This could be trouble

To the Editor:

I read recently that Fairmont has adopted “An Ordinance Establishing Standards for Rental Housing.” While there are large metro areas uncontrolled enough to warrant adopting some variation on such ordinances, and notwithstanding the noble objectives intended, the city of Fairmont seems an unlikely candidate for such an over-broad and potentially costly additional ordinance, which could adversely affect what is already a dearth in rental housing availability.

Over the years, I suspect there have been relatively few issues between neighbors, renters, the city and owners of rental properties that have not been resolved in a timely fashion and with minimal disruption to all parties involved.

Beyond that, the vast majority of “affordable” housing units are already subject to regular inspections at both the municipal level, under existing ordinances, and at the federal level in connection with the financing in place. So adopting yet another level of management and control will only increase costs for the city, the property owners and, of course, for tenants.

Beyond all that, it’s not clear that supporters of the ordinance were fully advised as to the potential for city liability in connection with adoption of these ordinances, and the rate at which they are being challenged, often successfully. Following is an excerpt from an article published by the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law regarding the “Legal and Practical consequences of Crime Free Rental Housing and Nuisance Property Ordinances” from August of last year:

” The spread of these ordinances [throughout Illinois] and the nation is great cause for concern, as they lead to costly consequences not just for the tenant families but also for the entire community. These ordinances can undermine public safety by silencing crime victims and others who need to seek emergency aid or report a crime. They can increase housing instability and ultimately homelessness for victims of domestic and sexual violence, persons with disabilities, and other vulnerable tenants. They can reduce availability of desperately needed affordable rental housing. And they can result in violations of tenants’ and landlords’ rights – including rights to be free from discrimination, to contact the government for assistance and to receive due process – and thereby expose municipalities to legal liability.”

I would guess supporters of adopting an ordinance with such open-ended and unnecessary consequences, and over-burdening regulation may rethink their position the first time the “chilling” effect of the ordinance forces an abuse victim from their housing or creates a reluctance to call law enforcement when needed. The result could be serious injury, or worse, to a Fairmont resident who may well be some reader’s daughter or mother, and then the lawsuits begin to get filed against the city.

Peter T. McGough,

former Fairmont resident

Negril Beach, Jamaica