Strange bedfellows

 The public hearing this week on a proposal to establish minimum standards for rental housing in New Albany was an interesting evening.

Lots of folks showed up at the hearing, some in favor of minimum standards and others, including a number of rental property owners, who are opposed to any standards.

The opponents were strange bedfellows – respectable landlords with good-quality rentals and slumlords with dilapidated shacks – seemingly allied in opposition to a proposed rental housing ordinance under consideration by the Board of Aldermen.

The ordinance would set standards for habitation of rental housing and would give the city building inspector the authority to prevent rental units from being occupied if the minimum standards were not met.

The standards are minimal: water, a toilet, sink, bathtub or shower, heat and ventilation, electrical, protection from weather and the like.

Some of those who spoke in opposition made rational arguments that the ordinance needed some revision to insure that older rental units would not have to meet modern codes for new construction. We understand that concern.

But others were irrational. The board was accused of trying to adopt something out of the “communist manifesto.” Or a “monster agency.” Or something against the U.S. or Mississippi constitutions. One person even suggested “some of these people don’t serve a good place to live.”

Give us a break. Good quality housing that meets a minimum standard attracts good quality renters and keeps property values for neighboring homeowners up. Dilapidated rentals do neither.

The board should tweak the ordinance, if necessary, and approve it as part of a forceful clean-up, fix-up campaign.

About Chris Elkins

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