Yesterday, 4 February, a fire caused considerable damage to an apartment just blocks from
Several months ago, I posted here a blog entry by a blogger in
“But health and safety? That ought to be keeping people up at night, because God forbid it should ever happen here, but the internet is full of stories about rat traps and hell holes masquerading as rooming houses, boarding houses, lodging houses, apartment houses—call them what you want—burning to the ground and taking some poor unfortunate along for the ride.
And all too often, that’s when the teachable moment arrives. Only after such a tragedy shakes public officials from whatever stupor it is that immobilizes them, that insulates them, that locks their common sense tight in a box and keeps it from intruding on the business of the day, do they see what needs to be done and act accordingly. Apparently it’s human nature.
We’ve been lucky to have avoided this type of tragedy in Lexington, but make no mistake about it—it’s nothing more than dumb luck standing between where we are now and where we hope to never be. For years and years, we’ve debated about what has come to be called the student housing problem, more properly called the illegal lodging house problem, and we’ve come up empty. No concrete action. And in the absence of meaningful change, the problem has gotten worse. Entropy has a way of doing that, especially when it’s fueled by greed.”
I understand that the Bellingham City Council may soon (finally?) consider a landlord licensing ordinance (a subject last brought up in August 2008) which will affect the thousands of single family home rentals in this city that have never undergone the slightest control or inspection. These are the accidents waiting to happen. Not only will this be a first step in protecting the thousands of students who rent homes throughout the city, but it will also protect thousands of families whose only choice is to rent a home and thereby place themselves at the mercy of a landlord who now operates with impunity.
So, I call on the members of the City Council and the Mayor to ensure that this fire yesterday becomes our teachable moment and that they not be swayed by the weeping and gnashing of teeth which is surely to emerge from the landlords who will cry their nonsensical gloom and doom, financial disaster and property rights violation. Enough is enough. It is time to end the landlords’ tyranny over the system and avoid the ultimate teachable moment.