Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Revising Over Occupancy Code

I am happy to work with the West Lafayette city administration to improve the language in the city’s over-occupancy ordinance to meet suggestions made by the Indiana Court of Appeals. But let’s not bury the headline. The current ordinance works. We won. We won over (Benjamin) and over (Bowden) and over (Liu) and over (Weida) again. Sonya Margerum and Jan Mills had b----- . . . intestinal fortitude . . . as they took on the wealthy and politically active rental industry. And they won. Our neighborhood is much the better for it.

I have my own suggestions for revisions in the ordinance. Let’s raise the “Fee to Convert” a single-family home to a rental property from $500 to $5000. That certainly reflects the environmental impact of such a switch. Let’s drop “cousins” as family members in the ordinance. Let’s use the IRS "Member of Household or Relationship Test" (my thanks to Bob Schauer).

We do not tolerate drunk driving as ignorant or just a little naughty; do we say please just promise you won’t do it again and you won’t have to go to court? We do not think over-occupancy is an accident. We think it is planned. We think it is policy. We know it is damaging.

“Just tell ‘em your cousins on the affidavit; the city will never find out”. “You can’t have four people in here, but I’m not going to check so long as the rent gets paid”. “Four people can live here so long as one of you is local and keeps their mailing address at their parents – then you won’t show on our mail box.”

If you have kids, you know that at some point Betty will whack Sally. Sally will scream “Dad, Betty hit me.” Then Dad says, “Betty, don’t hit your sister”. At which point Betty, looking pretty smug, jabs her finger hard into Sally. Then comes the second scream, Dad’s response, and Betty’s, “But you didn’t say I couldn’t poke her!” For Dad read “city”, for Betty read “landlord”, for Sally read “us”. Apparently it is not enough to say to a reasonable person, “don’t do that”. Greater linguistic precision is required.

Whatever changes become part of the over-occupancy code, enforcement depends on the will of the city to take the matter seriously. The jury there is still out.


Anonymous said...

Dropping cousins from the ordinance discriminates against those who cannot afford to house their families and extended families in any other fashion. In an era of where "family" is becoming murkier, to create a housing ordinance that discriminates against those who define family outside the Anglo-Saxon nuclear family of siblings and parents is xenophobic.

And, the people living with their "cousins" will just find some other loophole in the ordinance.

Anonymous said...

Go Peter Go. You are pushing the right direction and many (most)of us are with you. Closing loopholes for those who simply want to profit from it is the right thing to do. Perhaps one could petition for a special exception if the verbage does not fit the circumstance. We need to stay tough on those that have no real interest in our neighborhood.