Posts tagged with "foreclosures":

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Firefighters skeptical of Ohio plywood board up ban

The State of Ohio has officially instituted a ban on using plywood to board up vacant or abandoned properties. Proponents say the new law, officially House Bill 463, will help fight blight in areas with many abandoned structures, but firefighters believe the ban may create unwanted challenges for putting out fires. In lieu of plywood, many properties will now be secured with see-through polycarbonate panels, a practice known as clear boarding. Polycarbonate is the same material used for commercial airplane windows. Properties that are required to abide by this new law are those that are being sent through a new foreclosure process, recently initiated in Ohio. The federal government-sponsored mortgage association, Fannie Mae, has also been using the panels for several years. The clear polycarbonate panels are less unsightly and allow for views into abandoned buildings. They are also much more durable than plywood. They are said to be resistant to graffiti and are much more difficult to break through. This is where the fire department sees a problem. While the panels may help keep out unwanted guests, fire departments are worried that they might inadvertently keep firefighters in harm’s way during a fire. While plywood can be broken through with an axe, the circular saw with the carbide blade is needed to effectively cut through the polycarbonate. And while the mounting hardware for the panels can include interior quick releases, not all firefighters are convinced. “How long does it take us to deploy that saw to cut through that plastic? In the fire service, time is of essence for us. Life and death, not to be dramatic, comes down to minutes,” Lieutenant Matthew Herzfeld of the Toledo Fire Department told NPR in a January interview. “Imagine yourself with 70 pounds of firefighting gear on and you have zero visibility.” Another concern of opponents is the price. While a four-by-eight-foot sheet of plywood costs around $20, a similar size sheet of polycarbonate with mounting hardware can cost $120. Yet in towns like Youngtown and Dayton, plywood has become one of the most visible symbols of blight. Dayton alone has over 6,000 vacant structures. While these structures wait to be demolished or bought out of foreclosure they are often secured using plywood, effectively marking them as empty. While the polycarbonate will also mark vacancy, its impact is clearly less than plywood. Other cities, across the U.S., including Chicago and New York, are also considering adopting similar bans.
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Why a florist in Detroit filled this abandoned house with flowers

Detroit florist Lisa Waud wants to give abandoned homes in her city a chance to bloom once more before they are demolished. Her project, The Flower House, had its trial run this month, when the Huffington Post reported she leaned out the second-story window of an abandoned house overlooking a Detroit freeway, and sprinkled white flower petals on spectators gathered below. Inside, the house was festooned with mosses, ferns, seasonal flowers and vines—more jungle than junk property—a visually arresting living art installation that Waud hopes will raise as much as $50,000 for future work. She says she will use the donations to repeat the project at other abandoned homes in the Detroit area and then deconstruct the buildings to salvage their materials. Waud bought two foreclosed structures in Detroit's Hamtramck area for a total of $500, and invited 13 florists (Waud runs the studio Pot & Box) to help her arrange about 4,000 flowers in 48 hours. She told The Huffington Post, “It was the best week of my creative life.” Heather Saunders Photography snapped an engrossing gallery of The Flower House, which you can see below.
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Redlining the Panorama

The Queens Museum of Art opened its latest exhibition Red Lines Housing Crisis Learning Center on Wednesday with a discussion of the mortgage foreclosure crisis in the city’s five boroughs. The event featured the exhibition's designer Damon Rich, founder of the Center for Urban Pedagogy and now urban design director for the city of Newark; policy expert Sarah Ludwig; community organizer Michelle O’Brien; and urban historian Kenneth Jackson­—all tip-toeing around the museum’s famed New York panorama. For the exhibition the panorama—which includes every mapped block in the city—has been fitted out with orange triangles, their one-inch legs set above every block with three or more recent foreclosures. These foreclosures, according to museum director Tom Finkelpearl, depict a landscape of “displacement,” and the speakers addressed the origins of this crisis in the creation of redlining by the Home Owners Loan Corporation in the 1930s. The speakers emphasized that the current foreclosures and the predatory lending practices that led to the problem have overwhelmingly taken place in neighborhoods with large populations of African Americans and Latinos. The orange placeholders, for example, cut a huge swath through Bedford Stuyvesant and Brownsville/East New York to East Flatbush. Jackson, contemplating the sea of triangles (representing over 13,000 foreclosures) in Brooklyn, described the magnitude of the problem, but pointed out that New York has been less affected by the crisis than cities like Detroit and Dayton, Ohio, because of its relatively vibrant economy and large population of renters. The exhibition itself details the history and material culture behind the current crisis, curated by Rich and Larissa Harris as “an experimental site for learning,” and will be open until September 27.