DURHAM Capitol Broadcasting is backing a campaign for a "proactive rental inspection program" to force owners and managers of rental housing to keep their properties up to code.
"I don't know a better way to make sure we dont have people renting out crawl space, that we don’t have babies crawling on dirt floors,” said Michael Goodmon, a Capitol vice president and head of the company's American Tobacco campus.
Speaking at Tuesday's annual meeting of the Durham Affordable Housing Coalition, Goodmon said Capitol has involved itself with the nonprofit Self-Help and the city's neighborhood improvement department to design an inspection program with teeth and promote its adoption by the city council.
"Our goal is to make it, if you are renting property in this community, you have to live up to the minimum housing code," Goodmon said.
The idea is to give city inspectors greater authority to enforce housing codes and for residents to get something done about dilapidated and otherwise problematic properties.
"How do you take pride in your house when there's a boarded-up dump next to you?" Goodmon said.
As of the 2000 census, 51 percent of Durham's 81,000 occupied "housing units" were occupied by renters. In Raleigh and Greensboro, the figures were 48 and 47 percent, respectively; in North Carolina, less than 31 percent; nationwide, 34 percent.
Substandard housing has been a recognized social ill in Durham since at least 1940, when a federal survey found more than 60 percent of the city's residential units were "substandard" in one or more ways -- overcrowded, without plumbing, structurally unsound and otherwise.
With the problem enduring decade after decade, a mandatory rental inspection has been suggested and researched by citizens' organization and city agencies for several years.
Goodmon said a draft regulation is nearly ready to be released for comment.
"That's starting to get legs now," he said, "and it’s going to get in front of the people it’s going to get in front of soon enough. It’s going to be something to talk about."