Monday, January 22, 2007

passing on problems

On the east side we’ve had numerous discussions about problem properties and vacant buildings. The terms are almost a mantra that runs through my brain every time I’m at a community meeting. The discussion is usually framed in terms of undesirable property and housing. It’s really about people.

There’s new legislation coming down in the city of St. Paul that is of interest to all “landlords.” Since the quality of human life has been threatened by numerous transient folks who generally live in rental properties, the city has decided to crack down on the landlords in an attempt to hold the noses of the absentee landlords to the grindstone. With the new legislation, rental properties (now, including duplexes and single family homes) will be subject to inspection and licensure by the city. If the tenants living in another’s property are of the unruly kind and the neighbors call the police on them and a nuisance violation gets filed the property becomes subject to more frequent city inspection. So, the bottom line is—if you are a landlord, you don’t want to rent to “delinquents” or basically, those with issues.

The city, now, also, is inspecting homes for fire code occupancy violations, now duplexes and single family homes are also subject to routine inspection. There was an incident last summer with the home of an ethnic family that had caught fire. There was a fatality or two. Investigators then found that the number of occupants exceeded the occupancy code. This is not new news to those who know the living situations of new Americans.

So my neighborhood is potentially becoming more hostile to the poor, the large family, the alien and the unruly. "Problems" aren’t being solved. We’ll just push them along.

City Hall has already gotten an earful about it. Read about it here. I was drafted to join the line of people speaking to this issue along with this woman, but as usual, my district got the date and time confused. I suppose I can just prepare myself for a verbal jousting with the lawyer on my board, come Tuesday night, just for fun. On my board of directors, all but I voted in initial favor of this legislation. The legislation will pass and people will look for new loopholes.

I think I am sufficiently reassured that laws and legislation have its part in shifting the landscape. However, no matter how much one pushes dirt around, there is still just as much dirt in the end as when one began. Personally, I would rather be involved in the transformation of my unruly neighbor than in the force that moves them along. What one calls a problem is a matter of perspective. It could be a challenge—a challenge which calls one to rise to the occasion of loving one’s neighbor. Everyone needs redemption. Everyone needs a kinsman redeemer.

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