All American citizens should be entitled to decent, safe and sanitary housing.
Most all Boardman residents are American citizens.
Therefore Boardman residents deserve basic rights to adequate and secure shelter.
That syllogism of classic deduc- tive reasoning is hard to refute. That’s why opposition to Boardman Township’s proposal to implement a landlord registry to guarantee such rights to all rental-property dwellers defies common logic.
To her credit, Boardman Zoning Inspector Sarah Gartland has worked tirelessly to develop a proposed landlord registry and rental-inspection program for the township. The registry will allow township inspectors to randomly check the community’s nearly 5,000 rental units to ensure critical interior health and safety standards are not short-circuited.
The registry will effectively complement the township’s existing ordinances that ensure minimal health, safety and aesthetic standards are maintained on the exterior of all township properties.
The proposed rental standards do not require landlords to provide posh lap-of-luxury living spaces for tenants. They simply require such minimal amenities as those that ensure floors, ceilings and walls are structurally sound, that doors and windows can open and shut properly, and that residents have working heat and hot and cold water.
Unfortunately, Gartland and others in the township are discovering that those minimal standards that most take for granted are not viewed as obvious necessities by all landlords, particularly those absentee landlords who have little or no direct connection to the quality of life in Boardman.
The program would charge landlords a registration fee to ensure the registry and inspection program can be self-sustaining. Although the fee structure has not been determined yet, a similar registry in Youngstown costs landlords only $40 per unit. That’s hardly going to break the bank of owners and should not burden tenants with significant rent increases. “We don’t want the money; we want the [problem] to be fixed,” Gartland said.
ANOTHER WEAPON TO FIGHT BLIGHT
In addition to providing basic protections to residents, the registry also will add firepower to the large urban township’s growing arsenal of weaponry in its ongoing war on blight. If effectively implemented, the registry and inspections should slow the growth of unsightly and unhealthy properties that invite the wrecking ball and lower overall property values in a neighborhood.
The registry also would stand as a natural progression of Gartland’s other initiatives such as the township Master Plan for sound logical land use and the community’s recent prohibition of multiplex dwellings in neighborhoods of single-family homes.
In addition, the registry can help combat crime, a problem that has been creeping into the township in a more pronounced way in recent years.
Too often, properties with zoning violations are the same properties to which police are called most often, Gartland explained. As in Youngstown and other communities across the Mahoning Valley and the nation, substandard housing typically devolves into breeding grounds for the drug trade, thievery and other criminal activity.
Truth be told, the housing stock in the Mahoning Valley’s largest suburban community is beginning to show its age, with much of it dating back to the 1960s and beyond. Boardman’s trustees should adopt the landlord registry as one more viable tool to protect the township’s rental housing stock and to ensure it continues to age with utmost grace.