LIMA — After reading about a proposed citywide landlord registry for Lima, Chad R. Vanvoorhis remains skeptical about its usefulness.
As owner of Chad R. Vanvoorhis Properties, he rents out roughly 100 homes throughout the region, and he’d rather rely on better using the tools that are already there to fix Lima’s housing problems.
On the other hand, Councilor Carla Thompson isn’t backing down. Now that she’s garnered something of a reputation of a fixer of housing problems, she continues to get calls from tenants and homeowners at their wit’s end, unable to deal with the problems caused by a deteriorating housing stock throughout the city.
“I don’t care about appeasing people just because they’re loud,” Thompson said in reference to the push-back she’s received from some landlords in the city. “To be honest, I’m more concerned about the city. I’m more concerned about the voters. I’m tired of people calling me in tears about something that we can fix.”
Lima’s housing problems aren’t new nor unique. Since the shrinking of the industrial sector started in the 1980s, cities across the Rust Belt have all dealt with urban blight in one form of another. Lima’s housing options have only worsened due to a general lack of investment and a market that encourages landlords to scoop up cheap housing for a quick return.
Vanvoorhis is well aware of the problems.
“I think all of the landlords of Lima would like to see the housing look better, generally speaking,” Vanvoorhis said.
When compared to Wapakoneta, he said, Lima’s housing stock pales in comparison. He’d like the city to examine what the smaller city may be doing when it comes to code enforcement to see how its solutions could be adapted.
He also puts the onus more on tenants than landlords for Lima’s housing problems. He described scenarios where tenants occupy residences in the city, pull out copper wiring and water heaters to sell for extra dollars, keep dogs, house extra family members and then fail to keep the outsides well-kempt.
As for the worst properties, he said they tend to be landlords that buy a cheap house then leave it to rot, thereby drawing down property values and attracting infestations that can spread throughout a neighborhood.
Thompson agreed with that assessment, and it’s why she’s encouraging a registry with contact information to try to provide the city tools to better deal with the issue. Currently, properties are registered with the Allen County Auditor but the lack of easily accessible data on how to get ahold of owners — who are often protected via layers of shell corporations, trusts and foundations — creates a real roadblock in forcing action on these properties.
For these owners, Vanvoorhis agreed there should be some registry of contact information. He’s mostly concerned, however, about inspections and their price.
Councilor Derry Glenn has the same concern about charging fees on landlords. He’s been hearing from his constituents afraid that their rents will go up during the pandemic, and he doesn’t think now is the best time to consider a registry.
Thompson said such an idea has been touted by some landlords as a way to eliminate tenant support of her program. She said she’s heard from landlords that tell her that even if the city comes up with a free system that effectively encourages landlords to fix their properties, they’d still oppose the principle of it.
“They know they have substandard property. So to me, this whole idea that all the rents are going to go up, it’s preposterous. It’s propaganda,” Thompson said.
As for the program’s timeline, she doesn’t expect any fees any time soon, even if some version of the registry is passed tomorrow. The first year would be registering local names and contact information for property owners, then the registry would operate on a rolling basis as residences are rented out.
“There’s no way that all landlords are going to be happy with this. They’re resisting being monitored. The only thing I can do is do my best to make sure that what we produce is fair. It doesn’t mean everybody is going to be happy, but it was a recommendation from our housing study,” Thompson said. “We know that communities larger than us and smaller than us have these, so we’re not trying something that hasn’t been done before.”
As for the nuts and bolts of the program, the details are still up in the air. Whether someone is for or against it, however, seems to have already been worked out.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.