Housing inspections prioritize student safety
October 27, 2014
Filed under News
This summer, the city of Huntington put a special emphasis inspecting off-campus student housing, resulting in one “do not occupy” order and 58 ticketed violations.
The inspections were spurred by conversations Mayor Steve Williams had with students at his monthly campus event, Coffee with the Mayor.
“I continued to hear that some of the living conditions in the area really didn’t sound to be habitable,” Williams said. “I heard one example of someone who had woken up in the winter and their apartment was 45 degrees.”
Williams said students of Marshall University should feel safe in their living conditions.
“The last thing they need to worry about are their housing arrangements and that’s what local government is here for; to provide that protection,” Williams said. “You might be going to school here, and you might call home somewhere else, but you are a resident of Huntington. While you are a resident of Huntington, we are here to represent you.”
Bryan Chambers, director of communications for the city of Huntington, said that, for the most part, Huntington landlords take care of their properties, but some have been neglecting their responsibilities.
“This effort put those landlords on notice that they have to bring their rental properties up to the standards of the city and of Marshall University,” Chambers said. “Students and parents can take comfort in knowing that safety is our highest priority.”
Williams said the safety of student housing is of particular interest to him as a parent.
“If my daughters would go away to school, I would want to make absolutely certain that if they are choosing not to live on campus, that the housing they have is up to code and structurally sound,” Williams said. “That is the assurance I want to give to every parent and student who chooses to live in Huntington.”
Chambers and Williams both said the city wanted to avoid hurting the students through these inspections, which is why they took place during the summer.
“What we didn’t want to do was go into an apartment building and inspect it and find issues that would force us to close the apartment and move tenants out,” Chambers said. “So we were very cognizant of that. We wanted to make sure the impact on students was limited.”
Chambers said since Williams’ election to office, the city has been putting more emphasis on code enforcement.
“We moved our code enforcement unit out from underneath our department of public works and moved it over to the police department last year,” Chambers said. “The reason for that is that we know that dilapidated properties tend to attract crime. Moving it over to the police department was a message that we view it as a law enforcement issue.”
Williams said he was pleasantly surprised with the results of the inspections.
“Less than 10 percent of the sleeping rooms had some type of violation,” Williams said. “That’s 90 percent without violations. That’s not a bad situation. What we have found is that when we have given citations over the past couple of years on properties, is that in nearly 80 percent of the citations, people comply with what needs to be done, and if they don’t, they start facing fines.”
Emily Rice can be contacted at email@example.com.