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OUR VIEW: Streator is taking the right approach to rental registration program

THE ISSUE: Streator works on rental property registration program

OUR VIEW: City is moving in the right direction

The Streator City Council Chambers were packed with landlords on Thursday night.

The City Council is going to implement a rental registration program, which involves landlords registering their rental units for a $25 fee that's good for three years, or $20 for multi-unit structures. The registration also will require rental properties to pass safety inspections.

The idea is to improve the city's housing and weed out bad landlords.

If achieved, everyone is a winner.

A stronger housing stock raises property values, improves living conditions for tenants and bolsters public safety, which has a proactive impact for police and fire departments in a reduction of calls. For example, a house with safer wiring is less likely to catch fire, and so on.

Implementing such a system can be tricky. While everyone has the same goal in mind, how do you go after the bad landlords without putting together a system that has a negative impact on the good ones?

City administration deserves credit for bringing stakeholders together before putting anything into stone.

Prior to Thursday's meeting to get feedback on the program, city staff had been working with landlords to craft the drafted ordinance it has on its website. This helped set reasonable registration fees and guidelines thus far. The city also intends on phasing the program in, starting with properties that have already been cited first.

City Manager Scot Wrighton said the city has looked at what other communities have done with rental registration programs.

The ordinance is subject to be tweaked a few times before the City Council passes it.

Landlords at Thursday's meeting have agreed to meet as a smaller committee and suggest further improvements to the draft. This will help the city understand any other challenges landlords face and put together an ordinance that is most fair to them.

Ultimately, this is a program aimed at a cycle that has done serious damage to Streator's housing.

With lower property values, Streator is inviting to landlords who buy property cheap, invest nothing into it, and rent out the units despite unsuitable conditions. Once the property slips into disrepair, they abandon it, leaving the demolition costs to the city taxpayers.

The rental registration program gives the city a means not only to address problems before they get to that point, but also to identify them, which puts the city in a more proactive position. The city has been in a reactive position for many years, and it hasn't been successful.

The city is honing in on properties that are unsuitable living conditions. If landlords are unable to make corrections to these properties, they shouldn't be in the rental business, nor should anyone be living there. It's unacceptable to create substandard housing taking advantage of lower income individuals.

The hope is to raise the standard and create a better community.

We appreciate Streator officials have been comprehensive in their approach — dotting their i's and crossing their t's, to make sure there are as few as possible unintended consequences.

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