We're all for the effort to spruce up the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor on the east side of Warren, but we experience a philosophical conundrum when it comes to using tax money to underwrite improving the curb appeal of private residences.
It arises from a grudging acceptance of programs which provide grants, rather than loans, to commercial property owners to do the same. The emphasis in that sentence is on the word grudging.
It has to do with our belief that property owners should be responsible people, that they should have enough pride of place to maintain their properties in reasonably good condition, not just squeeking by building codes.
This week, the city's Planning Commission continued its discussion of an East Side renaissance project, which could use grant money left over in a downtown improvement fund to provide a match for commercial property owners on the East Side to improve the looks of their businesses. The idea is that there are generally three major entry points to Warren: from the north via Market Street, and from the east and west on Pennsylvania Avenue. With its stately homes and ancient maples, Market Street is, in a word, beautiful. The western route, not that bad. The eastern route, could use some improvement.
The discussion this week turned to single-family and rental residential properties, that, to be delicate, could use a bit of work.
We understand that, especially since the much-lamented Great Recession, money has been tight, and it has been difficult for those out of work, elderly or infirm to undertake home improvement projects. But, that doesn't mean that personal involvement and personal responsibility are extinct.
So, we have a suggestion.
Perhaps the city should take a page from its former Pride Walk program, where a property owner is reimbursed for materials and either hires the labor to do the project or provides the labor themselves. Low-interest or no-interest loans could be available for those who meet certain financial guidelines for larger projects.
The idea here is fostering responsibility and providing the knowledge that some paint, repaired siding and a finished porch will ultimately return the investment through higher property value and - get this - pride.