YOUNGSTOWN Task force to hear ideas on revising city housing code

The second phase will include reviewing enforcement, prosecution and the court system.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Consensus is that the city needs a new housing code.
Before the task force looking at the issue makes its suggestions next year, however, its members want to hear from residents.
About 40 people have asked for copies of the city's housing code, a prelude to tonight's public hearing, from 5 to 7:30 p.m. in city council chambers.
Each person will have a few minutes. They can talk about their experiences, concerns and suggestions for change, said Maureen O'Neil Farris, chairwoman of the Housing Code Enforcement Task Force.
Personal experience brought O'Neil Farris to the group. She has worked on housing issues with the North Side Citizens' Coalition and had family members who were frustrated with city laws about dilapidated properties.
The nine-member task force is a mix of citizens and city officials that started meeting in April.
Codes elsewhere: The group has looked at building codes used elsewhere, including rules set by Building Officials and Code Administrators International.
BOCA is a 16,000-member, nonprofit professional association. Members come from code enforcement regulators and the construction industry.
Cities in 18 states have adopted BOCA's building codes.
Youngstown's laws date to the early 1970s. The task force has concluded change is needed, O'Neil Farris said.
Tonight's comments will feed the group's second phase, she said. That will involve reviewing enforcement of housing codes, prosecution of the cases and how the city court handles them.
"If enforcement was stronger, there could be a snowball effect" of people better maintaining their homes, she said. "That's what we're hoping."
The rest of the process is expected to take eight months or so.
There will be another public hearing before the group sends its suggestions to the mayor and city council.
O'Neil Farris hopes the task force will make its report in late spring 2002.

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