Saturday, August 16, 2014

Neighbor Pledge

One of Portland’s greatest treasures is the distinct character of its neighborhoods. Few cities offer such diversity of homes for all tastes.

However, older affordable homes in neighborhoods well-served by established city infrastructure such as schools and transportation increasingly are demolished and replaced, often with houses many times the size of the original and sold for twice the value. New construction should not tower above existing homes, impinge on neighbors’ privacy, or limit others’ access to light or solar power.

City planners and city government have failed to protect the character and range of affordability of homes in the city’s neighborhoods. A city that prides itself on its commitment to sustainable practices and the environment has done little to stem the tide of demolitions. Homes are torn down with little regard to quality of materials and craftsmanship. As local preservationist Cathy Galbraith says, We try to recycle everything in Portland, yet throw whole houses away.

The stakes are high, and neighborhoods are at risk. Homeowners have the power to change this destructive trend. Even if homes are in need of maintenance or a remodel, many potential buyers would embrace the chance to buy into the neighborhood and restore a piece of Portland’s “first-growth architecture.” Demolition, on the other hand, removes a more affordable home, usually built of higher-quality materials, from the neighborhood forever.

With this pledge, homeowners show support for the history and value of such character architecture by envisioning a future for their homes, and providing criteria for potential buyers. If the number of sales to builders can be slowed, so can the wave of demolitions, and developers will be motivated to take advantage of vacant lots within the urban growth boundary instead of tearing down unique housing that’s stood for generations.

Even though the homeowner may be selling his or her home, no one else has more power in the face of that transaction to protect that home—and the neighborhood—for generations to come.

If I sell my home, I will seek buyers committed to preservation. In addition:

• I will notify neighbors of my intent to sell before looking for a seller or listing my home.
• If I sign with a real estate agent, the agent also will be asked to honor this pledge.
• I will ask prospective buyers about plans to remodel or add to the home.
• I will not sell to a buyer who plans to increase the height or footprint of the home if I feel it adversely affects the character or livability of the neighborhood.
• I will sign and attach this pledge to my will if I have one, as a statement to my heirs of my preferences for the disposition of my home.

Signed: _________________________________________________Date: _______________________
Address: ____________________________________________________________________________

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