South Bend Housing Authority seeks to improve communication with city Code Enforcement

NOW: South Bend Housing Authority seeks to improve communication with city Code Enforcement

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - After a fire broke out at a home on La Porte Avenue on January 21, taking the lives of six children, the South Bend Housing Authority is trying to improve communication between the department and the City of South Bend's Department of Code Enforcement.

The goal is to implement a process to get information about unsafe living conditions discovered by the Housing Authority to Code Enforcement efficiently.

There's also a push to better vet the property owners who participate in the Housing Authority's Housing Choice Voucher Program.

The Voucher Program gives the Housing Authority the power to inspect properties that participate in the program both yearly and when a tenant reports a problem.

Last year, the previous residents of 222 La Porte Avenue asked for help from the Housing Authority. At the time, the Housing Authority found violations and the property owner was given a 30-day notice to fix the problems.

However, the Housing Authority said those problems were not addressed and the tenant who reported the issues ended up moving out.

“The family had relocated out of the unit, because they were not, they did not feel safe, because of the things that were identified at that unit,” said Marsha Parham-Green, Director of the South Bend Housing Authority.

A few months later, a new family moved in and months later, the fire broke out. Its cause is still being investigated.

Now Parham-Green is promising changes in how information is shared with Code Enforcement.

“Our inspectors are not, are not able to write a Code Enforcement citation. But they can identify those deficiencies. And so, we just have to work on a mechanism to get that information to Code Enforcement, and vice versa, they get that information to us,” said Green.

In other words, the Housing Authority and Code Enforcement are run separately and there are no guidelines for how they should communicate.

Parham-Green also wants to make sure property owners who participate in the Housing Choice Voucher Program are properly vetted.

“We want to look at historically, how many of those units, even for the ones that are currently on the program, how many deficiencies have you, you've had over the past year? Are your properties always going into fail status at the annual or through complaints?” said Green.

ABC57 reached out to the city for Code Enforcement records on the La Porte Avenue house. They told us they had no record of structural complaints on the house in the last few years.

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