The city of Beaverton is struggling to address a backlog of properties that have fallen into disrepair, and one of the city's code enforcement officers believes vulnerable tenants are paying the price.
John Douglas, one of the city's two code enforcement officers, said the city has a list of more than 80 homes that are considered "dilapidated," and doesn't have the necessary staff, funding, or processes to adequately address the problems.
"We have a voluntary code compliance. So we're complaint driven. We're not proactive," said Douglas. "What we're basically seeing is blight taking over in certain areas of Beaverton."
According to the city, 96 percent of the 4,000 or so complaints it gets every year are resolved by voluntary compliance, with the owner addressing the problem that is identified.
The other four percent of cases, though, are more challenging.
"They are very labor intensive. It requires building officials, code officials, land-use officials," said Randy Ealy, Beaverton's City Administrator.
Some cases go unresolved for years. A property on Southwest Allen Boulevard, for instance, was on the city's code compliance radar for more than 10 years before the city finally shut off water service in November, after it couldn't reach an agreement with the property owners about an outstanding water bill, and other code violations.
"It's awful. Very unhygienic. I mean, obviously your toilet's not going to run," said Mary Hart-Johnson, a tenant of the four-plex who was in the process of relocating.
Douglas said it's not an isolated incident, and said he's seen several other cases opened by a complaint that just sit idle.
"And those cases went nowhere. And if I look through the notes, there was no enforcement action ever taken," said Douglas. "Basically, we never resolved the issue."
In many cases he's seen, Douglas said, the tenants that suffer because of unresolved code violations, are low income, and people of color.
"A family of five can't afford to go somewhere else. The mom and dad, who make minimal income with kids in school can't afford to leave, and so they're willing to suffer," said Douglas.
The city of Beaverton is currently working on a "healthy housing" initiative to address some of the problems.
The initiative, if approved by the city council, would potentially add three to five new staff members to the code compliance department, and require periodic inspection of rental housing.
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