Source: The Boston Globe
Code enforcement includes all of the elements involved in obtaining compliance from private owners of problem properties and it is a critical element in fighting neighborhood decline, preserving sound neighborhoods and restoring distressed areas. When used proactively, code enforcement can help local governments identify, halt and reverse the negative impact of vacant, abandoned and problem properties. While most owners meet their obligations – maintaining their properties and complying with codes so they do not cause harm to their occupants, their neighbors and their communities – many do not. In those cases, local government has the task of encouraging negligent owners to carry out their responsibilities, and if they do not, take action to minimize the harm to the community.
When housing code enforcement code violations are found and not corrected, the government can impose significant penalties upon landlords. While code enforcement can remedy substandard living conditions, it is worth understanding that it can also have the negative consequence of displacing low-income tenants when the improvements result in significant rent increases. However, if tenants and their community partners participate in the code enforcement process, they can leverage significant benefits. When done equitably, a tenant-oriented code enforcement strategy would include subsidies and controls that help low-income families afford decent housing and ensure that all housing units meet code standards.
As a reinvestment tool, code enforcement platforms can provide tenants a mechanism to transfer ownership of multi-family dwellings from negligent owners to the tenants or community organizations who will further neighborhood revitalization. It also guides tenant and community participation in code enforcement to prevent resident displacement and ensure that buildings in gentrifying neighborhoods remain affordable. Regardless of its motivations, if a government is truly interested in prosecuting landlords, the tenants are an important evidentiary resource. While housing inspectors can give an impersonal snapshot of building conditions, the tenants can give a personal history of the conditions that could make a substantial difference at the trial of a landlord. Local authorities will resist tenant/community participation where housing code enforcement is being used to gentrify neighborhoods. Governments potentially assist in neighborhood gentrification by using code violations as a basis for closing buildings, thus displacing tenants.
Center for Community Progress | Strategic Code Enforcement
PolicyLink | Equitable Development Toolkit: Code Enforcement
ChangeLab Solutions | Up to Code: code Enforcement Strategies for Healthy Housing
Us Department of Housing and Urban Development | Building Codes & Housing