Local governments with a significant stock of older housing face unique challenges in balancing the beauty and personality of historic architecture with maintaining safety and safeguarding liability issues. As reported in Governing Magazine:
Because older homes require more upkeep, building inspection and code enforcement are two crucial front-line implications for localities, says James Brooks, director of city solutions at the National League of Cities (NLC). Providing assistance to elderly residents, who often lack the financial means or physical ability to repair older homes, is also of particular concern for officials.
Yet a home’s construction date might not always be the most reliable indicator of its condition, especially for those in well-maintained historic neighborhoods. “A lot of times, the construction of these properties is brick,” Brooks says, “and they’re probably better made 150 years ago than they were yesterday.” Also complicating matters is the public infrastructure surrounding older homes. Water and sewer lines connecting older city blocks can date back more than 100 years, so replacing them is a costly proposition.
The article also notes that while an aging housing stock poses certain challenges, they also generate value in designated historic districts and attract young newcomers and retirees seeking walkable neighborhoods near transit.
Recent Census estimates put 13.5 percent of the nation’s total housing units as built before 1940. In some areas such as Baltimore that number is as high as 44 percent.
For more information read the full article in Governing Magazine.