Note: This story has been updated with the correct date of the city council meeting.
Denison city officials are seeking public input on a proposed rental inspection program. City Council will hold a public forum on June 20 to get comments on the program.
The new program will also be discussed at the City Council meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 300 W. Main Street.
“We want people to choose Denison,” Mayor Janet Gott said about a series of initiatives the city has engaged in since 2010 to make Denison a community of choice. “It is our responsibility to create a quality of life that you might expect to find in a community of choice. We have had various programs that led us to this conversation today. Our affordable homes have resulted in probably 80 first-time home buyers. We have our minimum property standards that gives us a chance to help citizens improve their home.”
Gott said lately the city has been focused on getting houses up to code and that has included enforcing standards through a combination of renovation efforts and the demolishing of properties that do not meet the city's standards.
“We have beautiful, historic homes in Denison,” she said. “Our renovation program has allowed a number of those to be saved. What this brings us to now is our next program. That is our rental registration. We have 3,600 homes in our city that are occupied by renters. Those are citizens who choose not to buy a home or cannot afford it. This allows us to make sure we provide them a safe place to live.”
Denison City Manager Jud Rex said the program is designed to decrease the number of properties in the city that exist below code standards.
“This is part of building a quality neighborhoods initiative that the city is on a mission to complete,” Rex said. “It's really incumbent upon the city to make sure we provide for the safety of our residents. It means we meet minimum standards in terms of health, welfare and safety. That's one portion. The other is we want to put our best foot forward as a community and that we have neighborhoods that are attractive.”
Rex said the city's low unemployment rate makes it attractive to newcomers and the city is adapting to that changing market by working to ensure all homes are a part of quality neighborhoods.
At a recent budget meeting, the city presented the new inspection program that would require all rental property owners to register all of their properties with the city and before a renter can move into a property, the city must inspect the property to make sure it is in compliance with set safety standards. Rental property owners will be required to pay registration fees and inspection costs.
At the meeting, it was announced that the city hopes to do an early registration period and begin inspections in January 2020. After the public feedback meeting, the city hopes to present an updated proposal to the City Council in July.
This week, Rex explained how apartments will be handled slightly differently than houses or duplexes. He said larger apartment complexes with a greater number of units will face a smaller registration fee and a percentage of the apartments will be inspected once a year. Single-family units will be inspected at tenant changes.
He also said apartments are looking at a $10 per unit fee while single-family units are looking at a $50 fee per unit. Maintaining property values is another goal of the city and a tenant can always request an inspection from the city at any time, Rex said.
Tenants can also request proof of inspection before moving into a home so long as they supply a rental agreement.