More timely housing sweeps welcome

Hopefully, this three-pronged attack on housing violations will prevent future deaths.

Better late than never. Minneapolis has revamped its housing inspections process. This is good news. It took the deaths of three University students in a 2003 house fire to bring the issue of housing violations to the realm of public concern. Finally, that concern is producing action.

That the new housing sweep will take five years is the biggest news. This is considerably better than the previous sweep, which was planned to take 10 years but ended up devouring 17 years. It’s a wonder more incidents of high severity did not occur within that time span. Hopefully, Minneapolis’ action will persuade other cities to look at how their housing sweeps are conducted.

The five-year plan is a work of cooperation. The plan involves using city inspectors, a special Problem Properties Unit and firefighters. Inspectors will try to cover 20 percent of Minneapolis a year, which will require daily inspections. The Problem Properties Unit will then target the worst code violators in hope of improving them. Firefighters will look to inspect larger rental properties. Hopefully, this three-pronged attack on housing violations will prevent deaths in the future.

As with any new plan, costs must be considered. The costs and possible problems with students being told that because of zoning or code violations they must find new housing are of concern. Students shouldn’t be left out in the cold because of landowner neglect, but of most concern is safety.

Zoning violations have their degrees of severity, from the severe, such as a lack of an egress window to escape fire, to the mundane. In the end, however, the possibility of being ousted because of a zoning violation should be more of an incentive for students to carefully check out their housing locations and maintain cooperative relationships with their landlords. For the homeowners and landlords, costs would come in the form of being forced to maintain their properties. Landlords could pass those costs on to students in the form of higher rental rates.

Additionally, landlords already pay a yearly fee that, in part, helps fund housing inspections. Overall, the new plan is a good start to addressing the housing issues facing students in coming years.