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Housing ordinance attracting attention

The City Council and a group of Realtors are working together to come up with a rental housing inspection ordinance for the city, “to develop and preserve decent, affordable housing, and at the same time provide services to the most vulnerable in our community,” according to a proposed preamble to the ordinance.

“Preventing or eliminating slums and blight and addressing community development needs to have particular urgency because rental housing often deteriorates over time, resulting in substandard housing conditions.”

You might think it wouldn’t be any problem coming up with such an ordinance, but it hasn’t been easy.

Good landlords shouldn’t need to be policed, and you can’t blame them for thinking that way.

On the other hand, bad landlords can be bad in so many ways, that bringing their properties into line with city codes is difficult under present regulations.

For example, tenants tell tales of woe which usually go like this:

“I called Code Enforcement to complain about the terrible conditions of my apartment, and the landlord threatened me with eviction.”

An outsider might say, “Why would you want to stay in a place where the roof leaks and the toilet doesn’t flush and rats and roaches are your roommates?”

Moving is hard because there is a shortage of affordable housing in the city, is the complainant’s reply. Aren’t the people who live in affordable housing just as deserving of adequate housing as the people who might pay higher rent?

The law says they are.

Landlords and property owners must abide by minimum requirements any time they rent a property for human habitation. Those requirements require premises that are safe, free of vermin, free from rain seepage, and adequately heated. Appliances must work and be safe. Plumbing must be in good condition, and include hot and cold running water. Floors and ceilings can’t have holes in them.

Many landlords — not the good ones, mind you — ignore these basic requirements.

The ordinance will be officially introduced at the first City Council meeting in June, on the 7th.

A hearing on the proposal was held Wednesday night, and almost every seat in the City Council chambers was filled.

The city is trying its best to be fair to both sides — the property owners and unhappy tenants, alike. Mayor Andrew Medellin did a good job of trying to make sure all voices were heard.

If this is a subject that interests you, don’t miss the next hearing. It will start at 6 p.m. in the City Council chambers at City Hall on West 4th Street.

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