want to mess with them. It is a big problem. We agree with that, but if it has historic significance, we want to do all we can before we order it demolished.”