Where does Brainerd go from here regarding our housing inspection program? Is it sufficient? Is it objective? Are the real issues being addressed?
Inspector Ron Anderson has made a good start in uncharted waters. He has the goodwill of the tenants and the landlords. We are on the right track. So, exactly what is to be accomplished by the hired specialists? I supported the motion to hire them but have still to have my question answered -- "What are the results expected?"
I was frustrated by the meeting with them Oct. 10. This is not intended to be critical of them -- but to be goal-oriented, not just having another program. Goal oriented would mean identifying real issues, not just talking clichs.
Some real issues are landlords who do not maintain property. It is essential that housing be safe, i.e. structural and electrical standards adhered to, appropriate exits, that plumbing meet requirements, common sense things most will agree. It is also essential that tenants be responsible if, in fact, good quality rental housing is our goal. Landlords can and should screen tenants -- but no process is foolproof. That is where I believe our "system" falls down. There is no real accountability in our system for such incidents. The situation is not confined to people using public assistance, but accountability is more difficult when that occurs. Plainly stated, property trashing by someone with assets at least allows some hope of recovery by the property owner. Such is rarely the case when property destruction occurs from tenants on public assistance. In fact, more public money then is spent to find them more housing.
Does this mean all people who receive assistance trash property? Of course not. The percentage of irresponsible tenants is probably fairly equally divided among private and public payers. The paint is the recourse available when such a situation occurs, the total discrepancy between public and private.
Until we have the courage and the candor to address the issue fully, we cannot resolve the problem. If we demonize either tenant or landlord we avoid the tough questions -- and sometimes -- the tough answers. Will everyone in the "system" come together to require accountability? Not excuses, not promoting the "poor victim" mentality, not excusing the consistent "slum lord" -- but saying out loud what is true -- good, safe, affordable rental housing requires that both landlord and tenant be held accountable for bad behavior. And my question at the meeting was, "Why do we reward bad behavior?"
MARY KOEP is a member of the Brainerd City Council.
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