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City exempts public housing from program

September 18, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown City Council Tuesday agreed to a request by the Hagerstown Housing Authority to exempt its public housing complexes from a proposed rental registration program under which rental property owners would pay an annual fee of $45 per rental unit to fund more frequent inspections of properties.

Ted Shankle, executive director of the Hagerstown Housing Authority, said the authority does its own inspections twice a year and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development does an inspection once every two years.

If the Housing Authority had to pay the annual fee for the 1,180 rental units it owns, the cost would be $53,100.

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Shankle also asked for an exemption for about 800 Section 8 houses in the city. Those costs would be borne by the private owners of the homes, he said.

The city rejected the exemption for Section 8 houses.

At its July 16 meeting, the Hagerstown City Council gave general approval to creation of the program after city officials said it was needed to help the city improve rental housing to try to prevent people from living in substandard rental units.

The council is scheduled to vote Sept. 24 on introducing an ordinance creating the program.

Before Tuesday's meeting, about 10 people stood outside City Hall protesting the program proposal, holding signs that proclaimed such sentiments as "Rental registration unfair."

The protest was organized by the Landlords and Property Owners Association of Washington County, the members of which have urged their tenants to protest the proposal, because they say it unfairly punishes all property owners for the misdeeds of a few.

Another protest will be held outside City Hall before the Sept. 24 meeting, Association President Allan S. Johnson said.

City officials said the program's annual fee would pay salaries for six new inspectors and an administrative assistant. The city has four inspectors.

City Engineer Rodney Tissue said the city's goal is to implement the program in spring 2003.

Under the program, about 9,000 rental units in the city would be inspected annually. Currently inspections occur only in response to complaints, Tissue said.

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