Safe/Quality Housing Recommendations: A Matter of Trust

Soon the DeKalb city council will be deciding what steps to take, if any, in response to recommendations made by the Safe/Quality Housing Task Force and by its own staff. They include proposals for a “disorderly house” ordinance, issuance of Crime Free Lease addenda, and regulations for the registration, licensing and inspection of rental properties.

As longtime readers know, licensing and inspection of rental properties — and new revenues to pay for them — are dreams that have danced in the heads of city administrators for several years. The question is whether such initiatives would be worth the cost to residents, especially the group living here who’ve been walloped by the economy and made to watch the TIF boondoggle at the same time.

Obviously I’ve been suspicious from the get-go — and not buying the new crop of staff arguments for licensing and inspection, either.

First off, can we please stop comparing the City of DeKalb to the Village of Mt. Prospect? I understand that the attorney-consultants to the Housing Task Force know its workings very well, but Mt. Prospect is out of our league. The village only has 10,000 more people than we do, but an operating budget that is double DeKalb’s thanks to real estate worth about $5.5 billion. (DeKalb’s taxable property and taxable sales combined come to just $1.1 billion.) They can afford an army of inspectors. We can’t.

Can we also stop talking about taxing us for services we have no reason to believe we’ll benefit from. We once had 11 employees doing code enforcement until the slicing and dicing of that division began in 2008, yet even before the decimation there were many obvious, untended code enforcement issues apparent to even the most casual passers-by. I suspect at first city bosses more often deployed staff in new developments while the old neighborhoods were left to rot. After that they busied themselves with downtown lipstick-on-pigs projects while the neighborhoods were left to rot.

In other words, resource allocation has historically stunk.

You know what would have a positive impact on quality of housing and life in general for the maximum number of residents? One answer is better stormwater management and flood prevention.*

In this context you can color me less than sympathetic to the city’s preoccupation with giving itself access and authority to selectively peek into the interiors of our homes and other properties, much less its nerve in suggesting we bankroll such a venture. We have much more fundamental problems to solve, foremost a matter of trust.

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*Perhaps someone could prevail upon the Citizens Community Enhancement Commission to restrain themselves from picking up things we don’t need so we’d have more money for stormwater management. Sure, such projects don’t seem sexy at first, but you’d be surprised how much easier it is to build your ideal brand when fewer neighbors are complaining about basements flooded with water and sometimes more.

By the way, are we still putting off, for financial reasons, the work on the Kish levees that the Army Corps of Engineers says we need?

3 thoughts on “Safe/Quality Housing Recommendations: A Matter of Trust”

  1. Every spring in the League of Women Voters park in my neighborhood there is a deluge of water that swamps several houses to the point where they tried putting up sand bag barriers and the like. It gushes down the sidewalk causing a small pond to form. We feel so bad for the people who have to deal with their own version of Swamp People every spring, and considering the drain and what looks like a man made creek there, I’m confused as to why there is such excessive flooding. Was it poor planning or a mistake in construction? Either way it seems like something can be done to remedy it, but is being ignored. I can’t help but wonder how much of that planter money could have gone to actual change in my neighborhood. They want to improve the city? Why not make houses more livable (and easier to sell since there’s no swamp out the back door), and potentially raising property values? I’d be doing back flips with sparklers in my teeth for that.

  2. Exactly!

    I think there’s some sort of stormwater project in the neighborhood that’s supposed to be in the works soon, but the question is: what took them so long? Because it’s always been like that. And I’ve talked to 3rd Warders north of there who have had sewage in their basements.

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