Monday, April 15, 2024
Affordable housingCities & Urban PlanningConstructionHousing

Detroit: Proposed Crackdown on Slumlords

The Duggan Administration just announced a proposed ordinance that would crack down on slumlords by forcing their properties into compliance with city rental registration (“certificate of compliance”) and, probably, building code. BSEED has supposedly increased its inspection staff to about three dozen, meaning they might actually have a sufficient staff to not only inspect buildings but also encourage better stewardship of inner city properties by largely suburban slumlords.

The city needs a standardized system of identifying or registering properties based on either a set of simple metrics or perhaps a set of simple binaries (e.g. Owner-Occupied vs. Rental and then In Compliance vs. Not In Compliance), similar to how LOVELAND’s Motor City Mapping identifies a property as Occupied, Maybe Occupied, or Vacant. I’ve run into a lot of problems with the city’s classification system for their blight ticket system (and I’m apparently not the only one) based on how they arbitrarily will label a property as “rental property” if it appears to be vacant, making going after delinquent and absentee slumlords easier.

Encouraging property owners to register rental property seems on its own a merely bureaucratic requirement with dubious or debatable benefit– but it does allow tracking to enforce code compliance. Code compliance means the city might be able to actually make sure renters have homes that are comfortable, safe, and energy efficient. The last one is critical in the conversation about keeping people in their homes, since, as I’ve explored before, many low-income tenants pay a huge percentage of their monthly housing payment to energy.

Of course, it’s always a question of how far the city wants to go with that enforcement, and I certainly have a question as to the balance between the noble goal of “making people’s lives better” and a more disingenuous goal of “creating a regulatory avenue for revenue generation.” but if the supply of housing keeps increasing, it seems possible to keep people in their homes while increasing the quality of the existing housing stock.

Nat M. Zorach

Nat M. Zorach, AICP, MBA, is a city planner and energy professional based in Detroit, where he writes about infrastructure, sustainability, tech, and more. A native of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, he attended Grinnell College in Iowa, the Kogod School of Business at American University, the POCACITO transatlantic program, the SISE program at the University of Illinois Chicago, and he is also a StartingBloc Social Innovation Fellow. He enjoys long walks through historic, disinvested Rust Belt neighborhoods at sunset. (Nat's views and opinions are his own and do not represent those of his employer).

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