New safe housing inspection program kicking off in Springfield

Published: Nov. 4, 2016 at 5:18 PM CDT
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Old broken down, deteriorating houses plague some neighborhoods in every city. Residents in northwest Springfield are telling city leaders those nuisance properties are among their biggest concerns. So now, Springfield is launching a pilot program trying to fix the problem.

"Run down, shack looking, everything falling apart, looks like somebody's been dead for 10 years there and nobody's taken care of it," says Springfield resident Lisa Lyon.

Lyon says there are nuisance properties in her area that need addressed. So she's glad West Central neighborhood leaders volunteered for the city's new Safe Housing Inspection Pilot Program.

"I think it's a great idea, because we've got a lot of children in this area, and I worry about their safety with properties like that. Plus, I like my neighborhood to look nice," Lyon says.

The inspection program is voluntary, based on complaints, and city staff are looking for life safety issues.

Director of Springfield's Building Development Services, Chris Straw says, "Over the last 3 or 4 months, we found a water heater, an active water heater that the flu was totally disconnected from the gas water heater. So you have those toxic gases coming back into the space."

Boarded up windows could block a vital fire exit, or unsafe electrical could cause fire. "You educate the people; education can be the most powerful tool of it all, and they begin to see why we're there," Straw says.

Straw says his department handles complaints a little differently when it's owner occupied homes versus rentals, and this program is focused primarily on rental properties. "A tenant's putting down money to rent the property; he should have a minimum expectation of what would be acceptable," says Straw.

Some fear the program could lead to government overreach. Straw says the main goal is safety. "It's an education approach, it's not the strong arm of the law. We're there to try to help," says Straw.

City staff will use the issues they find during the 3 month pilot program to update city code when it comes to maintenance issues.