City Serious About Saving Its Housing Stock From Deterioration

By Charles Sercombe

Hamtramck is cracking down on homeowners and landlords who let their property become rundown or refuse to pay water bills or income taxes.

During the last few months, the city has cut off water service and placed red “condemned” stickers on 13 houses. Those houses, said the city’s chief code inspector, Tom Lieckfelt, belonged to a longtime Hamtramck landlord who owns dozens and dozens of properties and has had numerous run-ins in the past with city officials over code violations and delinquent water bills.

Lieckfelt refused to identify the landlord or say how much he or she owed in water bills. Interestingly, the crackdown came from complaints from the landlord’s tenants over their living condition.

Water Department Supervisor Cheryl Karpinski also declined to say how much money the landlord owes the city and didn’t know off hand how much the city is owed by all delinquent property owners.

Lieckfelt said the crackdown is not really new.

“It’s always been in place,” he said, but conceded it has been rarely enforced in years past.

Now, there seems to be war cry on code violations. Hamtramck’s housing stock is considered its number one asset, and city officials say they are trying to prevent further deterioration.

“It’s time to step up,” Lieckfelt said about forcing landlords to bring their rental units up to code.

Hamtramck’s Weed and Seed Committee has also joined the battle. Wally Tripp, a police sergeant in the Hamtramck Police Department and a member of Weed and Seed, said in an email to other members that it’s part of a “zero tolerance” campaign to end blight.

“The goal is to have compliance in the neighborhood,” Tripp said. “Most of the property owners have been given letters of notice numerous times to fix their problems. Enough of the letters. Now we are moving forward with enforcement allowed to us by (city) ordinance, up to and including shutting services …”

Tripp added that the number of houses to be condemned is “several dozen.”

“In my opinion, it’s like we can’t go back any more, we have to stop and dig in, to move forward to a better Hamtramck,” he said.

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