As a homeowner, I’m worried about the falling value of my property in a weak housing market that shows no sign of improving.
That’s a real issue for many families whose home investment represents a significant portion of their life savings for meeting future needs, like retirement. Loss of home equity is an extremely important issue.
The proposed Shires development off Silver Street poses a real and immediate risk to property values in and beyond the neighborhood. Yet, in answer to expressed concerns, Shires Executive Director dismissed them, claiming in his May 12 presentation to the Select Board: "The overwhelming conclusion is that the impact on surrounding properties is either positive, or has no effect.
There have been almost no examples where property values have decreased." To back his statement, he eventually provided on June 5 a paper from a Washington, D.C., advocacy group entitled, "Don’t Put It Here!" The paper is a survey summary of research on the impact of low-income housing on home values mostly in large metropolitan areas.
Although not a completely impartial source, the paper states several things that contradict Shires remarks.
First, the results of the research clearly are mixed, showing that negative effects do occur.
From the paper:
"By contrast, subsidized households and developments located in more vulnerable neighborhoods where lower priced homes were already depreciating were more likely to result in continued negative effects on property values.
"Galster, in his literature review, suggests there is a widespread pattern of threshold effects whereby the effects on surrounding property values are neutral or positive when affordable housing is relatively dispersed, but become negative once a critical mass of assisted housing sites or units are located in a neighborhood."
Also, the research acknowledges problems and weaknesses with current study methodology.
For this reason, there exist no widely accepted criteria to avoid negative effects. Moreover, the research clearly cautions that study results from one neighborhood may not apply elsewhere.
Property owners dealing with actual market conditions have no reason to take comfort from Shires assurances. Shires has no stake in the outcome.
Town officials would better serve the interests of the community by paying closer attention to the concerns of voters and taxpayers opposing this development.
Upgrading existing housing stock through incentives that encourage home ownership is where Bennington should be focused.
Bennington Safety first
Leaving St. John’s church last Sunday a couple of old timers nearly collided with a vehicle on the busiest intersection in the middle of North Bennington.
There must have been a good reason for extending the curbs on two of the four corners narrowing the distance between both creating a safety hazard.
It seems unlikely that the voters had approved this as a corrective measure. Starting a fundraising drive to re-widen this space may prevent having to rush someone to the hospital or to the funeral undertaker.
I will be glad to make the first contribution.