TILSON: Property values are important to all

Guest commentary

Michael Tilson

Michael Tilson

“Property has its duties as well as its rights.”

— Thomas Drummond

For the Albany Herald.

By Michael Tilson, Director, Albany Code Enforcement Department

Seven years ago on Aug. 1, then Assistant City Manager James Taylor — now the city manager — briefed the mayor and Board of Commissioners on the establishment of the Albany Code Enforcement Department, as we know it today.

It performs a myriad of functions, but arguably one of the most important things we do is help protect property values. Why? Because so many things come into play with respect to property values, including your ability to sell your home or commercial building at a profit – not a loss, to successfully re-finance a mortgage, your quality of life or if you’re a business, your “curb appeal,” etc.

Property owners have three common denominators that negatively affect property values – weather, the age of the buildings and people.

Weather affects the materials in and around buildings as they age. With the exception of the recently built or renovated homes in Albany and Dougherty County, buildings are showing their age in varying degrees. I remember in high school learning about how most cities start in the center and grow out. Albany grew similarly — the older buildings being in central Albany and newer farther from the center.

We are at the point now where we have many more buildings than needed for our population. The 2010 census told us that countywide we had 4,300 vacant housing units, most within the city limits. I don’t know how many residential buildings that represents, but my guess is it is more than 1,000, and “at least” half of those are dilapidated and/or unsecure. I know that from the number of open dilapidated building cases we are working on, a house to house inventory we conducted of central Albany and my “feel” from riding outside the areas we already counted. Many of those dilapidated buildings are occasional homes or hangouts for the homeless, drug addicts, prostitutes, gang members, etc.

People affect property values either positively or negatively. People are the ones that make the decisions to keep buildings in a good state of repair – or not. People are the ones who make the decisions to drop those cans, bottles, cigarette butts, pieces of paper, food carry out boxes – or not. People are the ones who decide to breach boarded buildings awaiting their next tenant and sleep there, do drugs there, steal copper wiring, or whatever they do in the homes they breach.

People are the ones who decide to park or store inoperable and/or partially disassembled vehicles in their yards, put inside furniture outside, store all sorts of junk out in plain view for anyone to see, park their semi-trucks or other large commercial vehicles in all different places in residential areas, etc. They are also the business people who choose not to invest in repairing their buildings, not pick up the trash that accumulates around their businesses, to place more signs than are allowed at their business, etc.

Can code enforcement fix all this for you so your property values do not suffer? No. There is too much of it for us to do it alone. In recognition that there have already been many people and businesses step to the plate and do something to improve Albany and Dougherty County, I will say it this way: We need everyone to step up, and for those of you that already have, we need you to continue — please!

And if no one has thanked you yet, I do so now. You know who you are. As both the City Manager and County Administrator have made it clear to their bosses and the public, the taxpayer’s money is no longer available as it once was. Government needs your help. We look to residents, the business community and other property owners to do more. Property owners and tenants have a duty to maintain property to acceptable standards.

As the voice of the buildings and land, the Albany Code Enforcement Department encourages everyone to make the right choices; sling that paint, fix those rotting boards, stop putting out illegal signage, stop storing junk and debris outside, handle the trash and debris, keep the grass, shrubbery and weeds cut, etc. When you do, you will join the ranks of the many unsung heroes of Albany and Dougherty County. You will make a difference not just for yourself, but for the property values of our community.

Michael Tilson is director of the Albany Code Enforcement Department.