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Authority may buy rental units

October 02, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown Housing Authority is considering buying, improving and selling any rental housing that might be put up for sale due to the city's rental registration ordinance, Housing Authority Executive Director Ted Shankle said Wednesday.

Shankle and Hagerstown Chief Code Compliance Inspector John Lestitian said Wednesday they expect some landlords will decide it is easier to sell rental property than to pay to bring it up to a condition where it would pass a city inspection.

Lestitian said he did not think there would be many instances in which that would happen.

The Housing Authority is independent of the city government.

The purchased property would not become new public housing units, he said.

By improving the property before selling it, the Housing Authority would meet a city's goal behind the ordinance: To improve the quality of rental housing in the city, Shankle said.

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"At first brush I think it is a good idea," Mayor William M. Breichner said. He said the idea "needs to be explored."

The sales of the rental units would give the Housing Authority a revenue source at a time when some government funds are drying up due to tight budgets, Shankle said.

Lestitian, who oversees the rental registration program, said he thinks the authority's idea of buying and rehabilitating properties is a good one.

"I would encourage any entity, any responsible investor, to do that," he said.

The rental registration program began on June 20. It requires rental property owners in the city to submit registration applications and pay an annual fee of $39 per unit, city officials said.

The city on Aug. 20 began conducting internal inspections of rental units when there is tenant turnover.

As of Wednesday, about 100 property owners had not registered for the program, Lestitian said.

The city plans to file criminal misdemeanor charges against those owners, he said.

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