Saturday, July 09, 2016

Always be outsourcing

I know the notion of a city rental registry has sort of become the consensus policy initiative among housing advocates and the city officials they've managed to pull into their corner. Jason Williams and Latoya Cantrell sound especially supportive.  But as the program (potential program; city council hasn't approved it yet) continues to take shape, the more dubious I am about it.

This week, the mayor put out an RFP with to begin the process of finding an operator. Which is where the obvious questions come up.  Here's a description of what they're trying to do.
Many of the inspection standards in the request are almost identical to building regulations in the city’s municipal code. For example, the document says landlords must ensure that all rental units have working fire and smoke detection systems and alarms, as well as hot and cold running water.

But the document also spells out details the council has not weighed in on, such as how often inspections would take place, what happens after a failed inspection and how many individual units in a given apartment complex must be inspected.

The proposal asks the outside firms to set the fees landlords must pay to register, to be inspected and to have registrations reinstated, if necessary. The selected firm also must reimburse the city $70,000 annually for administration costs.
The major difference, then, comes not in the form of any new housing standards written into the city code. Instead we're really only talking about who will enforce the rules that already exist. There's no reason to believe the contractor would be any more effective than a more robustly funded Code Enforcement department in this task. But we do know they get to collect a fee for their service. No doubt such a fee would be passed on to tenants which means, regardless of whether housing standards improve, we can certainly presume the rent will be even more too damn high.

The reason this is so attractive to the city is A) They get to say they're acting on housing without actually having to spend any money or really do much of anything.  And , of course,  B) the scheme fits well within the "public-private partnership" paradigm which is pretty much the only strategy we know how to do anymore.

The reason it's so attractive to whoever ends up winning the bid should be obvious.
Landrieu spokesman Hayne Rainey said Friday that the responses to the city’s request “will better inform us what program fees should be written in the ordinance to fully cover program costs. Rental registry guidelines and the ordinance will be drafted in the coming weeks and up for debate this fall.”

He said the city’s Code Enforcement Department “does not have the capacity to directly run the program. However, Code Enforcement will hire a manager to oversee program administration and the contract with the selected service provider. The program will be self-funded entirely through inspection fees.”

The selected firm or nonprofit organization “will set the program fees, with input and approval from the city, at the lowest rates necessary for effective delivery of the requested services,” Rainey said.
I would highlight that "lowest rates necessary" part but I can't decide which color is the most LOL. I can't wait to see who wins this. Irvin Mayfield seems like he needs something to do next. Can he make an app, though? I'm pretty sure the winning bid will come with an app.

No comments: