The defeat of a plan to establish minimum standards for rental housing in New Albany is a significant step backward in the effort to improve our community.
The Board of Aldermen vote was 2 to 3 on the proposal that would have set standards for habitation and given the city building inspector the authority to prevent rental units from being occupied if the minimum standards were not met.
The standards would have been minimal: water, a toilet, sink, bathtub or shower, heat and ventilation, electrical, protection from weather, etc.
Voting for the plan were Scott Dunnam, its sponsor, and Jeff Olson. Voting against were Johnny Anderson, Tommie Beasley and new alderman Will Tucker.
The vote of Tucker was particularly disappointing because it was a vote against the base of young people who supported him in the election. Younger adults tend to be renters, not homeowners, and they would have benefited from the plan.
A meeting low point was an attack on the reputation of Dunnam, a well-respected contractor, by landlord Harry Vinson, who alleged the alderman would personally benefit from the work necessary to meet the standards. He called Dunnam’s sponsorship of the proposal “unethical.”
We found Vinson’s statements inflammatory and ridiculous, and we were disappointed that other members of the board offered no defense of their colleague.
An intense lobbying campaign had been mounted against the proposal by a group of landlords. Some landlords operate respectable rental housing in the city, but others are nothing more than slumlords allowing their properties and the accompanying neighborhoods to deteriorate.
We urge Dunnam to keep pushing the issue. We think a majority of city residents oppose trashy low-quality rentals that are hurting neighborhood values and contributing to blight.