Legal concerns cause delay in Council problem-property vote
Wednesday, December 07, 2016 9:33 AM
City Council has put a proposal to deal with problem properties on hold to allow time to analyze potential legal problems.
As The News-Sentinel reported Monday, the federal department of Housing and Urban Development has cautioned against such “chronic problem properties” bills, warning they could run afoul of fair-housing and anti-discrimination laws if enforcement has a “disparate impact” on “protected groups. The proposed ordinance would require owners of properties receiving a certain number of complaints in a certain amount of time to correct the problems or face a fine, and city officials say the bill has been crafted to avoid discrimination and withstand a legal challenge.
Council members weren’t so sure Tuesday, however, and said they want more guidance from HUD before bringing the bill back for a vote, which could occur in February. Those concerns were reinforced this week when the city’s anti-discrimination agency issued a report echoing HUD’s position.
In a six-page letter to council members, Metro Executive Director Dawn Cummings warned the proposal “has the potential to open the city, City Council (also as individuals), law enforcement departments and individual officers themselves to possible, almost immediate liability . . . the discretionary nature of the (law) and the large numbers of individuals who are responsible for enforcing it increases the likelihood that selective enforcement may occur resulting in allegations of disparate treatment under the Fair Housing Act.”