Neighborhood Response Team to begin home inspections in central Columbia

Monday, March 21, 2011 | 6:48 p.m. CDT; updated 9:48 p.m. CDT, Monday, March 21, 2011

COLUMBIA — The Neighborhood Response Team will begin its annual inspection of central Columbia homes later this week, cracking down on code violations that affect the aesthetic quality and health of neighborhoods.

East Campus, Benton-Stephens, North Central, Ridgeway, Douglass Park, White Gate and Indian Hills neighborhoods will be included in the inspections, which will start on Wednesday and continue through the fall.

Common code violations include broken windows, peeling paint and weeds or grass more than 12 inches high. Only violations that can be seen from the street will be taken into account.

“What we look at is if the house has severe violations,” Neighborhood Response Coordinator Bill Cantin said. “We’re going after significant issues that are clearly a problem.”

The inspections will be conducted by Cantin, staff from the Office of Neighborhood Services, a building inspector, a senior environmental health specialist and a police officer. The group will walk the streets of one of the designated neighborhoods each Wednesday looking for violations, Cantin said.

“We review about 200 homes per walk, and it takes about two hours to do it,” Cantin said. “In all, there are about 3,500 houses that we look at.”

Correction notices will be sent to owners of homes found to be in violation. The city offers several assistance programs to help lower-income homeowners meet city codes, Cantin said. Those who do not comply with the city’s requests to fix any problems could potentially face court action.

The program, which began in 2000, has grown from inspecting fewer than 500 properties to reviewing about 3,500, according to a news release from the city. The percentage of properties in compliance with city codes has increased from just under 50 percent to well over 80 percent since the program started, the release said.

Cantin hopes that in the upcoming year, the Neighborhood Response Team can take action on several priority properties that the organization has been working on correcting, help create more neighborhood associations and continue the positive community outreach that occurs on the response team's inspections.

"I think it's constantly a work in progress," Cantin said.

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