Update to vacant building monitoring program advances

This morning, the Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee took up a bill that makes some adjustments to the city’s vacant building monitoring program.

The program, most recently amended last November, enrolls vacant buildings in a mandatory monthly inspection program if they record three violations of the city’s Housing and Building Maintenance Code within a 365-day period. The owner of a building enrolled in the program is charged for the cost of those inspections. A building remains enrolled in the program until it passes four consecutive monthly inspections without violation.

The update passed out of committee this morning makes several further tweaks to the program:

  • It increases the inspection fee charged to owners to “true up” to the actual cost of the inspection;
  • it changes the enrollment criteria, allowing for enrollment if the first violation a building incurs isn’t remedied within the allotted time, or if a second violation occurs  within one year of the first violation being remedied;
  •  it allows for a building to be removed from the program after three consecutive passing inspections, instead of four.

Additionally, it recognizes that despite the additional inspectors that SDCI was granted budget to hire, the program still requires thousands of monthly inspections on top of about 400 inspections per year driven by citizen complaints. As such, it relaxes the requirement for monitoring program inspections to be monthly if SDCI simply can’t keep up.

Council member Herbold reminded her colleagues that one of the goals of the program is to reduce the number of “habitable, but vacant” buildings, and toward that end the ordinance provides for an exception for buildings where the owner works with an organization such as WELD to put a caretaker in place. It’s a win-win: it creates a job and a temporary home for someone transitioning back into society, and it prevents a building from becoming a vacant public nuisance.

The ordinance will be up for final approval at Monday afternoon’s full City Council meeting.