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HOUSTON – The University of Texas School of Law released a scathing report Tuesday outlining what it says are serious deficiencies in how the city of Houston deals with dangerous apartment conditions.
The study examined code enforcement, health and fire inspection records and 311 logs for 10 Sunnyside-area apartment complexes, but say the problem is citywide.
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Out of Order: Houston’s Dangerous Apartment Epidemic
Here’s a look at what the study calls Houston’s Dangerous Apartment Epidemic:
Weak safety and enforcement standards
Twenty-eight percent of Houston’s multi-family complexes do not have an active certificate of occupancy, in violation of city laws.
At Bellfort Townhomes, the city knew the property lacked a certificated of occupancy for nearly nine years and failed to take any action according to the report.
Dysfunctional city operations
There are nine city units across five different departments that operate apartment safety programs in Houston.
The study says the city does not have enough inspectors to cover the city’s more than 4,000 apartment complexes.
“Houston Public Works currently has a team of 10 multi-family inspectors that conduct inspections in teams of two (five teams), one electrical and one structural expert. These inspectors monitor 4,032 apartment complexes, 26,723 apartment buildings and over 295,000 apartment units throughout 655 square miles,” said Alanna Reed, spokesperson for Houston Public Works.
An investigation of tenants’ 311 reports showed calls reporting major health and safety hazards are frequently mishandled and rarely inspected.
At the Wesley Square Apartments, tenants made 58 calls to 311 over a four-year period and none of the calls resulted in an inspection.
“They are not doing their job when it comes to addressing deteriorating conditions in Houston,” said UT law professor Heather Way, who authored the study.
Here is a statement from the city of Houston:
“We received a copy of the report today and are reviewing the findings and recommendations.
“This is not the first critical report that the University of Texas School of Law – Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic has released about apartment regulations in large Texas cities. But Houston is unique in Texas because it has the third highest number of occupied apartments in the country. About half of all Houstonians are renters.
“We will evaluate the recommendations as we continue the work of improve the programs and the services we offer the community.”
The map below shows the locations that were in the survey:
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