So last month, Kansas City, MO began its pilot program of proactively enforcing codes in several urban neighborhoods throughout the city. For the past, oh, forever number of years, the codes department was only a reactive department. When someone complained about a house, they would drive out, take a few pictures, and then send a notice. Now, the city is starting with certain neighborhoods and going around to document codes violations to proactively enforce our city codes.
Let me start by saying I'm a big fan of the proactive enforcement. For the past several decades, many KC neighborhoods have been held hostage by a small number of property owners that have owned large numbers of slum properties. These slum lords have continued to keep many neighborhoods, including my own, from developing to their full potential. I'm not talking little stuff here (which is what happens with old houses in old neighborhoods), we're talking major problems. Lawns overgrown with weeds. A yard with no fewer than 20 lawnmowers in it (which is odd, because if I left my lawnmower in my yard for a day it would get stolen). Broken windows. Doors falling off hinges. Collapsing porch overhangs. And that's just the next block over.
So, I think that this is a good thing -- although they still have enforcement issues because it's not like we haven't called on these properties before. And it appears that in extreme cases, the city is out of money to actually solve for codes violators.
However, I will say I was a little irritated when I got my notice of violations in the mail.
Let me come clean here for a second. I live in a 100 year old home. We recently had the asbestos siding removed from our house and are in the process of restoring the outside original woodwork to its once former niceness and will be repainting this fall. My house would be a bit of an eyesore in, say, Mission Hills, but honestly doesn't look all that bad -- especially when compared to many places in the neighborhood. Under normal circumstances, I would have deserved the citations....except, WE"RE WORKING ON IT!!!!
Our block is protected by the Landmarks commission. So everything I do on the exterior of my house must be approved by the Landmarks folks. If they were going to go through a historic neighborhood and do proactive codes enforcement, would it have been too difficult to actually run a check on the people who had work permits from the Landmark's commission and not bust them for doing improvements? In the huge list of problems, just in our neighborhood, me doing work on my house is not high on the list (nor my neighbors for that matter, who also got a letter even though they are replacing their siding).
Again, I'm supportive of the proactive enforcement. But a note to the city, if you have an option to check on whether someone has work permits or not, please check them before you harrass people who are doing home improvement jobs. It'd be pretty simple. And it would save you from annoying the people who are not the problems.