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Macomb Looks To Spruce Up Community

TSPR's Emily Boyer
Duncan says the grant money would be available to primarily help low-income homeowners paint their houses

The Macomb Community Development Committee is developing a city-wide inventory of every residential property, looking specifically at their compliance with Macomb’s maintenance code.

Coordinator Shannon Duncan said it should be finished by the end of the year, at which time letters will go out to homeowners who are in violation of the code.

Duncan said, at first, the city will seek voluntary compliance, but over time, Macomb will begin enforcing the law.

“We do have within our code the capability for me to go in and start ticketing people for not having the proper coverings on their homes, not having windows that close properly or doors that aren’t solid,” Duncan said. “Any code violation, it could range from $75 it can go to $750 it just depends on what issue we are talking about.”

Duncan said until now, she has avoided enforcing ticket-worthy offenses over concerns about whether residents could afford to pay the fines. She said there’s also some confusion about what type of work will lead to a property tax increase.

“We get a lot of questions, comments and complaints who think that if they paint their house or if they do certain things to make it look nicer that they are automatically going to pay more taxes. That’s not the case.”

Duncan said it’s the difference between performing maintenance and making improvements, but she said the misunderstanding can keep homeowners from doing anything.  

“We can’t not do something because the amount of additional houses we are seeing that are in dilapidated condition grows on a weekly basis,” Duncan said. 

To help along those efforts, the Macomb Community Development Committee is backing a proposal that would assist low-income home owners in being able to afford to paint or fix up their properties.

Duncan said it's a way to prevent homes from falling into disrepair which she said can lead to people either moving out of their neighborhood or leaving town all together.

Participants would have to meet certain HUD income guidelines to qualify for the grant money. 

Alderman Dennis Moon is concerned about the proposal, which requires city council approval.  He questioned how the repairs would be paid for given the possibility Macomb will receive less state funding in the future.

“I don’t have any problem with the philosophy of what they want to accomplish. I think it’s great. I don’t think we the city is in a position to commit a lot of money to it,” Moon said.

It appears, at this point, that a city contribution will not be needed, beyond staff time, as the proposal has the full support and financial backing of the Macomb Community Foundation.

The not-for-profit group has yet to release the amount of money it would commit to the project.

John Hallwas is a member of the foundation.  He said the program will be a way to prompt more residents to keep their homes and buildings in an appealing condition and “to ensure that the appearance and appeal of Macomb does not continually decline in some ways which has been the situation as every long time local resident can attest.”

The program is also designed to work as a proactive approach to keeping homes off the city’s fix-or-flatten program, which targets homes that are too far gone to be rehabilitated.

“It doesn’t take long for something to go from well they need a little bit of paint and they need a little repair to some of the extreme things that we see. I would rather be proactive and I think that’s what this program is trying to do than wait for something to get on the fix or flatten (program),” Shannon Duncan said.

City Administrator Dean Torreson said Macomb has leveled 8-12 homes over the last few years.

Emily Boyer is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.