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A housing market expert hired by the City of Danville says Danville is typical of soft market cities throughout the country where the defining characteristic is that demand exceeds supply and the housing stock does not match what people want today.
Charles Buki, owner of the Alexandria-based urban planning and neighborhood development consulting firm CZB LLC., presented his assessment Tuesday night to City Council and on Wednesday morning to real estate agents and mortgage lenders.
“It is sobering information, but I don’t think for any of you it is surprising information,” Buki said. “There are no quick fixes. The dig-out will be slow. The public can get the idea that this is a problem for the city to fix, but partnerships will be needed.”
Buki presented several strategies for consideration, including:
• Continue redevelopment efforts in the River District in order to create additional professional income, high quality housing. Cities such as Richmond and Durham, N.C., have succeeded in adaptive reuse of tobacco warehouses and other structures.• Thin the supply of housing, particularly pre-1930 wood-framed structures. Buki said these houses have no value today, and there never will be a market for them.• Provide significant financial incentives in the form of grants and loans to owners or buyers of hard-to-market brick ranch houses throughout Danville for upgrades such as second baths, new kitchens and exterior treatments.• Significantly increase code enforcement efforts and demolition of troubled mutlti-family structures.
Buki arrived at these other findings after two researchers from his firm spent six weeks living full-time in Danville. They graded 20,000 structures, analyzed thousands of real estate sales records, and interviewed residents, business owners, real estate agents, and mortgage lenders.
“The city has put forth considerable effort in removing blight, stabilizing neighborhoods through its ‘Safe and Sound’ program, and in development of the River District,” Buki said. “These actions are so notable. They are demonstrated actions with tangible outcomes. Few cities have been able to do this.”
However, he cautioned, “You have done some smart things. There would be a natural bias to take your foot off the gas pedal. If you did that, you will not free yourself from the excess supply that you have. The housing market will not do it for you. You have to get out front, and the challenge will exceed your wallet, so you need champions who will join you.”