On Tuesday, October 27, 2009, Milwaukee’s ZND (Zoning, Neighborhood and Development) committee voted 3-2 to send the proposed ordinance to the Common Council for a final vote. The proposed ordinance, referred to as the Residential Rental Certificate Program, would require all rental property owners in 2 targeted areas of the city to apply for a certificate in order to continue renting out their property. The cost would be $85 per unit and would require the landlord to allow a warrantless interior search/inspection of his/her property in order to obtain the certificate. To read more about the proposed ordinance you should read my prior post on the topic.
A 2 plus hour hearing was held at which time the Department of Neighborhood Services Commissioner Art Dahlberg explained his reasoning for initiating the program and outlined the basic tenets of the ordinance. Sponsors of the ordinance including Aldermen Kovac, Wade, and Davis, spoke in favor of the program and offered their reasons for supporting the ordinance.
A large crowd turned out for the hearing and as a result an overflow room with a live feed had to be opened to accomodate all of the people in attendence. The public was allowed to provide comments, concerns, and criticisms of the proposed program and approximately 20 individuals spoke out.
Landlords and tenants in opposition to the ordinance pointed out several issues including: (1) a “disqualifying violation” was not clearly defined and as such could easily lend itself to arbitrary and capricious decisions by an inspector, (2) an owner of a large multi-unit rental property could be required to pay several thousands of dollars in fees, (3) the fact that the concerns for which the ordinance was allegedly created could be addressed by enforcing existing laws, and (4) issues of additional costs to landlords in an already horrible economy.
Alderman Michael Murphy requested that Commisioner Dahlberg investigate the issue of a sliding fee scale for larger multi-unit facilities and indicated that if that issue was addressed he would vote in favor of the ordinance next week. Also in favor of the ordinance was Alderman Wade and Alderman Bauman. The chair of the committee, Alderman Witkowiak voted against the ordinance arguing that the timing of the ordinance was poor and that it should not be instituted during this difficult economy. Alderman Witkowiak also felt that without a clearer definition of a “disqualifying violation” and the issue of sliding fee scale for multi-unit properties not addressed in the ordinance that this program should not pass to the Council for a vote. Alderman Zielinski also voted against the ordianance but failed to speak during the entire hearing.
There will be no further public hearings prior to the Common Council’s vote next week which makes communicating with your aldermen even more crucial at this juncture. As I mentioned previously, this ordinance has been “fast-tracked” through the legislative process and if passed should be up and running by the new year.
You can read Journal-Sentinal columnist Tom Daykin’s blog on the hearing here.