Rental housing task force outlines the job at hand

From the Sentinel:


According to data presented during the initial meeting of the Carlisle rental housing task force Wednesday night, rental properties received more code violations in 2010 than any other type of property in the borough.

All told, 367 violation letters, phone calls or other forms of contact were made to property owners regarding maintenance code violations across the borough, said Bruce Koziar, the planning/zoning/codes manager and zoning officer.

Of those properties, 246, or 67 percent, are rental properties, he added. Eighty-nine, or 24 percent, are owner-occupied and 32, or 9 percent, are vacant lots or structures.

About half of the violations were discovered proactively by employees of the codes office on patrol, Koziar said, while the rest were called in by residents.

Before codes officials can address a violation, it has to be evident from a public place – such as a road or sidewalk – seen during a routine patrol or received in a complaint. Inspections of a dwelling’s interior are not permitted until a violation is seen or a complaint is filed.

“We can’t just go into a house,” Koziar said.

When a violation at a rental property is discovered, the codes department alerts the property owner and asks them to accompany a codes official out of courtesy to the property owner.

The nine-member task force will use the code violation data, and additional data that will be presented during future meetings, as they try to determine whether Carlisle needs an ordinance regulating rental housing properties.

A date for the next meeting, which will likely be held next month, has not yet been set. Once it is, it will be posted on the borough website.

Wednesday’s meeting was the first for the task force and most of the time was spent on how they will accomplish their goal of making a recommendation to council. Last month, council gave the task force until June 30 to present its report.

Council also named members to the task force, which include three each among landlords, homeowners and tenant representatives.

At the start of the meeting, Chris Gulotta, facilitator and owner of The Gulotta Group, said he’s “fairly optimistic” the group will be able to reach a final report.

But, Gulotta said, there’s “no doubt there will be disagreements as we move ahead,” adding the members should “start with a blank slate on this issue.”

As part of establishing how the task force will proceed, members agreed that a recommendation will have to be approved by a super-majority of six members with at least one vote in favor from each of the three stakeholder groups – landlords, homeowners and tenant representatives.

The members also outlined principles that will guide the task force in the months ahead.

Members should establish what the collective vision of what Carlisle should be, said Donna Morelli, a homeowner. They should also listen to each segment of the community, said Curtis Hetrick, a homeowner.

Landlord John Bogonis said the report should include how fees for proposed rental unit licensing, registration and inspections are collected and spent.

Any report to council, said Nathan Harig, a tenant, should should be backed up by hard data, adding “Whatever we have, there’s a reason,” he said.

Full article here