HARDIN COUNTY NAVIGATION
A recurring concern throughout the three visioning sessions was the presence of dilapidated housing stock throughout Hardin County. According to the Census Bureau, 47 percent of occupied housing units were built in 1959 or earlier. The challenge of this older housing stock is compounded by, according to visioning participants, “a lack of pride in upkeep” from some property owners. Visioning participants believe the communities need to raise the bar to attract population and economic growth.
To most effectively do this, the cities and county must work in lockstep with one another. The jurisdictions need to collaboratively adopt minimum property maintenance standards for all structures and premises. Such a code would shift maintenance from an option to a legal requirement, protecting and growing property values throughout the county. It also would protect the health, safety, and welfare of residents.
A minimum property maintenance code, though, is not enough. The county and cities must commit to enforcing the policy; it does no good to create a policy if there is no action behind it.
Iowa Falls and Eldora already have staffed code enforcement programs in place, and the county should mirror these programs. It will be important for all of the other cities in Hardin County to buy into the program philosophically and financially. The county will then need to determine if there is staff capacity for this work within the county’s Environmental Health Department. If there is not, additional part-time staff should be added. Regardless, it will be imperative to ensure the staff member receives proper training and earns their certification.
Hardin County should develop a 28E agreement with the cities that outlines the specific scope – including the enforcement officer’s duties as well as those of the county and cities – and fees, including the structure for the payment of funds. Given their existing programs, Iowa Falls and Eldora do not need to be part of this primary 28E agreement; however, they may consider entering into a secondary agreement to work collaboratively with the county program.
To ensure program success, the agreement(s) and funding commitments should initially cover a three-year period. As the three year window comes to a close, the county and cities will need to assess early successes and outcomes and modify the program as needed to ensure long-term success.
Funding for the position should be shared amongst the county and cities, excluding Iowa Falls and Eldora. It should be calculated based on population and the number of housing units. Since the code enforcement officer’s work will be based largely on the number of units, this element should be weighted more than population; of course, the two typically go hand in hand.
An example agreement for an employee supported by a county and multiple cities can be found in Appendix D.
During a minimum housing inspection, a number of elements should be considered. They include:
- Grading and drainage
- Sidewalks and driveways
- Accessory structures, such as fences, detached garages, sheds, and retaining walls
- Street numbers
- Exterior surfaces
- Foundation walls
- Windows and doors
- Porches and decks
- Structural members
- Life safety
- Interior surfaces
- Stairs, railings, handrails, and guardrails
- Heating facilities
- Electrical system
- Plumbing system
|Population||Housing Units||Persons per Unit||Population Fee||Unit Fee||Total Fee|
Develop and adopt minimum property maintenance standards for all structures and premises
Design local enforcement mechanism
Commit to ongoing collaboration in code adoption and implementation
Work with lawyer in pro bono capacity to draft 28E agreement. Include language to grant county regulatory authority in cities. Ensure understanding and buy-in from councils and county supervisors. Obtain signatures for 28E agreement. File agreement. Secure funding from jurisdictions to support position.