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There goes the neighborhood. The last thing anyone wants on their block is an empty house. In fact, the city of St. Paul has a what to do about a “Vacant Building” page on its website with instructions for reporting unoccupied or abandoned properties for inspection.
The City monitors vacant buildings to see if they are secured, if they are being rehabilitated, or if they should be torn down. If a building is not secured, the inspector can order the owner to secure it. In addition, if necessary, the City can board-up and secure the building.
But what if the rundown property belongs to the highest elected official in the city? The Star Tribune reports on what happened when an upset neighbor called to complain about St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter’s rental property recently.
The vacant house on St. Paul’s Hatch Avenue has been bugging its neighbors for years. In the summer, the grass goes unmown. In the winter, its sidewalks are covered with ice and snow.
But what really galls folks in the North End is that the house is owned by St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, who has championed boosting affordable housing across the city. According to neighbor Nick Bieter, 54 Hatch Av. has been more often empty than occupied over the last several years.
“In our neighborhood, a vacant house is just an invitation for all kinds of things,” said Bieter, who has lived a couple doors away since 2001. “If you want to do something about affordable housing, you’ve got something right here.”
Carter declined to respond to the paper’s request for comment. But the mayor’s hypocrisy and apparent lack of concern over the impact on his neighbors speaks volumes.
The house was added to the city’s list of vacant properties on June 11, a day after a visit from a city inspector prompted by a neighbor’s complaint. The inspection noted grass more than eight inches high in some areas, cracked rear concrete steps, loose, dangling and missing siding, peeling trim paint and litter on the front and rear porches. Sections of wooden fence surrounding the property were “dilapidated.”
Reinspections on June 20, June 26 and July 1 found a number of improvements, including the grass being cut, along with removal of rubbish, tree branches and part of the damaged fence.
More than anything else, his neighbors say the mayor sets a bad example.
Thomas Tehle has watched the neighborhood change over the 54 years he has lived in the home he bought from his parents. More and more homes are falling into neglect and disrepair, he said. The mayor’s house shouldn’t be one of them, Tehle said.
“It’s a nice little house,” he said, adding that he visits a friend who lives across the alley each week. “ I don’t see why, for two and a half years, he hasn’t done anything to it. Get it up to code so you can rent it.”
A bad example when it comes to city assessments, too. Carter hasn’t bothered to pay the $2,127 he owes the city for its trouble, which will be tacked on to his property tax bill