City Tracks Growing List of Nuisance Properties

By Jill Kasparie, KCRG-TV9

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — A rental business training will unfold in Cedar Rapids on Monday.

It’s the second to last one. The trainings are part of a relatively new program called SAFE-CR, which stands for Safe and friendly Environments in Cedar Rapids.

The landlord or a representative must attend one of the sessions or face a hefty fine.

“If they choose not to do that either, then they could be charged a fee of a thousand dollars per unit per structure per month that property has people renting in it,” said SAFE-CR Nuisance Property Abatement Coordinator Amanda Grieder.

That training, however, is just one piece of the city’s program.

SAFE-CR has come a long way since it started in October. Through the program and corresponding city ordinances, the city is working to identify and clean up nuisance properties. The Cedar Rapids Police Department oversees SAFE-CR.

Offenses that range from manufacturing or delivering controlled substances to a failure to mow the lawn a couple of times a year can land a building on the “nuisance” list.

“Every day I see the police parked over there,” one neighbor said.

A neighbor who didn’t want to be identified said there’s a problem house down the road. She wants something to be done about 110 16th Street NE.

“They are not hurting me, but that ain’t good to have so many people over there and things happening all the time,” the neighbor said.

The city said the rental property has more criminal complaints than any other property in the city. Nuisance Property Abatement Coordinator Amanda Grieder said units inside are part of the growing list of nuisance properties. The city has identified about 80 of them since SAFE-CR started.

“City council saw a need for issues to be addressed in our community, such as trash in people’s yards, exterior violations of the housing code, interior violations of the housing code as well as criminal activity on properties,” Grieder said.

The properties on the list include owner-occupied homes, rental properties and businesses. Tobacco Outlet on First Avenue SE is new to the list.

“We did go and placard that property for unsanitary conditions, due to sanitation and backup in the basement, as well as electrical wiring that was hanging down, exposed, clearly in an unsafe way,” Grieder said.

Despite all the work and the growing list of nuisance properties, at least one neighbor on 16th Street NE thinks more needs to be done.

“Terrible, just look at how terrible it is,” the neighbor said.

KCRG-TV9 tried to contact the owner of the building on 16th Street NE, but couldn’t get ahold of anyone on Sunday. The owner did contact us Monday saying he’s having a tough time with that property and the housing ordinances. He said landlords are not law enforcement and finds it hard to evict trouble tenants even with the new program.

He’s told TV9 that he’s selling the property and will close on the deal in a couple of days.

The city said once buildings are identified as a nuisance it works with owners or landlords as they develop a plan to fix the issues.

A small group of Cedar Rapids landlords are suing the city over housing code requirements associated with SAFE-CR. That includes the required training course and problems they have with the city citing their properties as a “nuisance.” The landlords argue the new requirements place more of a burden on them.

l Comments: 319-398-8268; jill.kasparie@kcrg.com

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