A mandatory re-occupancy inspection and permit requirement has been proposed whenever a house is sold in Creve Coeur.
I oppose mandatory inspections. However, to make city government work FOR Creve Coeur homeowners, I support making voluntary inspections requested by homeowners.
The City Council has been told that single family home inspections are an appropriate extension of the apartment inspection program that was initiated on 2011. But while the apartment inspections resulted from tenant complaints and several injuries caused by poor maintenance, there is no record of injuries or other problems caused by poor maintenance of owner-occupied single family homes.
Creve Coeur homeowners are responsible and conscientious.
Proponents of the program also say that Creve Coeur should not create a "separate class" of residents and property owners by exempting single family homes from inspection. This ignores the fact that Creve Coeur apartments are largely owned by out-of-town companies and are operated as businesses. If properties are not maintained tenants have little recourse other than to move. This is very much a different class of residents and property owners compared to Creve Coeur homeowners who have made large investments in their homes and have a very personal stake in their condition and safety.
Should tomatoes grown in your home garden be inspected like tomatoes in a grocery store?
Another argument presented for the program is that it would “help to preserve housing values through property maintenance initiated by re-occupancy inspections.” The St. Louis Association of Realtors supports the program but has not presented any quantitative evidence that inspection programs in other cities have enhanced property values.
Some have argued that the external maintenance inspections would help preserve the “character” of Creve Coeur. This argument does not hold up, as less than five percent of the single family housing stock turns over in a year.
More important, Creve Coeur already has a city-wide external maintenance ordinance. In 2009 the Building Department instituted a proactive approach and inspected about 250 houses, with 44 receiving citations. Mayor Dielmann and the City Council put the kibosh on this effort due to complaints from residents. The external maintenance code is currently enforced only as complaints are investigated.
So what would the inspection program do? It would result in costly modifications being mandated when a house is sold. As envisioned, the inspections would be “age appropriate” in some respects. For example, if certain dimensions for a handrail were required when the house was constructed, the handrail would not be required to confirm to the current building code. However, such items as smoke detectors and GFCI outlets would be required regardless of the age of the house.
But where would the line be drawn in the future? The ordinance would give city inspectors the ability to change the line over time!
As opposed to an inspection mandate, a voluntary inspection program would give homeowners an opportunity to benefit from the expertise of city staff and learn how they can make their homes safer, better, and more valuable - and not just when they are selling their house. I’m for city government and residents working together to improve our city and our quality of life.
David Caldwell is the Editor of www.crevecoeurvoter.com and is a candidate for Creve Coeur City Council Ward 1. Election Day is April 2, 2013.