The Clinton City Council during the past few years has been discussing ways to get people to improve their homes in Clinton’s core area.

A plan that recently was presented to the city council at a committee of the whole meeting seems to be an excellent way to do that.

Neighborhood Improvement Committee Chairman and City Assessor John Moreland addressed the council regarding the creation of a Fifth Avenue South revitalization area. Moreland said that while the city has mainly provided housing for new residents through new construction in the past, a balance is needed between new housing stock and renovated existing housing.

He said the Neighborhood Improvement Program is designed to stabilize the neighborhood by providing property owners with a package of incentives to invest and improve the existing housing stock of Clinton. The program focuses on a set of incentives to encourage a property owner that has converted a single family house into a duplex or triplex, to re-convert the property back to a single family home. Under the program, a property owner who converts back to a single family home would receive a cash payment of $5,000 for the first unit eliminated, $7,500 for the second unit eliminated, and $12,500 for the third unit eliminated. The program would pay a maximum of $25,000 for a property in exchange for the conversion. The properties would be rezoned to single family zoning when appropriate and a deed restriction to that effect would be recorded to prevent its reconversion to multi-family use.

A second set of incentives would provide assistance to correct deferred maintenance as several homes in the area have problems such as landscaping, rotten windows or porches and exterior paint. Property owners would receive both financial and in some cases, volunteer assistance to correct these problems.

The committee has identified approximately a dozen properties that would be targeted for each incentive program and would consider three acceptances in each to be a success. According to program information, in both cases, a key incentive would be a tax freeze, an abatement on the improved value, for a period of five years. A long-range objective is to work with property owners of the mansions along the street which have from 16 to 19 apartments each and convert them to condominiums of approximately four units each.

Funding sources for the program would include a grant program from Tax Increment Financing Funds, proceeds from the sale of lots in the Longfellow Heights Addition and potentially grant funding from the Clinton County Community Development Association. The committee is working with local banks to develop a custom loan program to help finance the cost of the remodeling and improvements.

We think this is a great way to start improving those properties that are more than a little worse for wear — it would give absent landlords a reason to want to downsize through cash incentives and up the curb appeal for those residences that are somewhat downtrodden.

In the end, it would benefit the city as a whole, with increased morale one of the advantages. The payoff — hopefully a domino effect that will have residents taking pride in the neighborhoods and community as a whole.