Guest MINDSETTER™ Garrett S. Mancieri: Woonsocket’ has More than Financial Problems
Saturday, July 21, 2012
We have a crisis going on in Woonsocket and no, I am not talking a financial one. Our neighborhoods are starting to look like a third world country and the time to do something about it was yesterday. I recently took a ride with WOON talk show host Don Brunelle around the City, looking at different properties that have fallen into disrepair. Our list was so long that it came off the page. We all see these properties as we drive around Woonsocket, but what are we doing about it?
People always say when they get elected that they want to make this a City that people want to live in and open up businesses here. Well, allowing our neighborhoods to fall apart is the worst possible thing you could let happen and should be every politicians’ first priority. Call or email your local representation about a property in your area and get something done about it. I recently called about a property on Bennett Street and it was cleaned up in one day thanks to the Woonsocket Highway Department. Your property is your biggest investment you will ever make in your life and it’s about time people in Woonsocket start fighting to save their property value.
Woonsocket has been overwhelmed with foreclosures and short sales. There were 273 sales last year of single families, multi-families, condos, and commercial properties; 53 were short sales and 97 were bank owned for a total of 54% of the market. Add that to the fact there could be as many as 500-600 properties that have code violations and about 250 that are on a vacant property list. If these properties are occupied again, more families could move in adding more costs to a system already underfunded and put the City in an even more dire financial situation.
The great debate around the State is how much Woonsocket pays in taxes. Well, how many more foreclosures and short sales will it take to make people understand that you cannot tax a low income City like a suburban town and expect them to survive? Will higher taxes result in higher property values? The average household income in Woonsocket is around $30,000, not $60,000-$70,000 like the surrounding communities and the statistics show that Woonsocket is one of the highest taxed municipalities when you compare income to property tax. How will higher taxes convince more people to move to Woonsocket? Woonsocket currently has the highest residential tax rate and the highest commercial tax rate in the State. No one will convince me that increasing taxes on a community that is falling apart, financially and physically, will solve our problem. The only thing it will do is make our property values continue to sink even lower.
As we see the sales prices continue to fall and taxes continue to climb, this should be and must be our wake up call to be more involved and speak up with any and all ideas that will help the real estate market. Yes, Woonsocket needs to fix the financial mess that we allowed to happen but even if we had a surplus; that would not turn our market around by itself. We need to focus on building a community again here in Woonsocket through incentives to demolish older properties and replace it with open space, parking, or new single families. We need to preserve/rehab our historic buildings by creating programs that will attract investors. Most importantly, we need to have a real vision of what this City will be in the future. People buy a new home before it’s built because they believe it will turn out to be the right home for them. People will believe in Woonsocket too if we put in the necessary effort and have the leadership and political will that this City desperately needs to clean up our neighborhoods.
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