Pittsburgh City Council passes legislation to shame problem landlords


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Pittsburgh City Council on Tuesday voted to reinstate a public-shaming program for irresponsible landlords, even though one member warned that it will only "punish the poor" who are forced to live in substandard housing.

Council members Bill Peduto and Natalia Rudiak sponsored the legislation, which requires the city's Bureau of Building Inspection to identify the 10 most dilapidated structures and the Department of Public Works to put up signs with the owners' names, addresses and phone numbers.

They're calling the program "Operation Red," the same name given to a similar, short-lived program in the 1990s. Mr. Peduto said the initial program helped to rid the city of a handful of eyesores, but Councilman Ricky Burgess said it was ineffective.

Mr. Burgess displayed a photo, which he said was taken Tuesday, of an "Operation Red" sign placed in front of a Manchester building in 1998. The sign is still there, and the building is abandoned.

Though the signs are intended to shame landlords, Mr. Burgess predicted that they will embarrass tenants instead and hasten the demise of particular streets or neighborhoods. The signs' message will be, "Don't come here. Don't invest here," he said.

The signs ordinarily will be put in front of the dilapidated properties. However, under an amendment by Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle, the sign will go in front of the landlord's home if that person lives in the city.

Ms. Rudiak amended the bill to require a council member's approval before a sign is put up at a property in his or her district. Mr. Lavelle, who favored that provision, said it will enable members to differentiate between problem landlords and seniors or other homeowners who are down on their luck.

Council voted 7-1 to pass the bill, with Mr. Burgess voting no and Councilman Patrick Dowd out of the room at the time. Mr. Burgess also voted against the bill during the preliminary vote last week.

Pennsylvania Residential Owners Association, a landlords' group, criticized the legislation as a "form of blacklisting." However, some neighborhood groups already publicize lists of poorly maintained properties as a way to pressure owners into maintaining their properties.

mobilehome - neigh_city

Joe Smydo: jsmydo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1548. First Published December 12, 2012 5:00 AM


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