By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK – The outgoing City Council passed an update to its minimum housing ordinance standards at its Oct. 8 meeting, to prevent blight and mandate inspections when houses are sold or transferred.
The ordinance was approved with the support of then-Mayor William Matakas and then-City Council members Tina Gaworecki, Gail McLeod and Harry Sisko. Then-City Councilmen Kevin Rourke and Larry Templin were opposed.
The minimum housing standards, which bring Allen Park in line with the majority of local communities, is aimed at preventing sub-standard appearance and ensuring the minimum maintenance of houses, which in turn impacts neighborhood housing values.
The Building Department is charged with inspecting dwellings within the city, and all houses sold or transferred must be inspected. Property sold without a certificate of occupancy will require an agreement to correct all violations within six months.
The inspection requirement does not apply to the transfer of property through inheritance where no sale is intended, and the property is occupied by the person receiving the inheritance.
The ordinance also goes into detail defining what a bedroom is and is not, which impacts real estate listings.
City Attorney Joseph Couvreur said the inspections are based on the same criteria currently used for rental homes.
“If you currently have a rental home in this city, you have to get it inspected and registered,” he said. “There are certain standards that have to be met.”
Building Inspector Matt Baker said the city currently uses the 2015 International Property Maintenance Code, the most current industry standards and technology, which provides guidelines and requirements for the use and maintenance of plumbing, mechanical, electrical and fire protection systems in existing residential structures.
“It guides us on what we are looking for, and I have created a checklist for when people do come and ask,” he said.
Gaworecki said people are living in unsafe basement bedrooms without escape egress.
“People are living in unsafe houses,” she said. “All we are trying to do is make it safe for the person coming in. I have had an eye-opening experience looking at some homes.”
Templin said he liked the idea of making houses safer, but he thinks people need more of an education when they go to a real estate agent.
“I would rather see it through education, through home inspection,” he said. “You know what you are buying, and you fix them up.”
Templin said that when he bought a house 20 years ago, he would not have had the money to make all of the improvements within six months.
“It took me a couple years to bring everything up to code,” he said. “I am not comfortable with making people have government, Big Brother, tell you what you have to do, and you have to do it in this amount of time, especially new buyers and young couples.”
Rourke said inspections are inconsistent.
“Somebody saw something three years ago, and now, nothing changed, and somebody saw five things this time,” he said. “Consistency was a concern, and I spoke to some real estate agents who said the buyer has to trust the real estate person, that they are doing what they are supposed to do to help you get into a safe house.”
Then Matakas said at the Oct. 8 meeting that he thought home inspections would give the city better and safer houses for its residents.
“I don’t see a negative side, that it is going to be a horrible destruction to the sale of homes in the city,” Matakas said. “It hasn’t seemed to be in the other 16 communities that surround us that have home prices that in many cases are similar to ours, if not even better.”