April 14, 2016

Post-Journal

The Census Bureau considers a home to have incomplete plumbing if it doesn’t have a toilet that flushes, if it has no bathtub or shower or if the home doesn’t have hot and cold running water. Homes are considered to have no kitchen if they don’t have a sink with a faucet, a refrigerator or a stove or range.

According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics contained in the 2013 American Fact Finder, there are 185 homes in Jamestown that have incomplete plumbing. Another 218 homes have an incomplete kitchen.

Perhaps it is a statement of Jamestown’s housing issues that the raw number of homes that don’t provide adequate basic living conditions isn’t even the most shocking thing from a recent story in The Post-Journal. For us, the shocking statistics are these: rental units account for 89.2 percent of the occupied housing units with incomplete plumbing and 78.4 percent of the occupied housing units with an incomplete kitchen.

Why would someone live in such conditions? They have no choice.

“It is really bad out there,” Vince DeJoy, city development director, told The Post-Journal recently. “There is a shortage of decent apartments that are affordable.”

Jamestown has done a good job over the past several years of demolishing blighted houses, doing so both with city taxpayer dollars and money given to the Chautauqua County Land Bank by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The city removed 422 rental units from 2007 to 2013. That is a good start toward improving neighborhoods and living situations for renters in the city, though the Census statistics show there are still houses that need to be demolished.

Demolishing houses, however, doesn’t cure the lack of investment in housing in the city. We need Jamestown’s economy to pick up – both to provide workers with jobs that pay enough to pay rent for better apartments and to provide landlords with the money they need to create habitable apartments. City taxes need to decrease so more of every homeowner’s paycheck can go back into their homes rather than to pay for city services. If such actions don’t solve the problem, then there needs to be a mechanism that allows for inspection of rental units before someone moves in.

We are sure there will be disagreements both over the cause of Jamestown’s housing problems and possible solutions. No one, however, should be able to argue with the fact that everyone in Jamestown should live in a home with an adequate bathroom and kitchen.