WCG has identified a range of needs that affect the community from basic public safety to the leveraging of strategic reinvestment of public and private capital. The following are key indicators of neighborhood instability that have been confirmed by WCG, its community partners and the City of Worcester's planning office:
Low Rate of Owner-Occupancy/Affordable Housing: Merely 11% of the target area's housing structures were owner-occupied in 1990, according to Census data. Nearly half (40%) of all housing structures citywide had the stability of an owner-occupied residence. As the 495 corridor becomes unaffordable, rents in Worcester increase. This, combined with an antiquated housing stock of triple-deckers, creates challenges for providing an adequate number of affordable units.
Abandonment & Blight: Abandoned and distressed properties detract from the economic and social capital of a neighborhood. The reclamation of these properties remains the highest neighborhood stabilization priority, as it returns vacant or abandoned land to the tax roles, increases the level of personal and economic investment in the neighborhood and helps reverse the trend of disinvestment in the community.
Family Transience - School Mobility: There is a highly transient rental population that resides in the target area. The Worcester School Department conducted a mobility study in 1994-95 to determine enrollment and transition rates for students enrolled in elementary schools. The two schools with the highest mobility rates were the Chandler Elementary School (53.7%) and the Elm Park Community School (60.1%), the two elementary schools that serve families living in the target area. These percentages reflect the number of enrolled students that did not complete a full year at the same school.
Safety & Aesthetics: Underlying social problems in a community manifest themselves in visible ways such as an increase in crime and poorly maintained housing. These symptoms of neglect and disfranchisement are threatening to a neighborhood and require short-term intervention such as clean-ups and community policing. However, these tactics must be combined with a comprehensive community reinvestment strategy in order to produce long-term results. In order to truly resolve the threats of underlying instability, the affected community must be involved at every level. WCG strives to engage as many residents as possible in each one of its initiatives.
Crime, Drugs, Trash: The result is that these underlying problems become visible and are exacerbated by the increase in crime, drugs, trash, and poorly maintained housing. Though these visible symptoms require short-term intervention, a comprehensive community reinvestment strategy is needed in order to have longer term results.
Housing Production/Improvement: Abandoned and distressed properties still exist in the Piedmont neighborhood. In addition, sixty percent of the housing stock was built prior to 1924, compared to the citywide rate of fifty percent. Consequently, a large proportion of the existing housing inventory does not meet the current building code standards. The combination of disinvestment and the aging housing inventory creates a situation in which market values fall short of the level of investment that is required to bring the existing housing inventory up to up to building code standards. To compound the problem, many properties are vulnerable to the acquisition practices of certain investor owners who fail to make the necessary improvements even when rental income is sufficient to support them.
Worcester Common Ground, Inc. 5 Piedmont Street Worcester, MA 01610 USA508-754-0908
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