Oct 28 update: The Building and Standards Commission has asked Austin Code Department to report on the NET pilot at their December 8 meeting.
The North Lamar/Georgian Acres Neighborhood Plan Contact Team passed the following resolution at its meeting Sunday Oct 25, 2015:
We, on behalf of the neighborhoods targeted by the NET Pilot, request that the Building and Standards Commission create an opportunity, prior to the approval of funding or initiation of Phase 2 of the program, for those affected by Phase 1 of the program to provide comments on their experiences verbally or in writing to the Commission in a public forum.
Here is Austin Code Department’s Neighborhood Enhancement Team (NET) pilot Phase 1 Report
In it, the Code department describes the NET pilot as a response to City Council’s 2013 resolution 20131024-063. That resolution called for:
- recommendations for strengthening the City’s response to code violations related to health and safety issues and crime at the city’s multi-family rental properties, including a cross-departmental approach that includes public safety, legal, and housing perspectives
- consideration of an enhanced process with greater enforcement through the court system for properties with a demonstrated history of criminal activity and code violations
- proposal of options such as low-interest financing to assist multifamily owners in rehabilitating properties with multiple code violations to ensure safer living environments while also preserving existing affordable housing.
- exploration of creating programs that help tenants to identify dangerous or substandard conditions related to their housing
- exploration of creating programs that inform landlords about safe housing issues and crime prevention strategies
According to Code’s 2014 Interdepartmental Team memo, their stakeholder process only included internal stakeholders, such as APD, EMS, Planning, and Legal. The public education campaign and community engagement approach described in that memo were never carried out. This despite direction from City Council in September 2014 to “engage with neighborhood planning area representatives and other appropriate stakeholders”, and despite the neighborhood team repeatedly reaching out to the Code Department about the pilot, beginning in December 2014.
The 2014-15 Chair, Julia Foree, states on behalf of the neighborhood team:
The NET pilot, as implemented by Code, lacked a substantive public outreach element, did not engage with the affected neighborhood, and included actions perceived as intimidation by the residents and homeowners affected.
We have reviewed the 118-page report and appendices, and find it to be a wholly inadequate telling of the story. The appalling disregard shown for neighborhood stakeholders, together with a poorly designed and implemented program, has shaken the trust of our neighborhood in the already beleaguered Code Department.
Neighborhood plan goal: The amount of code violations occurring within the neighborhood should be reduced.
Neighborhood plan goal: Properties within the neighborhood should be properly maintained.
Objective Q.3: Promote increased communication between neighbors and the City of Austin’s Code Compliance Department.
Objective Q.4: Guarantee the correct and timely reporting of code violations.
Objective Q.5: Encourage neighbors to report code violations to the Code Compliance Department.
Objective Q.6: Improve property maintenance within the neighborhood.
Objective Q.7: Ensure proper maintenance on absentee landlord-owned properties.
Objective Q.9: Preserve housing affordability.
Objective Q.10: Acknowledge the cultural diversity of the neighborhood.