NEW ORLEANS — Code enforcement officials said Monday that they are making progress on the number of blighted property inspections they face and are handling them faster than before.
Since the start of the year, inspectors have looked at 3,455 blighted properties, Code Enforcement Director Pura Bascos told the City Council’s Housing and Human Needs Committee.
Bascos said that the majority of complaints her office has inspected — about 85 percent — have been done in fewer than 30 days, with most being completed within eight days.
Bascos told the council members that the higher response times happen despite her office being understaffed and while a backlog of older inspections is whittled down. Mayor Mitch Landrieu early after his election promised to rid the city of 10,000 blighted properties by 2014. About 8,000 of those properties have been demolished, the city has said.
“We’re whacking away at the older inspections,” Bascos said on Monday.
Asked by Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer if she could say what properties are in line to be demolished, Bascos said that she did not immediately have that information since her office’s computers until recently could not break out that specific data.
But, she added, that information soon will be available for council members.
While Bascos said that her office has hired to attorneys to help with the workload, there has been trouble hiring researchers since the pay is somewhere in the mid-$20,000 area.
Councilwoman Stacy Head said that it might be better to hire one paralegal with a higher pay rate rather than paying two researchers to do the work since a paralegal has more experience.
“Hire maybe one person who can really act on the work,” Head said.
Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell asked Bascos why her office is not working with neighborhood organizations that are working to rehabilitate properties using federal money.
Cantrell said she is concerned that the city is not penalizing owners of blighted property next to lots that are in the process of being redeveloped.
Bascos said she was not aware of that situation but told Cantrell she would work with the council in an effort to become more aware of those situations.