Sunday, September 9, 2012

What Today's News & Record Editorial Should Have Said

I've taken the liberty of correcting an editorial from today's News & Record with what the spineless bought and paid for editors at the N&R are scared to write:

Editorial: Life after RUCO

Leaving no good deed unpunished, TREBIC bribed state lawmakers last year to rip the heart out of Greensboro’s highly successful, proactive rental housing inspections program.

RUCO, as the local program was called, was legally forbidden through legislation from fulfilling its basic mission: preventive inspections of all of the city’s rental housing stock. The new law permits a complaint-driven process based mostly on obvious problems that will rarely generate enough complaints to solve problems until said problems have gotten completely out of hand and risk eviction of tenants as revenge for reporting violations.

Since that time the need for effective enforcement has only increased as more residents in Greensboro choose have been forced by economic downturn to live in apartments or rental homes. As the News & Record’s Richard Barron reported last week, apartment vacancy rates in the Triad have fallen from 13.9 percent in 2009 to 8.4 percent today.

The well-publicized problems and lack of City oversight of a troubled high-rise complex near downtown, the Cascades Grandview, also have cast harsh light on the need to ensure that such housing is safe and livable.

To its credit, the city has formed a committee of rental-housing “stakeholders” to study where Greensboro should go from here under the new restrictions imposed by Raleigh publicity stunt. Yet, six months later that committee has not produced a proposal.

Another committee publicity stunt, formed by the Greensboro Neighborhood Congress, also has been exploring ways to ensure quality rental housing. And, unlike its city counterparts, it does have a proposal to show for its efforts.

It’s a good draft that deals fairly and reasonably with tenants and landlords but in no way compares to RUCO in scope or power. It does not impose inspection fees. It levies fines only for violations that are not addressed within a prescribed time frame. It does not mandate a quota for inspections, as RUCO did, so city inspectors are able to work within their staffing and time constraints. The proposal rightly allows more time for minor violations to be addressed and less time for violations that pose a more immediate danger to tenants.

Finally, the draft ordinance also allows for some inspections that are not complaint-based. That may surprise the folks in Raleigh, but the language of the state law permits them, listing among “reasonable cause” for action that “there has been a request that the building be inspected.” It does not specify by whom.

The Neighborhood Congress has made a good-faith piece meal effort to take the meddlesome legislation imposed by Raleigh. Instead of ferreting out the illegal lobbying and illegal operation of TREBIC they simply tried work arounds.

Not only are rentals up in Greensboro but so are complaints from tenants, which have increased 20 percent, according to the Neighborhood Congress. And yet rental housing conditions grow worse.

The congress’ proposal won’t be the last word in this discussion, but maybe it will provoke greater urgency. As City Councilwoman Nancy Hoffmann said last week, “At least we have a draft on the table. It should help to focus attention.” On what?

The stakeholders committee may yet come forward with its own draft (sooner rather than later, we can only hope). So may city staff. Yeah, right? Have none of you ever heard the expression CYOA? City staff is sweating bullets and hoping to survive the political BS long enough to make retirement. They haven't time to accomplish anything real and useful in that pressure cooker.

Then the City Council will consider whether to adopt and approve one of them or none. Being that TREBIC is the largest campaign contributor to all of council except T Diane Bellamy Smalls I think we all have a pretty good idea which way that vote will go.

For now, the new draft ordinance serves useful notice that the city needs to get on with this.

You mean like that well thought out Food Truck Pilot Plan those morons on city council just passed?