Doing nothing is not an option for Lima in 2018 when it comes to landlord registry and dilapidated rental housing.
That was made perfectly clear this past election when the poor condition of Lima’s housing stock became a central issue in the mayoral and council races.
This year slipped away, however, with both City Council and the Berger administration unable to agree on a solution. Such indecision cannot be tolerated in 2018. A middle ground needs to be forged between the administration’s proposals and the concerns expressed to Council from landlords and renters.
Both sides are agreeable that some type of registry is needed to make landlord contact information easily available. What happens beyond that is the point of contention.
The administration wants to mandate interior and exterior inspections of rental property. To pay for the inspections, it would charge landlords an annual cost of $25 per rental unit, along with an annual $75 per unit fee for inspections. Landlords object, calling the fees too costly, and renters fear the added expense would be passed on to them.
The issue came to a head last week when the Neighborhood Concerns Committee voted unanimously to defeat the city’s plan. The debate is far from over, however.
The committee will have new members appointed next year and they will have plenty to mull. Tops on their list should be a definition of what constitutes a subpar rental unit? Once that’s done, they will have a better grasp of suggested outcomes.
What’s promising so far from the debate:
• Outgoing council member Jesse Lowe’s idea of assembling a group of both advocates and opponents of the registry to suggest alternatives.
• Community Development Director Susan Crotty’s pledge that the city’s proposal is not “set in stone” and that many components of the registry are open to negotiation. This includes fees, the frequency and scope of inspections and how the registry is enforced.
What we see as problematic:
• A suggestion that the city develop a list of who it considers to be “good” and “bad” landlords. It’s simply not the role of government.
• Mandating interior inspections. Such searches, arguably, could be in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Lima’s poor housing stock didn’t happen overnight. It’s been an issue before David Berger became mayor 28 years ago and has become worse. Pointing fingers at why that happened accomplishes nothing. What will be important is who gets placed on the new Neighborhood Concerns Committee in 2018 and how well the administration and they work together.