Sometimes you have to look elsewhere

Let's own up to a problem we know we have, but do not know what to do about.

Rental properties are abundant in the best and worst neighborhoods in Roanoke, and in various states of viability.

Take for example a story brought to our own Southeast Action Forum meeting last month - a young woman who lives on Elm Ave. SE (after the split) has had major problems with her neighbors across the way.

Aside from drinking and using drugs at all hours day and night, they keep the property in the traditional manner accustomed to those of that lifestyle. Trashed, badly.

But things did not get truly bad until the neighbors started calling the police on these fine, upstanding citizens - trying to get some peace on the street for the children and elderly who also live there.

From verbal harassment, to physical property damage - the surrounding neighbors tried as hard as they could - even to the point of calling the landlord themselves to explain the situation. And as one might suspect - he was moved. A half an inch.

In response to the complaints of the neighbors, he decided the only proper thing to do would be to move in a relative to the property - however the one he chose joined up with the thug life-no job wanna-be's.

Finally, after a true eviction was attempted (and thanks to the backwards laws, foiled by the tenants saying they had a lease agreement), and with the prodding of a certain local police officer - the landlord was... compelled to go to court and take every available legal measure to rid these people from the neighborhood.

Now, the question remains, why did it take such actions to get the landlord to "man up" and do something about the hoods in the hood?

Why? Because the landlord had nothing to worry about from them being there. Regardless of the numerous code violations on all 3 of the properties owned by this landlord, he is still making money off the deal.

But there is an answer, and it comes from a small suburb (or group thereof) of the city of Minneapolis. Parts of it we have in place, and parts we need to have in place. As follows:

"With a new ordinance that takes effect Aug. 10, St. Louis Park will require landlords to evict tenants who deal drugs, commit violent crime or repeatedly disturb neighbors. If they fail to evict tenants at the prompting of police, landlords face a $750 a month fine."
(read more here)

This is not a hard concept. Yes, there should be a blacklist of people who are known to be troublesome renters and everyone from the PD down to the landlords should get a copy. Yes, there is a fair housing law - but do you realize that applies both ways? To be fair to the renter, you need to have a fair community to rent in - and to have a fair community to rent in, you need to be fair to the community.

My personal favorite extension of this idea comes from another suburb of Minneapolis which already has a rental ordinance. From the article: "Brooklyn Park, which already has a rental ordinance, is considering going a step further by seizing rent at poorly maintained properties and holding it in escrow until repairs are made."

Could you imagine the outrage? The rats fleeing off the sinking ship that would be the rental property game in Roanoke? Certain landlords would claim to be "targeted" by this, others would cry racism - but honestly, we want the city to grow and prosper - and by allowing people to live in sub-standard conditions, yet pay prime rates - it's a barrier to that growth we all cheer about.

Even South Roanoke has multiple rental properties, some on streets you would least expect them.

The point of all this is to say that the city has done a decent job in attempting to correct the slumlord/landlord situation, but sometimes you cannot be nice... you have to play ugly.

But that means with the Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority as well.

Otherwise, answer this question: How many times can you turn the other cheek?


Something (not so) new for you

Don't know if you have ever heard about it - but there is a website that aggregates the local news, and allows you to comment on it. It's called Topix.

I recently signed on to be an editor (simply adding news items into the feed), and would like you all to come over and take a look from time to time.

Topix: Roanoke, VA.

Kinda interesting really, once you sign up (free) you can add stories from various sources or even post your own to the feed.

Anyway, I'll be back with more later - I've got some work to do. The forgotten-lawn awaits.