City hires off-Grounds inspector

Charlottesville City Council passed a resolution Tuesday to put off-Grounds student housing to the test.

Council accepted a proposal made by the University to hire an additional housing inspector for the City specifically responsible for neighborhoods in the University area. The University will pay $68,500 for the inspector's two-year trial period, Vice Mayor Kendra Hamilton said.

The City currently employs two housing inspectors who evaluate housing on a request basis. The new inspector would allow for regular housing inspection in the off-Grounds area.

"I think the City feels that they are understaffed," Off-Grounds Housing Manager Vicki Hawes said. "This new inspector affords the ability to have regularly scheduled inspections in the University area."

Funding from the University will provide resources for the new inspector that would otherwise be difficult for the City alone to provide.

Hamilton noted that while the safety and cleanliness of off-Grounds student housing is important to Council, "inspecting the University area sucks up so many of our resources" with the City's two current inspectors.

The $68,500 the University is providing will fund the salary, benefits and vehicle costs for the new inspector, Hawes said.

The push for more accountability and inspection comes from parents and University administrators as well as City leaders concerned with the safety and quality of student housing off-Grounds, Hawes said.

"For the most part we have very good landlords, but everyone can use an inspection now and then," Hawes said.

While the additional inspector is aimed at holding landlords more accountable for the quality of student housing, the new City employee will also hold students more responsible.

Hamilton noted that the inspector will be able to monitor student behavior, citing the concerns about litter some Venable Elementary School students took to Council in the fall.

"Students sometimes forget in the fun of college that you need to be a good neighbor, too," Hamilton said.

Both University and Council members said they are enthusiastic about the opportunity to work collaboratively to reach a solution to improve off-Grounds housing.

"It's a win-win situation for everybody involved," Hawes said. "I'm really looking forward to direct contact with the City. I feel like our voice is being heard a little differently."

Hamilton said Council also is pleased with the cooperation.

"This is one of those really great opportunities where the University and the City are working together and talking to one another to come up with a mutually beneficial solution," Hamilton said. "It's good citizenship on their part and it helps us and it helps the students for not a lot of money."

At the end of the set two-year trial period for the new housing inspector, Council and the University will evaluate the position's effectiveness.

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