Champaign votes against resident funding of apartment inspection program

By Eric Heisig

The consensus with the Champaign City Council is that the new Multifamily Common Area Inspection Program, an apartment inspection program, is so far a success. However, the Council voted Tuesday night to not move forward with a plan to fund the program with taxes from Champaign citizens.

The Council voted 7-2 against a plan that would require residents to pay a $12 per year, per apartment fee to fund the program, in addition to charging property owners $40 per building. The program is designed to inspect all apartment buildings in the city of Champaign and require property owners to fix any fire or health violations. The new fund was designed to pay salaries for inspectors and any fees the program may incur, including legal and material fees.

The Council was opposed to any plan that would raise rent at all, even if it was only by $1. However, Dist. 2 Council member Michael La Due said that charging property owners was not a solution either because property owners would inevitably raise rent to pay for the $40 per building.

“Is it fair to ask tenants to pay more for something they should already have?” said La Due.

Still, Dist. 1 Council member Gina Jackson, who along with Dist. 4 Council member Marci Dodds voted for the fee, said the amount the plan is asking for is not significant, and that in order for the program to grow, it needs to be funded.

“The safety of citizens is paramount,” Jackson said.

The other seven members of the Council did not feel the fee was necessary, though, and that after the initial inspection process is complete, a lot of the violations that came up the first time will not be recurring.

“The amount of time it takes to do these inspections will decrease,” said Ken Pirok, Dist. 5 Council member. “Once they are fixed, they are done.”

Steve Frerichs, Champaign resident and property owner, said the inspection process does some good, but it creates problems when some of the smaller problems are deemed just as important as larger ones, and it can hinder the property owners.

“Some things just aren’t that big of a deal,” Frerichs said. “There is no need for things like a 30 day notice. It is an inconvenience.”

Currently, the inspection program only inspects common areas and does not go into the individual units of the apartment buildings. The city of Urbana currently has an apartment inspection program that goes into individual units. However, Tom Bruno, Council member At-Large, said that he would not support a program that goes into individual units because it is a violation of privacy.

“Do you want the government looking at your private materials?” said Bruno.