City: Residents should use 311 despite frustations

The city’s information line is used to handle reports of housing violations.

In response to neighbors who report housing code violations to the city of Minneapolis but believe their complaints are not completely followed up on, Angie Hugen, district supervisor in housing for the city of Minneapolis, gave a presentation Thursday to better explain what happens after the initial compliant is taken. Nick Juarez, crime prevention specialist for the 2nd Precinct, said people were calling 311, the city information number, frustrated at the length of time that it took to fix a reported violation. âÄúWhen you call in a long grass every other day, or every month, people say, âÄòWell, why donâÄôt they just cut the grass?âÄôâÄù Juarez said. Most complaints are to be responded to and fixed within 10 days, Hugen said in her presentation. If the complaint is a larger issue, like painting a garage, the owner could have 30 to 60 days. After a complaint is taken, it is given a case number, entered into the system, given to the inspector the following morning and then followed up on. University of Minnesota student liaisons in Southeast Como said the most common problems they see are âÄúcrummy propertiesâÄù that were not well cared for. The 311 system, created in 2006, has greatly helped increase accountability in the department, Hugen said. She said her precincts, precinct two and part of precincts three and four, had not been late in responding to a call in three months because of the system. She also said the number of inspections had increased from 60,523 total inspections in 2005 to around 102,000 total inspections in the first three quarters of 2008. Juarez stressed that response times varied on the violation reported. Things like mowing an overgrown lawn can be easily fixed and homeowners generally have less time to correct the violation than if a larger problem, like a needed roof repair, was reported. He said inspectors work with homeowners to correct the problem, taking things like the time of year and financial impact into consideration. âÄúIt all depends on the inspector and what the situation is,âÄù Juarez said. Juarez said they receive notice of violations from a mixture of people, including both renters and homeowners. Much concern was expressed at the meeting about landlords renting unsafe properties or having too many tenants in a rental property. Overcrowding was not much of a concern for the Southeast Como liaisons, though. âÄúWe donâÄôt see too much overcrowding,âÄù Katie Beddow, a student liaison, said. Response to a complaint filed by a renter is handled the same as a complaint called in by a homeowner. Renters are kept in the loop, though the landlord is also notified. Juarez said this does not increase the amount of time given to fix a problem, or change the process on the cityâÄôs end of the inspection. Juarez and Hugen both said the city wants to see people continuing to call in, although they may feel frustrated. âÄúIn actuality, things are getting done, itâÄôs just not overnight, or even the next day,âÄù Juarez said.