Tyler Attorney Says Restoring Rundown Homes Can Revitalize Neighborhoods
Tyler attorney and historian Randy Gilbert believes almost anything can be recycled — even old rundown houses — and he’s even thought up a way to do it.
Randy Gilbert is a history buff, and chairman of the Smith County Historical Commission, so he has genuine interest in saving old houses. He’s approached the Tyler Historic Preservation Board to pitch the idea of recycling unoccupied, substandard homes.
He says some of the old houses can be fixed up on the cheap, including those with historic significance. To accomplish this, he suggests starting a pilot program that uses receivership as an alternative to demolition.
He says reviving houses instead of bulldozing them keeps them on the tax rolls, revives tired neighborhoods and provides homes for low-income families.
All it takes is money and a tweaking of local government codes. Gilbert ghost wrote a state law passed in the 1990s that allows the receivership process, but that law has never been used. Gilbert says it’s time to dust off that law and put it to use providing people decent places to live.
The process takes time because owners of rundown houses are given plenty of opportunities to make needed repairs. Sometimes the efforts are successful, sometimes not. Gilbert says if a house can be repaired, a local group or organization may be willing to take control of the project as a receiver.
Receivers can do the rehab and rent it out. When the receiver recoups the cost plus 10 percent, it can go back to the property owner.
This sounds like a reasonable and rational approach to saving neighborhoods by turning old rundown houses into liveable homes. Tyler’s historic preservationists are taking a serious look at it. Maybe Lufkin’s historic preservation groups should look at it too.