This Bucket's Got a Hole In It & I Can't Swim (Part 2)
After bringing the building code up to date, which once again is the cornerstone of a city’s ability to ensure a safe and healthy building & housing environment for its’ citizens, the next logical step is to guarantee that it stays that way by providing the mechanism, manpower, & resources to enforce that code.
As was discussed in my previous post, effective code enforcement goes far beyond policing the exterior of a structure.
Although it is not always the case, most owner occupied homes are a source of pride to those who reside in them. They to the best of their ability at least attempt to maintain the structure both inside and out as it is more often than not, the biggest investment in their lives.
In New Albany the majority of the problem homes are not owner occupied. They are a part of the 40% + rental property scattered throughout the city. And just as the neglected owner occupied homes are a minority of the total, those that are rental property are the majority of the total of neglected/abandoned homes in our neighborhoods both exterior and interior.
This dilemma is not unique to New Albany however. All one has to do is Google in “Rental Property Code Enforcement in Indiana” and you will be treated to page after page after page of links to cities & towns all around the state that have recognized the problem and have taken steps to deal effectively with it.
Here are but a few; http://www.cityofkokomo.org/egov/docs/1152718541_601898.pdf
( See Section 15.150.012 Illegal Use of Property & Section 15.150.176 Property Maintenance)
As you can see we are not the only city in our state that has these issues. The only thing that seems to isolate us is our local government’s unwillingness to risk offending the offenders.
Our history over the past 30 years or so would indicate that this is a reoccurring theme for New Albany/Floyd County. One could almost make a case for the assumption that a sterile bandage lobby was headquartered in our midst as we surely lead the nation in municipalities that are prone to place a Band Aid ® on a bleeding artery regardless of the need to do otherwise.
We need to catch up to the 21st century by admitting to ourselves that rental property is a business just as a gas station, grocery store, or repair shop is and that it needs to be regulated as such.
The city’s Code Enforcement personnel needs to have access to a data base which will identify rental property versus abandoned property versus owner occupied property. That same data base needs to include the name & address of the property owner as well as that of a local contact person in the event the owner lives out of state.
Unfortunately such a data base does not currently exist. There are bits and pieces of said information scattered about like fall leaves blowing in the wind but that makes the officer’s job nearly impossible to do much less do so effectively. And all this in an atmosphere of an Administration’s constant mantra about being understaffed, underfunded & a Common Council’s
majority table banging about tax dollars being wasted.
Many cities around us have figured out that clean, up to date infrastructure coupled with clean, safe housing in inviting neighborhoods draw folks to invest in them thus enlarging the tax base.
The result is more tax dollars in the coiffures to offer more & better services to their citizens thus encouraging even more business investment, more homeownership and more tax dollars.
But alas, we seem to be content to remain what is hurriedly becoming, according to our local law enforcement a leading safe haven for illegal drug marketing, child molesting, and petty theft in large part because we have an abundant supply of affordable run down properties these folks can rent from owners or their agents with no questions asked.
And if those should fall into short supply, there are plenty of abandoned structures for them to move into without fear of reprisal.
All this in a once proud city which will in a few short years celebrate its 200th birthday.
All this because some of our elected officials are more concerned with keeping their jobs than doing their jobs.
Still more to come!