BROKEN WINDOWS AND REAL SOLUTIONS

Written by: Brad Beckett

Real estate investors are key to revitalizing distressed communities…-Brad Beckett


Years ago in a previous life, I worked as the right-hand-man of a city councilman in a large U.S. city.  One of the areas we focused on was improving the quality of life for all of our citizens. Sure, you might say, that’s like saying you’re against blight & pollution or fighting crime….it’s kind of a cliché.

True enough, but one of the areas we zeroed-in on was fighting crime and eliminating blight.  If you’re familiar with the “broken window” theory of policing (and cleaning up neighborhoods) then you’ll know exactly where I am coming from.  Little things start small;  crime follows blight, which in turn follows crime, in a cyclical manner.  Leave one window broken and soon you’ll have several more just like it.

Bottom line;  if you clean up a neighborhood, keep it safe and stabilize it, the crime will move on and/or disperse.  Little things can add up to big problems rather fast.  Likewise, little changes in the right direction can have the same effect.

Neighborhoods can quickly be turned around when the right “flip” takes place.  That property that was an eyesore, crackhouse or even abandoned several years ago can be the tipping point of a community renaissance.  All it takes is an investor snapping it up, doing a complete rehab, and then flipping it back on the market – as a rental or even a sale.  Rinse & repeat.

I recall a constituent that I worked with who purchased a property that had gone to sheriff’s sale.  It was in one of the city’s most distressed neighborhoods – one that was replete with crime, drugs and prostitution.  For his day-job he worked as an electrician for the local power utility but at night he was dabbling in flipping houses.  He didn’t buy this place out of altruism…he bought it to make money.

Eventually, I was able to help remove whatever bureaucratic red-tape-obstacle that had ensnared him (ever been there?) and he eventually sold the house for a nice profit.  He benefited, the neighborhood & community benefited and most of all someone who needed an affordable-home benefited.

All too often we forget or even overlook the important role real estate investors play in revitalizing our cities and communities.  Across the country, as urban-cores decay and people continue their suburban flight, we forget that they leave behind solid, older housing stock that makes for fantastic rental properties.  Breathing new life into these older homes does the same for their respective communities as well as ultimately helping to change individual lives.

After all, there is a shortage of so-called affordable housing across the country that has yet to be met, but is continually discussed.  Real estate investors stand at the forefront of meeting that challenge and are arguably the best prepared to do so.

The best place to get started is by visiting your local NREIA-affiliated chapter to talk with those who have “been-there and done-that.”brokenwindow

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