A group of University of Georgia students could be seen walking around certain neighborhoods in Porterdale recently, but they weren’t just roaming. They were enjoying a refreshing college field trip while learning about Porterdale’s demographics.
The Housing and Community Development Service Learning Class Project, taught by Kim Skobba and Karen Tinsley, brought about 30 students to Newton County for their service learning class, learning about neighborhood revitalization, affordable housing and how communities differ from one another.
Students were divided into groups, performed windshield surveys and collected data from the tax assessor’s office, Tinsley said at the Porterdale City Council’s work session Thursday, Aug. 28.
The study area included 59 units between Spruce and Beech streets. Students found that 17 percent (10 units) of those sampled had a homestead exemption, and the average age of the homes was 89 years. The average total tax value was $30,736, with a range from $12,500-$43,600.
Students then combined the Newton County Tax Assessor’s homestead exemption information and property owners’ names with the name on the account for Porterdale water bills.
They found that 45 percent (26 units) of the properties did not have a water bill, which led them to assume those were empty or unoccupied lots, Tinsley said. Thirty-four percent of properties (20 units) did not have a homestead exemption and did not have the same name for the water bill account and the owner’s name. This led student to assume those tenants are renters. Ten percent (6 units) had a homestead exemption and had the water bill account name match the owner’s name, which meant the owner lived in the unit.
Information gathered from students’ windshield surveys, which was conducted by walking and observing properties, concluded, of 58 parcels, eight were single family units with a garage, 33 were single family units without a garage, 16 were duplexes and one was a vacant property. Thirty-five parcels were occupied, 21 were vacant or unoccupied, one was for sale and one was inconclusive.
They also looked for information on each parcel and what defects pertained to each house. Minor defects included swayed and damaged roofs, dry rot and uneven steps. Major defects included multiple broken or missing windows, major dry rot and uneven or cracked foundations. Tinsley said students enjoyed the trip because it made them feel like they were doing something useful to real residents instead of simply sitting in a classroom to learn theoretical lessons.
Bob Thomson, Porterdale city manager, said the data will be used for code enforcement and homeownership study purposes.