Hamilton officials will slow down consideration of law changes aimed mostly at problem rental properties, they announced Monday evening.
The legislation drew an angry and unexpectedly large crowd to last week’s City Council meeting. Some remained angry even a day after Hamilton announced it will move more slowly in considering the law changes.
When the audio system was unable to be heard by a big crowd that spilled into the large lobby of the city building, officials last week announced plans to conduct public hearings at a larger space on March 8, where everybody would fit.
Those hearings will be postponed, possibly for months, until an ad-hoc committee made up of landlords and tenants spends time working with city staff, public-safety employees and community development officials to rework the proposals, the city announced Monday evening.
The committee will be comprised of seven landlords, ranging from small (less than 10 units) to large (greater than 100 units). In addition to the seven landlords, two renters who reside in Hamilton will be a part of the committee. City staff who will attend the meetings will include public safety chiefs, members of the Community Development Department and the city manager.
Here are the items under consideration:
- A requirement that landlords register their apartments so the city can inspect them on a yearly or once-per-two-years basis to make sure they meet health, building and safety standards. Under the current legislation, the landlords would be required to generally pay $25 or $75 per apartment per year.
- Another measure allowing the city to assess civil fines — from $150 up to $10,000 in extreme cases when there are seven or more “chronic nuisance offenses” in an apartment or a homeowner’s own dwelling within a two-year period.
- Other legislation that would require landlords to pay tenants’ unpaid utility bills, including by placing liens on properties.
Charles Tassell, director of government affairs for the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Apartments Association, has agreed to chair the committee, which will be charged with balancing the rights of taxpayers and neighborhoods while not adversely impacting owners who keep their properties in good condition and free of crime, according to the city.
Tassell stated in a city news release that his association “looks forward to partnering with the City of Hamilton to develop workable solutions to address issues of crime and blight.”
The committee will work over the next three to six months to deliver legislative recommendations to the City’s Ordinance Review Commission, which then will make recommendations to City Council.
Even after the city’s change of course, Eric Vincent, president of Butler County’based Investment Property Owners Association remained angry about the way officials approached the situation.
“It should have happened a long time ago, instead of after the fact,” Vincent said. “It’s a waste of a lot of money, and a lot of energy.”
“It’s a good thing” that the city is now including landlords in the discussion, he said, “but shouldn’t it have happened before? One would think they would have actually contacted us ahead of time.”
Vincent said the city has his contact information, and has met with his organization in recent years, “so it’s not like they couldn’t get ahold of us. They could have gotten ahold of us a long time ago, and solved so many problems. But they didn’t, and I’m just shocked, I guess.”
“It’s a shame that the city is so intent on changing the demographics so that they can bring in a Starbucks, yet they’re not willing to see the progress that is actually being made in the city,” Vincent added. “As investors, we’re putting millions of dollars into the city to fix blighted properties, and make them taxable properties, versus tearing them down and turning them into properties that cost them money — because somebody’s got to cut the grass, somebody’s got to clean the trash out of it.”
“Protecting taxpayers and neighborhoods is fundamental to why government exists,” City Manager Joshua Smith said in the news release. “Our city has made great strides in terms of job creation, investment in infrastructure, small business start-ups and neighborhood redevelopment in recent years. Protecting our neighborhoods is necessary in keeping our momentum moving in the right direction.”
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