Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration is moving ahead with plans to create a registry of the city’s rental properties and subject them to periodic inspections, part of a broader plan to boost the supply and quality of affordable housing in New Orleans.
However, the idea of creating such a registry has yet to win approval from the City Council, which took up the proposal last year but put off voting on it after resistance from property owners.
Council members appear to be split over the mayor’s decision this week to put out a request for proposals asking private companies to bid for the job of setting up the registry and handling the inspections.
Affordable housing advocates like the idea of such a registry and inspections, which initially was floated by council members LaToya Cantrell and Jason Williams. The advocates have been coming to the council for many months with stories of tenants stuck in deteriorating apartments owned by apathetic landlords.
After listening to harrowing tales of children falling through termite-eaten floors and acco…
Some property owners, on the other hand, view the registry and inspections as an undue burden. The program would be paid for with fees collected from landlords, according to language included in the city’s request.
Landrieu proposes to have all rental units registered by Dec. 31, 2017, with larger apartment complexes having to sign up first.
Proposals are due by July 27, and officials expect to quickly choose a firm that could do the work.
Cantrell’s office said she plans to introduce an ordinance authorizing the plan by the end of the year. It said she did not object to the mayor going ahead with a request for proposals, even though it stipulates certain details that typically would be hashed out by the council.
The request is more an attempt to guide the eventual ordinance than to supersede it, said David Winkler-Schmit, a spokesman for Cantrell.
He said the council will want to know how much the proposal is going to cost before approving it. “That’s really the main question, essentially, from the stakeholders, especially the landlords,” he said.
Council President Stacy Head, who frequently has sparred with Landrieu, doesn’t see it that way. She said the administration’s request outlines program rules and minimum inspection standards that, although well-intentioned, haven’t been vetted by the council or the public.
“I’m not antagonistic to the idea,” she said. “But I also am a firm believer in the … separation of powers. There has to be a healthy respect for the people that draft the laws and the people that execute the laws.”
Many of the inspection standards in the request are almost identical to building regulations in the city’s municipal code. For example, the document says landlords must ensure that all rental units have working fire and smoke detection systems and alarms, as well as hot and cold running water.
But the document also spells out details the council has not weighed in on, such as how often inspections would take place, what happens after a failed inspection and how many individual units in a given apartment complex must be inspected.
The proposal asks the outside firms to set the fees landlords must pay to register, to be inspected and to have registrations reinstated, if necessary. The selected firm also must reimburse the city $70,000 annually for administration costs.
Landrieu spokesman Hayne Rainey said Friday that the responses to the city’s request “will better inform us what program fees should be written in the ordinance to fully cover program costs. Rental registry guidelines and the ordinance will be drafted in the coming weeks and up for debate this fall.”
He said the city’s Code Enforcement Department “does not have the capacity to directly run the program. However, Code Enforcement will hire a manager to oversee program administration and the contract with the selected service provider. The program will be self-funded entirely through inspection fees.”
The selected firm or nonprofit organization “will set the program fees, with input and approval from the city, at the lowest rates necessary for effective delivery of the requested services,” Rainey said.
The inspection results would be publicly available in an online database, according to the request for proposals.
Read the RFP below.