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The Colonial Building Authority

Urban Renewal in SPACE: 1889

by John Gannon


"The spectacular Martian cities still stretch for miles beyond the canal banks. Their towers reach upward for hundreds of stories... But the Martians make use of only a fraction of the assets their cities provide... Whole sections of Martian cities today lie empty, deserted, and unclaimed except by the local vermin."

Space: 1889, page 160

In 1880, following the conquest and annexation of Syrtis Major, Avenel and Haat by the British, one of the first actions by the new rulers following the end of hostilities was to "make a survey" of their new realm. It quickly became apparent that large portions of the cities they had conquered were for all practical purposes, abandoned. With the peculiar penchant for real estate possession and regulation that all Humans possess, the British were properly disturbed, even shocked, to discover that no clear or discernible ownership of many of these properties could be found in what few records the Martians had bothered to maintain. The vast majority were simply "unclaimed and un-chatteled" buildings and lands!

After six months of survey and recording, the Colonial authorities had produced a fairly complete list of unclaimed lands and properties within the three cities. With typical British efficiency, documents were prepared, dated, signed, notarized, registered, and filed giving title of these properties to the British Crown. In view of the quantity and diverse category of newly acquired "Crown lands", a new department of the Colonial Office was opened on Mars - The Colonial Building Authority.

The Colonial Building Authority (CBA)

The CBA was organized to control the acquisition, distribution, rent, lease, and sale of unclaimed Martian lands and developments by the Crown to interested individuals, private and Crown corporations, and other departments of the government. To do this, the CBA is composed of three sub-offices: Commercial & Retail Properties; Domestic Properties; and Undeveloped Properties. The first deals with those properties that contain/include sites or facilities suitable for large-scale business use, former or current shops, factory or construction facilities, and those sites suitable for use as government buildings or other offices. Domestic Properties is responsible for sites suitable for use as single or multiple family dwellings, apartments, and other multi-occupant dwellings. The third office handles the disposition of those properties without structures of any kind, or those with unreclaimable ruins, and other properties not designated for habitation or other development, such as farmland, orchards, etc. While the rest of this article will be devoted to an examination of the Domestic Properties Office, the description of its procedures and routines is also valid for the other two offices as well.

The Domestics Properties Office

The Domestic Properties Office (DPO) is headquartered in the Colonial Offices located in the Residency in Syrtis Major, with smaller offices located in each of the British-controlled Martian cities. In each city, the DPO maintains records of all suitable properties within their jurisdiction, rates payable for rent, lease; or purchase of these sites; zoning plans for the proposed development of different areas in each city, and lists of past, present, and potential renters or purchasers. It is important to note that the DPO (nor any other branch of the CBA) issues building permits. That is the responsibility of the local civil administration, and is not a DPO/CBA function.

For the average citizen who wishes to purchase or lease one of the DPO's properties, the process is fairly straightforward. Once a property is desired, the individual approaches the DPO with the property description and/or address. The DPO checks its records to determine the status of the property in question, and if no previous title is found, the property is cleared for acquisition. Should the individual wish to rent, the DPO has a fixed set of rates, based on size, type, and location of the property from which the correct rate is determined; a deposit is paid, and the individual is free to take up occupancy. Rates are charged monthly, and the DPO maintains a small staff of agents who make the rounds, collecting rents and issuing receipts. In the case of a purchase, a different set of rates is consulted, which establish a value for the property based upon a similar set of criteria. Once the price is determined, the DPO and the individual make arrangements for either outright purchase or a "Rent To Own" program, similar to monthly rents for non-purchasing clients. Once again, upon completion of the correct forms, the individual is free to take up occupancy of their new residence.

Of course, the DPO is more than simply a rental/sales agency. The DPO is also a major participant in the Colonization/Reclamation program established by the Colonial Office in London. The scope of the plan was to encourage British settlement of the cities by making available to would-be colonists homes or apartments at attractive one-time prices, though with a five year "No Sale" moratorium. Not surprisingly, this program resulted in many thousands of applications from across the Empire, as those persons who were looking at either making a fresh start in life, or who were attracted by the idea of owning their own home for the first time in their lives, applied to the Colonial Office for consideration as colonists. To date, several hundred applicants have been granted homes on Mars through this process. Though thousands more names continue to wait on lists, though the recent war with Oenotria has slowed new applications.

In addition to the Resettlement Colonization Program, the DPO is also involved with supplying homes to those who have qualified under the Government's Honourable Service Home Program. Similar to the Resettlement Colonization Program, the Honourable Service Program is aimed at retiring or recently discharged members of the Army and Navy, as well as members of other government departments, who are willing to settle in the Martian Colony. Under this program, accepted applicants are given clear title to a single family dwelling in one of the Martian cities (based upon availability) by agreeing to accept a half-pension versus a full pension, and also agreeing to a five year "No Sale" moratorium. This has been a highly successful program with discharged soldiers and sailors, though not as popular with retiring bureaucrats as was originally hoped. DPO also transfers and sells properties (upon receipt of approved requests) to other departments of the government. Thus, it was the DPO that obtained the buildings used as the "Official Residences" for the members of the Colonial government such as the Secretary, the Governor, and the Viceroy.

Naturally, the homes and apartments that are available from the DPO come in a range of sizes and qualities. While a few properties are little more than hovels, some of the homes are near-palatial! Naturally, these higher quality properties command higher quality prices as well. In game terms, homes can be categorized as being Social Level 1 dwellings, Social Level 2-3 dwellings, Social Level 4-5 dwellings, and Social Level 6 dwellings. Home prices can be rated as "Price" X .67 for Level 1; "Price" X 1 for Level 2-3, "Price" X 1.5 for Level 4-5, and "Price" X 3 for Level 6 homes.

DPO offices are normally staffed by 3-7 officials, depending upon the size of the city (assume there is one DPO official per 20,000 inhabitants). In addition to the office staff, local DPO offices also employs a varying number of Assessors, Collectors, Surveyors, Architects, and others to perform the day-to-day functions involved with making properties available to the public. Many DPO officials have worked as Agents in Colonial Stations, while others are mere bureaucrats, who have never worked outside the confines of a government office.

The Future of the CBA

Now approaching it's 10th year of existence, the CBA shows no signs of having completed it's task to bring order to the chaos of the Martian cities. Indeed, in the last five years the cities of Parhoon and Gorovaan have been added to the jurisdiction of the CBA, while other CBA officials are now working in Meepsoor and Moeris Lacus assisting the local government in organizing their heretofore abandoned structures. The task before the CBA is enormous! The numbers of buildings and lands involved, relative to the present number of purchasers assures the CBA of many more years of work within the Crown Colony of Syrtis Lapis. The CBA is well aware that even once the cities of Syrtis Lapis are finally settled, there will undoubtedly be further work to do in the new cities that will inevitably be added to the British Realm in the years to come.....

Posted Monday, 04-May-2009 19:51:55 EDT

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