HOW THE CITY SKIPPED OUT ON A SUNNYSIDE APARTMENT COMPLEX FOR THE PAST 9 YEARS
How does a 24-unit apartment building — one of those 1,000-plus Houston complexes the University of Texas School of Law’s recent study identifies as missing a Certificate of Occupancy — go nearly a decade without having the document? In 2012, public works inspected the Bellfort Townhomes on Bellfort St. between Cullen and Scott and called it a “material risk to the physical safety or health of the building’s tenants.” The building’s owner told an inspector that he’d apply for a Certificate — granted after landlords bring their buildings into compliance with city code — when the city contacted him the next year. But then, public works simply lost track of things. For 3 years starting in 2014, the department had no contact with 4410 Bellfort until it came time for the building’s next inspection last January — which resulted in the same findings as the previous one. Why the lapse? “According to the head of Houston’s Multi-Family Habitability Division, after the Division identified properties without a Certificate in the first round of inspections, the Division’s practice was to close the property’s inspection file as long as the owner submitted an application for a Certificate of Occupancy,” write researchers Heather K. Way and Carol Fraser, “even if the owner never successfully obtained the Certificate.” At least one group made sure to stay in touch with the city, though: “During this three-year period, tenants and nearby residents called 311 at least eight times to report sewage overflow issues at the property.” [UT School of Law Entrepreneurship and Community Clinic; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Bellfort Townhomes: Swamplot inbox
UT STUDY: HOUSTON SUFFERING FROM EPIDEMIC OF DILAPIDATED APARTMENTS
A new study from the University of Texas School of Law says that Houston is full of deteriorating apartments, has weak building standards, does a bad job enforcing its own rules, responds slowly to residents who seek help with unsafe homes, fails to keep track of its own building data, and struggles to communicate clearly between departments overseeing different aspects of safety. Houston has the third highest number of occupied apartments in any U.S. city — but of all the complexes in the city, nearly a third are missing Certificates of Occupancy, according to the researchers. The yellow dots on the map above indicate the 1,000-plus multifamily structures that lack the document, which certifies that a building has passed a basic inspection for structural, electrical, mechanical, and plumbing issues. On top of that, the city only employs 2 health inspectors to check for sanitation problems like bedbugs, rodents, mold, and sewage leaks inside Houston’s 320,000 occupied rental units. “In summary,” says the study, “the City of Houston is operating a largely dysfunctional system for addressing tenant safety that appears to have little or no oversight by city leaders.” [UT School of Law Entrepreneurship and Community Clinic; more info] Map of multifamily properties without Certificates of Occupancy as of July 2017: Texas Low Income Housing Information Service
The dust-up above on the northeast corner of 3300 Main St., where the former city code enforcement building has been getting disassembled to make way for that retail-footed residential highrise, was part of the on-site scene this past Thursday, a reader notes. Crews started in on the late-60’s building after those August demolition permits were issued (following a round of asbestos extraction). The shot catches both the MATCH theater building on the left and the tiny red canopy of Thien Thao Chinese Herbs, on Travis and Francis streets behind the post-wok-fire redo of Mai’s.
Photo: Swamplot inbox
Shorter, Then Taller
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHERE HOUSTON STAYED UNDERWATER AFTER THE MEMORIAL DAY FLOOD “Was there ever any kind of press writeup on why so many homes in Meyerland did not come back from this last flood? I’m saddened by all the vacant lots, and on some streets off Endicott, there are clusters of teardowns. Was insurance plus flood insurance essentially useless for all of those homeowners? Or was it the new city building requirements? Genuine questions, because I’ve been in the area 30 years and this [flooding] seems to have been so much more devastating than Allison (and Ike).” [Heather, commenting on Daily Demolition Report: As Is, Where Is] Illustration: Lulu