In Sikeston's on-going struggle to improve housing conditions, there remains a question that we still leave unanswered - do we blame substandard housing conditions on the landlord or the tenants? Sikeston voters will be asked in February to increase our sales tax to help fund a variety of issues. Among the funding needs is the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority. So since we're being asked to fund these housing improvements, it seems to me we need to answer that first question.
If a landlord has a dozen or so properties and one of those is condemned by the city, what actions should be taken against the landlord? That might be an appropriate starting point. Or if the property condition that leads to that condemnation is the result of the tenants, how should we treat these residents? I have opinions but not necessarily answers. And so I seek your input.
In extended discussions with a host of officials, the question still remains unanswered. But everyone agrees on these points. We have some landlords in Sikeston who could easily be called slum-lords. Their properties are at best substandard and they make no attempt to change or improve those conditions. We either have a handful or more of these landlords, depending on who's telling the story.
On the other side of the ledger are those problematic tenants who trash every apartment or house they occupy. Once identified as "trash," the process to evict them is fairly slow. And in that time they continue to harm the entire neighborhood and community.
Everyone agrees that we need to remove the slum-lords and the "trash" tenants. But that's where the agreements seem to end.
If a landlord - just by way of example - has a property that is condemned, would it not seem appropriate for the city to inspect all the properties owned by this individual? Is that some violation of property rights? I think not.
We as a community will soon start to spend a large sum of money to remove the problems created by others. And that is apparently about the only way we're going to resolve some of the housing issues here. But at the same time, it seems to me, we need an effort to reach agreement on just how to handle these on-going problem cases. I urge discussions on this topic immediately.
If you hit the pocketbook of the landlords that are creating this problem, I suspect they will find another vocation other than property rental. And if you make it difficult if not impossible for a "trash" tenant to jump from house to house, I suspect they will find another community to call home. In both of those cases, our community wins.