The Hot Beat


The second-day story, with your help. Call Gazette reporter Adam Belz at (319) 398-8273 or e-mail him:

Pinning down the landlords

Take for instance 1502 Fourth Ave. SE.

Since 1992, the home has been the site of at least six assaults, and people living there have been arrested three times for burglary, seven times for assault, once for a robbery and three times on drug charges.

The home, owned by David E. Hartley, is not the only landlord-owned property in southeast Cedar Rapids with problems.

Landlords are coming under scrutiny in Cedar Rapids after a spring rise in violence on both sides of First Avenue East.

Landlord indifference is a major part of the problem, said Terry Bilsland, president of the Wellington Heights Neighborhood Association.

“As long as the check comes, they don’t care who lives there,” he said. “On some streets, it’s the same houses year after year.”

The City of Cedar Rapids may soon require landlords to get city licenses and follow certain rules to keep their registration.

“We’re looking at the possibility of enacting some legislation where landlords have to be licensed,” Cedar Rapids Police Chief Greg Graham said. “We’re actually right in the middle now of drafting that legislation.”

Licensing might be reassessed each year, and landlords might be required to include a crime-free addendum on their leases. The license would cost a nominal fee.

The program would allow all city departments — police, code enforcement, housing — to easily share information about properties.

Other cities across the country have similar programs, said Tim Manz, Cedar Rapids’ interim code enforcement manager. One of those is Richfield, Minn., where City Manager Jim Prosser worked before he came to Cedar Rapids.

Once a draft of an ordinance is ready, Manz said it will be shown to landlord groups and other interested parties.

“We’re at least a month away from having the language ready,” he said.

A spate of shootings and robberies, a fatal car chase and a life-threatening attack on a police officer in recent weeks have brought a police crackdown to the Wellington Heights and Mound View Neighborhoods, but also a sense of urgency for local leaders and elected officials looking for solutions.

The Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission held a forum Tuesday at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, where Graham mentioned the possibility of landlord licensing.

“It’s a step we can take in bringing a little more accountability,” City Council Member Brian Fagan said. “Landlords are and can be part of the solution.”

Filed under: Cedar Rapids City Council, , , , , ,

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