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Ran out of town by HAHC


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We are homeowners in the Heights West district since 2003.

Background is we purchased a small bungalow with the intention of tearing it down and building something more appropriate on the property. The foundation is shot, electric is in marginal condition and the heating / cooling bills are sky high due to poor insulation. It was never a house that we wanted to live in.

Life has a habit of throwing curve balls, and an overseas job, then the crash in 2008, postponed our plans to build. By the time we 'recovered' - the City had rammed through their historic preservation ordinance and we were again unable to move forward with building on the property. The immediate neighborhood moved on in the interim and our little crappy bungalow is surrounded by $1MM McMansions.

Remodeling is not feasible as we would have to completely skid the existing structure and replace the foundation. The costs to remodel are just not practical and we could never recover the costs in terms of increased market value. We are deed restricted and are fine with meeting the covenants of the deed restrictions that preceded the new historic ordanance.

So we're resigned to moving out of town, possibly keeping the existing property as a rental in the hopes that future City leadership will become more development friendly. I know that no one will shed any tears as the moving van shows up, but I do think the rigidity and short sightedness of the Historic ordanance needs airtime. People do get to vote with their feet.

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It sounds like youre just out of luck on this. I own a historic property that needs renovation as well. It sounds like you probably made money on the property... if you don't think it is economically viable to renovate / expand the back, then sell and find something you can build the house of your dreams.

 

good luck.

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We are homeowners in the Heights West district since 2003.

Background is we purchased a small bungalow with the intention of tearing it down and building something more appropriate on the property. The foundation is shot, electric is in marginal condition and the heating / cooling bills are sky high due to poor insulation. It was never a house that we wanted to live in.

Life has a habit of throwing curve balls, and an overseas job, then the crash in 2008, postponed our plans to build. By the time we 'recovered' - the City had rammed through their historic preservation ordinance and we were again unable to move forward with building on the property. The immediate neighborhood moved on in the interim and our little crappy bungalow is surrounded by $1MM McMansions.

Remodeling is not feasible as we would have to completely skid the existing structure and replace the foundation. The costs to remodel are just not practical and we could never recover the costs in terms of increased market value. We are deed restricted and are fine with meeting the covenants of the deed restrictions that preceded the new historic ordanance.

So we're resigned to moving out of town, possibly keeping the existing property as a rental in the hopes that future City leadership will become more development friendly. I know that no one will shed any tears as the moving van shows up, but I do think the rigidity and short sightedness of the Historic ordanance needs airtime. People do get to vote with their feet.

It sounds like that ordinance made your life difficult. In all fairness though, you won't find another city "less restrictive" than Houston. I find it hard to believe you left our great city solely for that reason. I imagine in this market someone else would buy it and give it a go. I hope so for your sake, and I hope you are able to be made whole financially on it. None the less - I wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

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I do believe that Wingfooted already wrote a letter to the editor at The Leader that was published in December of 2013.  There was an interesting reply from someone published in the next edition of The Leader.  I have reprinted the exchange below, but X-ed out the name of the person who wrote the original letter as we cannot know whether Wingfooted is the same person or someone trolling this board by pretending to be him.  Either way, the facts in the original letter are identical to Wingfooted's post.  So, it is either the same person or someone pretending to be the person who posted in The Leader. 

 

It is fair game to criticize the ordinance on the grounds that it thwarted Wingfooted's plans to demo and build a new house.  That issue has been debated to death on this board.  But the idea that Wingfooted has no choice but to leave town and rent because renovation/additions are impossible due to HAHC just does not fly.  

 

Taking the numbers from the letter below, a $450k renovation/addition should result in @ 3,000 sq ft home.  1117 Tulane St. recently sold for $929k.  It is 3047 sq ft.  Anyone purchasing a bungalow that was in disrepair in 2003 would not have paid more than $200k for the property.  Wingfooted would have @$650k invested and at least $250k in market equity after renovations/additions.  1118 Tulane just sold for $430k.  1107 tulane is under contract after listing for $450k and is in worse condition than 1118 Tulane.  Most builders are expecting to get at least $1 mil for bungalows with new additions.  (the 1100 block of Tulane is right on W11th and not as desirable due to the traffic)

 

And if Wingfooted intends on staying in the house for a long time, the odds of being underwater on the property are extremely low.  After 11-12 years, Wingfooted should have paid down at least $50k and should have somewhere between $110k and $145k in debt, depending on original down payment.  $450k in renovations and additions would result in a new loan of @$560-600k.  1500 sq ft bungalows in Norhill are selling for $575k.  Thus, the risk of being underwater just isn't there.

 

Of course, the market could crash, but that could happen anywhere.  If Wingfooted is concerned about the market crashing and being underwater, the last thing to do is to go out to another part of town and buy with cash at the top of the market and leave all the market equity sitting in the house in the Heights.

 

 

 

(((below is the exchange in the Leader)))

 

The house is a sorry old thing, small and the foundation is rotted out. The levelers come in every six months – otherwise we cant shut the doors. Frankly we never intended to live in the place, it was purchased in 2003 as a temporary abode until it could be torn down and replaced. Along the way came an international assignment, then the 2008 crash and by the time we were back on our feet, City Hall had crammed an historic ordinance through the system. We’ve went through the numbers. To remodel would cost about $450K and the economic loss on the project would be well over $200K. Just doesn’t make any sense at all. We really need to just tear down the existing structure and start over. It seems that with HHAC that is impossible. So we’re stuck with this old house, which isn’t comfortable to live in. The only way out is apparently to rent. XXXX XXXXXX

 

Historically Stuck

Dear Editor:
I feel I must reply to XXXX XXXXXX’s letter to the Leader in which he is described as “historically stuck” in the Heights. Firstly, Mr. XXXXXX inaccurately states that “City Hall had crammed an historic ordinance through the system.” In actuality, Mr. XXXXXX, the majority of home owners in your area of the Heights voted in favor of the historic designation, and there was no shadow conspiracy on the part of City Hall.

Secondly, since his views on the historic district have been published by the Leader, I think that, in all fairness, Mr. XXXXXX should have also noted that he sold two other lots on his block – one lot was vacant and the other had an old home on it which was subsequently demolished.

Both lots have been redeveloped. I believe that by adding this additional information in his letter, he might have painted a more accurate picture of his situation. Instead of being “historically stuck” in the Heights, he has profited financially from the lack of historic protection of our neighborhood. That is the full picture, and I believe it sheds a bit of light on his woeful letter to the Leader.

Amy Lawson

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... the majority of home owners in your area of the Heights voted in favor of the historic designation, and there was no shadow conspiracy on the part of City Hall...

 

 

s3mh posted the above from the Leader and was a response given by Amy Lawson:

 

THAT is a blatant lie or convenient retelling of the truth.  

 

First, each property should have been given a vote instead of each homeowner.  I had more to lose than one owner in one house.  The CoH should NOT have had a vote.

 

Second, the ballets were mailed in the middle of December and had to be returned right before New Year.  A non-response was taken as a yes vote.  So NO a majority of property owners did NOT vote for this hysteric designation.  AND yes the CoH played fast and loose with HONEST voting and therefore could be considered a "shadow conspiracy.

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s3mh posted the above from the Leader and was a response given by Amy Lawson:

 

THAT is a blatant lie or convenient retelling of the truth.  

 

First, each property should have been given a vote instead of each homeowner.  I had more to lose than one owner in one house.  The CoH should NOT have had a vote.

 

Second, the ballets were mailed in the middle of December and had to be returned right before New Year.  A non-response was taken as a yes vote.  So NO a majority of property owners did NOT vote for this hysteric designation.  AND yes the CoH played fast and loose with HONEST voting and therefore could be considered a "shadow conspiracy.

 

I included the entire letter from Ms. Lawson just so no one would get all huffy about editing.  The point of my post is not to discuss that portion of the letter.  Even still, I do believe that Ms. Lawson is referring to the petition process to create the district, not the process set up to provide homeowners the opportunity to disband the district in light of the amendments to the ordinance. 

 

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I included the entire letter from Ms. Lawson just so no one would get all huffy about editing.  The point of my post is not to discuss that portion of the letter.  Even still, I do believe that Ms. Lawson is referring to the petition process to create the district, not the process set up to provide homeowners the opportunity to disband the district in light of the amendments to the ordinance. 

 

 

 

You mean the creation of the district which then would be under a set of rules that in no way whatsoever can even be remotely compared to what is in place now...

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I included the entire letter from Ms. Lawson just so no one would get all huffy about editing.  The point of my post is not to discuss that portion of the letter.  Even still, I do believe that Ms. Lawson is referring to the petition process to create the district, not the process set up to provide homeowners the opportunity to disband the district in light of the amendments to the ordinance. 

 

 

The petition process was illegitimate as well.  I would guess that at least 30% of the people who signed the petition originally no longer supported what was occurring when the time came.  There were multiple people just on this site who signed and wished to withdraw their signature.  ALL of them were told it could not be withdrawn.  People who signed the petition signed up for one thing, and their signatures were then used against their will to do another thing..the petitions the HHA collected were just reworded and the signatures were re-used. 

 

There is absolutely ZERO chance that the petition would hold up to the same legal standard as the City is currently requiring of the pastors who oppose the gay rights ordinance....its a complete 100% double standard.  The city is playing politics with the legal system.  It is indeed a VERY dangerous game. 

 

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Ok, fine.  You all want to do this.  Then, let's do this.

 

The historic ordinance was adopted in 1995.  When petitions were going around, the issue of the 90 day waiver was under debate.  People advancing the idea of the 90 day waiver claimed that it would give preservationists time to find buyers of properties that were going to be demolished.  The ordinance was amended upon the creation of the Heights HDs to include the 90 day waiver.  At the time petitions were being signed, the ordinance was not set in stone and was never represented to be something that could not be modified by City Council.  Anyone signing a petition agreed to be part of a historic district governed by a municipal ordinance that could be amended at any time by a majority vote of City Council.  Anyone who got a grade of D+ or higher in 8th grade civics would have understood that agreeing to be governed by the historic preservation ordinance did not mean that the regulation would be beyond the normal democratic process of City government and should have understood that the ordinance could be made to be more strict, as was the case with the 2010 amendments, or be made less restrictive, as is the goal of the current amendment process.  That is not bait and switch.  That is how our government works.

 

Also, the petition process for creating a historic district and the petition process for having a referendum on Council action are two completely different processes with completely different standards, deadlines and adjudication of validity.  The petition process for a referendum on the gay rights ordinance and the petition process for historic districts are apples and oranges.

 

The petition process was clear and unambiguous.  If you signed the petition and a majority in your district agreed, you created a historic district.  There was never a process for "revoking" your signature.  That was an invention of opponents that was used for political purposes.  But it was nothing more than that.  

 

When the ordinance was amended in 2010, opponents insisted on a process to allow the districts an opportunity to opt out of being a historic district instead of being governed by the amended ordinance.  They agreed to a ballot process whereby the entire historic district could be destroyed if a majority of property owners returned a ballot stating that they did not want the historic district anymore.  In the WD, only 25% voted to disband the district (Marksmu's 30% assumption of petition signatories wishing withdraw their support is a bit of a stretch).

 

Yes, the opt-out vote followed a novel approach of "one person, one vote".  But that was because passive investors should not be given a bigger say in the process than the people who were actually going to live in the district and make it their home.  

 

The timing of the ballot process was determined by when opponents submitted reconsideration applications.  They could have had the vote sooner if they got the applications for reconsideration submitted sooner.  The City did not set the date unilaterally.  The ballots arrived in the mail in the beginning of December (I got mine @ Dec. 3, as did most others) and had to be post marked by December 23rd.  The typical holiday traveler is not out the entire month of December.  Everyone had plenty of time to get their ballot and get it sent in.  There has never been any evidence that the few odd people who were out of town the entire month would have made any difference in the outcome, if there were even such people in the first place.  

 

The undeniable facts are that opponents had a very simple process in place to disband the historic district and failed miserably to accomplish what they wanted, despite having a very well funded realtor/builder organization stuffing mailboxes with fliers and putting signs up on vacant and rental properties.  Why?  Because support has always been strong in the Heights for historic preservation and remains strong to this day. 

Edited by s3mh
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... Anyone who got a grade of D+ or higher in 8th grade civics would have understood that agreeing to be governed by the historic preservation ordinance did not mean that the regulation would be beyond the normal democratic process of City government and should have understood that the ordinance could be made to be more strict, as was the case with the 2010 amendments, or be made less restrictive, as is the goal of the current amendment process.  That is not bait and switch.  That is how our government works.

 

You must not have children.  They stopped teaching civics decades ago.  Additionally, United States Civics are not taught outside of the country as standard curriculum.

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The timing of the ballot process was determined by when opponents submitted reconsideration applications.  They could have had the vote sooner if they got the applications for reconsideration submitted sooner.  The City did not set the date unilaterally.  The ballots arrived in the mail in the beginning of December (I got mine @ Dec. 3, as did most others) and had to be post marked by December 23rd.  The typical holiday traveler is not out the entire month of December.  Everyone had plenty of time to get their ballot and get it sent in.  There has never been any evidence that the few odd people who were out of town the entire month would have made any difference in the outcome, if there were even such people in the first place.  

 

Since when were they ever called ballots?  The letter I received from our friends at CoH said "Survey" on the envelope.

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