Facing a large crowd that had at least as many people assembled outside the council chambers as the standing-room-only group inside the regular meeting room — and an inadequate audio system to reach the outsiders — Hamilton City Council on Wednesday postponed considerations of five related pieces of legislation generally intended to clamp down on landlords who own problem properties.
“We can’t hear!” people yelled from the lobby of the city building, as they could tell city officials were speaking, but didn’t know what they were saying. “Can’t hear in here!”
“I have a hearing disability,” one man called from the outer room’s crowd.
Many wore red as a symbol of their concern, with some carrying signs, with slogans like, “War on Affordable Housing Continues.”
“Cancel this and get a bigger room!” another shouted.
That sentiment won the day. Mayor Patrick Moeller announced the council would postpone two public hearings on the legislation until the March 8 hearing, and would not hold the first of two required readings of the legislation in question until that meeting as well.
Moeller announced the next meeting would be held at a large auditorium somewhere that will be announced well in advanced. Those who cannot attend that meeting will be able to submit written comments that will be read at the public hearing, he said.
The city is considering ordinances that would:
- Require landlords to register the apartments they rent so the city can inspect them at least every other year, at costs of $75 or $25, to make sure they meet building, fire and health standards;
- Allow the city to assess civil fines on property owners (up to $10,000 in extreme cases where the chronic violations occur more than seven times in a two-year period); and
- Allow the city to assess landlords for city utility bills that are not paid by tenants.
Rodney Parker of West Chester, who owns seven properties in Hamilton, said he took issue with all three prongs of the city’s approach, particularly the one that would landlords responsible, with liens on properties, when tenants skip out on paying utility bills. “Man, you’d have people moving in and out left and right,” he said.
Also, the charges for apartments, to finance the inspections, was unpopular with him: “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
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