OUR OPINION: Please, put a magnifying glass on housing in Vicksburg

Published 4:00 am Friday, March 24, 2023

It doesn’t take someone with a Ph.D. in city planning to see that Vicksburg has a problem with derelict properties — but it’s going to take an expert to solve it.

When Mayor George Flaggs Jr. announced his intent to hire a consultant to advise on housing and code enforcement in the city, it was met with a few jeers and snide remarks. “Why don’t they just raze the properties? Why does there need to be an outside hire for this? Is this a waste of money?” All these questions were posed in the ever-present arena of social media, and all are valid to some extent.

What the critics don’t realize, it seems, is that this problem has become too great for one person, one city department to solve. It’s not a matter of tagging all the run-down houses and scheduling them for demolition, or giving property owners a set of hoops and red tape to jump through in order to obtain funds for repairs and building costs.

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This city needs a comprehensive plan — and a party to hold it accountable — in order to put a dent in the housing issue.

Vicksburg is chock-full of faded roses; homes that once were grand and still have good bones. In too many cases, people are still living in these homes even as they threaten to slide backward down a hillside or roofs cave in or floorboards buckle. And in too many cases, people are stuck living like that because they can’t find any better — and if they could find it, they can’t afford it.

Derelict properties bring with them a variety of issues.

If a property is abandoned, it can become a breeding ground for vermin, attracting snakes and rats and other unsavory neighbors. Run-down homes drive down property values in once-prosperous neighborhoods.

Vicksburg is a city blessed with hundreds of historic — or simply older — homes, examples of classic architectural styles not found anywhere else in such high volume. But if no one saves them or if they decay past a redeemable point, they’ll be lost.

Having a consultant come in to address Vicksburg’s housing and derelict property problems is a bold move, without a doubt. One has to wonder if this will finally be the thing to make a difference, or if it will fizzle out or stall.

But if we can get on board and support this initiative — if the city can find someone with the know-how and determination to apply a solution and not a band-aid — then we will all benefit in the long run.