A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!
For years I've driven past the many solid red brick apartments lining North Avenue in the 80- and 90-numbered blocks, thinking they looked like good places to live. I've even had a landlord fantasy or two as I try to find ways to bring co-housing to Wauwatosa. A couple of three building units look ideally suited to the concept.
But yesterday, I saw the same buildings through new eyes. As I dropped an acquaintance off at one, she began to tell about her building's rapid disintegration since a new landlord bought the building and, apparently, some others near by.
He or she or they had failed to notify the residents about who they were or how to contact them. There was no way to get things fixed or replaced.
They'd stopped plowing the alley as the previous landlord had done. Now old residents who'd lived there long were struggling with new dangers and duties. Rougher folks seemed to be hanging around the area.
Only a matter of time, said the acquaintance, before she'd have to leave. The next tenants would be people with fewer options, less money. A slum lord can keep making money even with falling rents, long as you work the math right. And so the slide begins.
In the recent neighborhood meetings for long-range planning, the subject of absentee landlords came up in regard to the east side of Tosa. I didn't hear anyone talking about the long solid center of the community.
Encouraging investment in buildings has to be accompanied by requiring a high level of responsibility for maintaining them. As more non-resident owners buy up property, it may be time for a closer look at rules, regulations, and enforcement.