ENHANCED BUILDING CODE ENFORCEMENT AND REVITALIZATION

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1 2012 NATIONAL PLANNING CONFERENCE ENHANCED BUILDING CODE ENFORCEMENT AND REVITALIZATION Thomas M. Leatherbee, CBO, AINS, CFM Director of Community Services City of Del City, Oklahoma Monica L. Kynaston, CFM Planning Director City of Del City, Oklahoma

2 OVERVIEW Inner-ring suburbs are increasingly faced with blighted conditions within residential neighborhoods and commercial corridors. Traditional efforts to remediate blighted conditions are reactive in nature and do not address the root problems. Use of enhanced building code enforcement can serve to address some of the root causes of blighted conditions while providing for redevelopment opportunities. The City of Del City has embarked on a number of building coderelated initiatives to stabilize neighborhoods and revitalize commercial areas, the most significant and wide-reaching being the implementation of a housing inspection program for all oneand two-family structures.

3 A WORKING-CLASS, INNER-RING SUBURB Del City is an inner-ring suburb in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. The city was initially developed in the 1950s and nearly all of that original housing remains today. The city expanded in the 1960s and 1970s. Del City has an area of 7.5 square miles and is landlocked. The only significant residential development in recent years came as a result of the F-5 tornado that destroyed most of a neighborhood. Del City s neighborhoods exhibit typical signs of blighted conditions, including general deterioration of the housing stock. The City s commercial areas have experienced long periods of stagnation and decline.

4 INDICATORS OF BLIGHTED CONDITIONS City leaders began to examine the causes for the decline of city neighborhoods and commercial areas. Analysis quickly showed that a number of indicators existed that showed an increase in blighted conditions within neighborhoods and city-wide. Police Calls for Service Animal Control Calls for Service Non-Cooking Structure Fires Code Enforcement Investigations and Abatement Costs Utility Delinquencies

5 AN IMPORTANT REALIZATION In an effort to find solutions to the blighted conditions found in the city s neighborhoods, the city began to look at individual residential properties through a more comprehensive lens. This analysis quickly led to an important realization a small number of properties were responsible for a large portion of the drain on city services. These problem properties had impacts far beyond their neighborhoods, causing blighted conditions city-wide and stagnating commercial development and redevelopment.

6 ENHANCED BUILDING CODE ENFORCEMENT Beginning as early as 1999, the City developed a number of strategies relating to building code enforcement have been implemented in an effort to reduce blighted conditions, stabilize neighborhoods and foster redevelopment: Development of Standards for New Single Family Construction Move to Aggressive Nuisance Code Enforcement Modernization of Building Codes and Permitting System Adoption of International Property Maintenance Code Condemnation of Dilapidated Multifamily Structures Use of Multipart Commercial Occupancy Inspections Implementation of Housing Inspection Program Creation of a Specialized Environmental Court

7 NOVEL CONCEPT: HOUSING INSPECTION PROGRAM After realizing that a small number of residential properties seemed to be responsible for fostering blighted conditions, city leaders began looking for possible solutions. Over the course of several years, management and planning staff began to formulate ideas for the creation of a housing inspection program and then worked to build support for what would be a novel endeavor in Oklahoma.

8 HIP DESIGN Initial discussions regarding a possible Housing Inspection Program yielded a number of essential features any program would need to include: The program must address all residential properties. Customer service must be paramount. Inspection standards must be clear, reasonable and based on life-safety. All city departments must be involved in the program. Community Services (Planning, Inspections and Code Enforcement) Finance (Utility Billing) Public Works (Water Line Maintenance) Police (Patrol and Animal Control) Fire Legal Management

9 HIP CONSENSUS-BUILDING Consensus-building was a three year process. Stakeholders included: Department heads and senior staff Elected/Appointed Officials Business Community Neighborhood Watch Groups General Public

10 HIP CONSENSUS-BUILDING (CONT D) Activities included: Presentations Public Access Television Media Interviews and information packages Promotional materials (brochures, inspection checklists, application packages) Public hearings City Council voted unanimously to establish the Housing Inspection Program October 6, 2008.

11 HIP IMPLEMENTATION Three legislative changes were necessary to implement the Housing Inspection Program: 1. The HIP ordinance made it unlawful to occupy a residential structure without a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). 2. The HIP ordinance made it unlawful for a utility provider (including the City s utility trust) to initiate utility services to a property without a CO. 3. A separate regulation provided that city utility accounts would only be opened in the name of the primary occupant of a structure.

12 HIP IMPLEMENTATION (CONT D) The HIP required addition of two staff positions: A Housing Inspector position was created in the Community Services Department. An existing Code Enforcement Officer was reassigned to this position. The position requires a national certification through the International Code Council as a Property Maintenance and Housing Inspector. A New Account Specialist position was created in the Utility Billing Division of the Finance Department. This position was required as part of efforts to comply with federal mandates regarding identity theft protection but quickly became an integral part of the HIP, while also functioning as a supervisor for the division. Additionally, other Community Services staff provide significant management and clerical support for the program.

13 HIP COSTS AND FEES The HIP is funded out of existing operating expenses. Non-personnel costs associated with the program include printing expenses for application packages and postage for mailing inspection results, inspector equipment and vehicle/maintenance. The City Council set a fee for initial inspections at $40. Reinspections are provided at no charge, provided that work is progressing in good faith. A reinspection fee of $100 may be assessed for missed appointments or multiple failed reinspections. These fees are identical to the fees charged for commercial occupancy inspections.

14 HIP OPERATIONS HIP applications must be signed by the Property Owner, Property Manager and Occupant. A responsible adult must be present for the inspection. Inspections are scheduled into 2 ½ hour windows. Inspection results are available at 10AM on the next business day following the inspection. Applicants may request that inspection results be mailed, faxed or ed or may choose to pick up the results in person.

15 HIP OPERATIONS (CONT D) The HIP relies on existing codes to determine the standards for property maintenance. The City had previously adopted the 2003 International Code Series, including the 2003 International Property Maintenance Code. The IPMC serves as the basis for the inspection checklist, although some provisions were modified to reflect the realities of the existing housing stock.

16 INSPECTION OUTCOMES The results of an inspection fall into the following categories: Full Approval a Certificate of Occupancy is issued that is valid until the next change of occupant. Provisional Approval A Certificate of Occupancy valid for 90 days and a Correction Notice are issued. Failure A correction notice is issued and occupancy is not authorized.

17 INSPECTION OUTCOMES (CONT D) An inspection failure occurs only after a serious and imminent life safety issue is found. Once that condition is corrected and an inspection has been obtained, the property is then eligible for a provisional certificate for any other needed repairs.

18 INSPECTION OUTCOMES (CONT D) Follow up on Provisional Certificates: May be extended provided that progress is being made toward completion of the necessary repairs. There is no formal follow up on provisional certificates, but action may be taken if a provisional certificate has been allowed to expire without repairs being made and the property has other issues, such as a code enforcement complaint, utility shut-off or significant police issue. In the event that application is submitted by a new occupant and the property has an expired provisional certificate from a previous inspection, a new provisional certificate may be issued after an inspection is conducted, but the time on that certificate may be limited to 30 days and the file will be marked to ensure that the repairs are made within that time.

19 HIP RESULTS 1601 properties have been inspected at least once. This represents about 20% of the housing stock total inspections and reinspections have been conducted. Data from HIP 2-year review as presented to the City Council

20 HIP RESULTS (CONT D) The approval rate for full Certificate of Occupancies during the initial inspection was 18.5%. The failure rate was 4.4%, meaning over 70 houses were in such bad shape that they posed and imminent danger to the safety and welfare of the occupants. Most initial inspections (76.1%) resulted in provisional approval with corrections needing to be completed.

21 IMPACTS ON BLIGHT INDICATORS Over the course of the three years that the Housing Inspection Program has been in operation, significant progress has been made toward reversing blighted conditions in city neighborhoods.

22 INDICATOR 1 POLICE CALLS FOR SERVICE Examination of all non-traffic police calls for service shows a significant decline, with particular success in the area of residential burglaries. Data through 10/31/ Residential Burglaries Study Year

23 INDICATOR 2 ANIMAL CONTROL CALLS FOR SERVICE Animal Control calls for service have also show a significant decrease since the program began operation Animal Control Calls Data through 10/31/ Study Year

24 INDICATOR 3 NON-COOKING STRUCTURE FIRES Non-cooking structure fires have sharply decreased. Electrical issues are the most common type of issue found on HIP correction notices Structure Fires (non-cooking) Data through 12/31/10

25 INDICATOR 4 CODE ENFORCEMENT INVESTIGATIONS After peaking in the code enforcement year (March-February), the average number of new code investigations per month has dropped significantly. Data through 01/31/ Code Investigations Per Month (Average) Study Year

26 INDICATOR 5 UTILITY DELINQUENCIES Utility Delinquencies have held steady, both in terms of number of delinquencies and overall economic impact. Given the continued deterioration of national and local economic conditions during the study period, delinquencies were expected to have increased. Monthly Lost Revenue (adj.) $10,000 $8,000 $6,000 $4,000 $2,000 Residential Utility Delinquencies - Aggregate Economic Impact $0 November October 2010 Data through 10/31/10

27 ANALYSIS WHY DID THE HIP WORK? Proactive program property maintenance issues are being addressed and investment in neighborhoods is being generated. Rental rates appear to be increasing faster than in similar neighborhoods in other communities, meaning that investment is being rewarded and perhaps meaning that a different type of tenant is being found. Prospective buyers are no longer faced with the prospect of their investment being eroded by substandard houses on the same street, so properties are becoming more attractive for young families and, in certain neighborhoods, even for professionals seeking to live closer to downtown.

28 ANALYSIS A TROUBLESOME ECONOMIC MODEL On a deeper level, it appears that a troublesome economic model has been short-circuited. This explanation represents a scenario that we have seen play out time after time in one form or another, and one that is no longer profitable because properties must be brought into compliance with minimum property maintenance standards each time the occupant changes.

29 ANALYSIS A TROUBLESOME ECONOMIC MODEL Property owners to rent substandard properties to tenants with questionable credit or rental history, charging rental rates far above market rate. The landlord would take a large deposit and first month rent. The property would be damaged by the tenant, the tenant would move or be evicted, and the landlord would re-rent to a similarly situated tenant. This cycle would continue until the property was too far gone to rent, at which time the property owner would sell the property on a contract for deed or rent to own basis, usually with the provision that one late payment would result in loss of equity and eviction. The buyer would repair the property (generally without permits and in a substandard manner). Alternatively, the house would be abandoned and allowed to go to tax sale or it would be sold to a house flipper who would make cosmetic repairs and sell the property to another investor. The cycle then begins with a new tenant with questionable credit or rental history.

30 ANALYSIS A TROUBLESOME ECONOMIC MODEL During this cycle, the property would be plagued with police calls, dogs running loose, utility cut-offs, vehicles parked on the grass and junk strewn about the yard. This cycle is what allowed a small number of properties to consume a large portion of city services and what led our neighborhoods into a blighted state.

31 ANALYSIS IMPACTS OF OTHER INITIATIVES The HIP was not created in a vacuum. A number of other building code-based initiatives have been implemented. Though more specialized in nature, these programs have all found significant success.

32 WHAT IS NEXT FOR THE HIP? Continued Challenges To The Program Some property owners and members of the real estate community continue to seek repeal of the program and continue to make complaints about program operations. A legislative challenge was made during the current session. SB 1867, while actually aimed at another community s efforts to require registration of rental properties, would have affected the operations of the HIP. The bill was soundly defeated in the Senate. Technology Deployment of ipads and creation of an Inspection App are being evaluated, with the possible benefits being decreased administrative and support needs and decreased cycle time for inspection results, which could be provided in the field. The ongoing redesign of the City s website will include an online application and possibly online payment options.

33 WHAT IS NEXT FOR THE HIP? Code Updates The City is moving to adopt the 2012 International Codes, including the 2012 IPMC. HIP materials will need to be updated but no substantive changes to the inspection criteria are planned. Training and Staff Development Three members of the Community Services staff have been nationally certified as Property Maintenance and Housing Inspectors and two more are scheduled during this fiscal year. In addition, the primary Housing Inspector is pursuing national certifications in the Mechanical and Electrical trades with the goal of becoming certified in all trades and licensed as an unlimited inspector by the end of the calendar year.

34 CONCLUSIONS The use of creative initiatives based on enhanced building code enforcement have had positive effects for the City of Del City. The HIP is making the housing stock safer and reducing blight indicators across the community. The HIP has stabilized neighborhoods and led to a level of reinvestment. Code-based programs alone cannot lead to wholesale redevelopment in the absence of other initiatives, but mitigating blighted conditions is a prerequisite to positive growth.

35 2012 NATIONAL PLANNING CONFERENCE AMERICAN PLANNING ASSOCIATION APRIL 14TH 17TH LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA Questions? Thomas M. Leatherbee, CBO, AINS, CFM Director of Community Services Department of Community Services City of Del City, Oklahoma 3701 SE 15th Street Del City, OK (405) (v) Monica L. Kynaston, CFM Planning Director Department of Community Services City of Del City, Oklahoma 3701 SE 15th Street Del City, OK (405) (v)

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