Friday, March 14, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Cabot targets rental units

Before summer arrives, the Cabot City Council will likely pass an ordinance requiring inspections of apartments and other rental properties. Officials are tired of unsightly, unsafe and unsanitary low-cost rental homes that they believe aren’t good enough for their town or the poor folks who live in them.

The city recently shut down two rundown apartment complexes, forcing their residents to move. You can be sure others are facing the same fate.

The Alpine Village on Lincoln Street, with six buildings and 30 units, was found to have numerous code violations: Cockroaches, rodent feces, overheated and exposed electrical wiring, improperly wired water heaters, roofs leaking onto light fixtures, sewer gas in the units, inoperable plumbing and more.

Mayor Bill Cypert was right to describe the conditions at Alpine Village as deplorable and ordering the tenants to vacate.

Don’t let the name fool you, it was no rustic Swiss ski resort. Its Little Rock owner might try to improve the place to avoid condemnation, but that will take a lot of time and money. It could be bulldozed as several derelict houses have been since Cypert took office in 2011.

Last year, the city also evicted residents of the Linden Street Apartments. Conditions there were similar to Alpine Village. Both complexes have had their share of police calls and were suspected drug havens.

Jacksonville has tried to address the same problem. When Mayor Gary Fletcher was first elected, he reached out to landlords to encourage them to make much-needed improvements to rental homes.

Property owners weren’t pleased with his proposal to perform inspections, and the mayor abandoned the ambitious effort — though Jacksonville’s code-enforcement department has grown more robust since Fletcher became mayor and several dilapidated homes in the Sunnyside Addition have been torn down.

Cabot is acting in the best interests of tenants and residents who don’t want to see their home town blighted by unkempt rental properties. Jacksonville should follow Cabot’s example: The residents of Oxford Inn on South First Street and the South Oak Street Apartments deserve the same living standards as renters in Cabot.