DANVILLE – Mayor Scott Eisenhauer will face some concerns and questions when he presents his housing plan to the city council's public services committee Tuesday.
Eisenhauer released his housing proposal to aldermen on Friday in anticipation of Tuesday's meeting. The plan is the first of two parts to improve Danville's housing stock by reducing dilapidated properties and crime throughout the city.
Part two will address the city's public housing programs.
A majority of the problems can be attributed to a high number of rental properties; a low number of owner-occupied properties; an unacceptable amount of vacant, dilapidated structures; and negligent landlords, Eisenhauer has said.
Using a "zero tolerance" approach, Eisenhauer wants to better enforce housing codes through a strict rental registration process, an inter-departmental reporting sys-tem and improved communication with landlords, tenants and city officials.
A majority of the public services committee members said that they do support the plan; still, there are questions that need answering.
"I'm worried about how it will be enforced," said Lois Cooper, vice chairwoman of the committee.
Enforcement was also on the mind of Committee Chairman Steve Nichols, Ward 6.
A rental housing program was introduced in 1995. The intention then was the same as it is now – improving the livability and valuation of the city's housing stock. Unfortunately, budget cuts reduced the number of city inspectors, Nichols said.
"We really haven't gone after (violators) as aggressive as we could," he said.
What the city needs now is the follow through.
"It's not so much the ordinance but the will of the administration to follow up on this," Nichols said. "I think it will be effective. It's ... going after the issue. I think we're on the right track."
Cooper called the plan "an exceptional idea." She said it addresses problems with apartment housing, such as garbage complaints and lack of required safety devices such as fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
"I like the mayor's idea that there will be an on-site manager," Cooper said. "I think that's a tremendous idea and it gives the tenant someone to go directly to."
Eisenhauer's plan requires that landlords have a local manager – who lives within the county – to handle problems with the property. Initially, Eisenhauer's plan required a local manager within the city limits, but he later amended that to include the county.
"It's the neglect and lack of oversight by property owners that the property is not kept up to code," Cooper said.
There are several landlords who live out of state and own dozens of rental properties.
"Most of the problem is absentee property owners, because they don't have a concept of what is going on in the city. They have no vested interest," said Ward 5 Alderman Michael Puhr, who sits on the city council's public works committee. "It's hard to address a problem if you're not there to see it happening."
Ward 5 Alderman Jerry Askren, who sits on the public services committee, said he hoped Tuesday 's meeting would draw out the landlords that the plan will affect.
Though the plan is geared toward negligent landlords, it punishes the compliant landlords, Askren said.
"I'm not sure Scott's plan really addresses the 20 percent (negligent landlords) without hindering the 80 percent who are doing what they're supposed to be doing," Askren said. "The biggest challenge is how do you get at those that are causing the problems without hindering those who are doing things right?"