Power of the white picket fences

QT Magazine - - HERITAGE & LIFESTYLE - WITH JUNE FRANK FROM IP­SWICH HER­ITAGE CLUB

MORE than just a pretty face, the White Picket Fences Pro­gram in Para­mount, Cal­i­for­nia, in­creased prop­erty val­ues and helped re­duce the crime rate.

In Ip­swich, we saw an amaz­ing trans­for­ma­tion of the One Mile and Le­ich­hardt sub­urbs when the gov­ern­ment ini­ti­ated the ur­ban re­newal pro­gram, which fo­cused on re­mov­ing chain-wire fences and re­plac­ing them with tim­ber picket fences. This cre­ated a sense of pride in home own­er­ship and saw the me­dian house price rise from $68,000 to $168,000 in one year.

A fine ex­am­ple of fence up­grades is Har­lin Rd where home af­ter home is be­ing trans­formed, start­ing with the picket fence. The streetscape is amaz­ing and prop­erty val­ues are sure to be ris­ing.

Ip­swich City Coun­cil in the early 1990s em­barked on a scheme giv­ing grants for work car­ried out to the front of her­itage prop­er­ties. This lifted streetscapes and de­vel­oped a pride in com­mu­nity, en­cour­ag­ing own­ers to con­tinue fur­ther up­grades to the prop­erty. It is time to re­visit this pro­gram, as there is a huge resur­gence in Ip­swich her­itage prop­erty.

An Oc­to­ber 2008 ar­ti­cle by Re­becca Luella Miller in Vic­to­rian Homes, The Power of White Picket Fences, is an in­ter­est­ing read on Para­mount’s White Picket Fences Pro­gram. It would be ben­e­fi­cial to Ip­swich to in­tro­duce a sim­i­lar ini­tia­tive:

“Any Vic­to­rian home owner able to see past boarded-over win­dows, crum­bling chim­neys and bro­ken stair­ways un­der­stands the con­cept – beauty is often sub­jec­tive … ,” she writes.

“Ar­chi­tec­ture and in­fra­struc­ture can de­fine a city’s spirit. When build­ings are bar­ren boxes and pub­lic spa­ces are ugly or in dis­re­pair, a sense of dread can seep into a com­mu­nity’s con­scious­ness and con­trol how res­i­dents, busi­ness and shop­pers re­gard their sur­round­ings.

“In the 1980s, af­ter a par­tic­u­larly dis­mal in­dict­ment of Para­mount in a Rand Cor­po­ra­tion study of sub­urbs across Amer­ica, the city’s lead­er­ship took the ini­tia­tive to re­verse the neg­a­tive trend … Para­mount in­tro­duced a va­ri­ety of mea­sures to in­spire res­i­dents and busi­ness own­ers to be­come in­volved in chang­ing the city’s im­age …

“Para­mount’s pub­lic safety di­rec­tor ini­ti­ated the White Picket Fences Pro­gram in 1997. For home­own­ers who qual­i­fied, the city paid 75 per cent of the pur­chase and in­stal­la­tion costs of white picket fences to re­place old chain link in ex­ist­ing res­i­den­tial neigh­bour­hoods.

“Prop­erty own­ers tak­ing part in the pro­gram often com­pleted other im­prove­ments as well. Whole streets joined in and the beau­ti­fi­ca­tion ef­forts had tan­gi­ble re­sults. Prop­erty val­ues through­out th­ese neigh­bour­hoods have climbed sig­nif­i­cantly… the me­dian value of homes in Para­mount more than dou­bled (in the decade af­ter the in­tro­duc­tion of the pro­gram)…

“Along with the rise in prop­erty value, Para­mount en­joyed a 43 per cent drop in crime rates dur­ing the same pe­riod.”

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