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Gainesville City Council gets housing survey update
Code officers address issues with rental, abandoned properties
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Gainesville City Council members heard a presentation updating them on the city’s housing survey and inventory at Thursday’s work session meeting.

About 65 percent of city housing is occupied by renters, with the rest homeowners, said Community Development Director Rusty Ligon.That’s a reversal of the state average, he said.

“I don’t know if we’ll ever get to that point, but we’d sure want to try to change that imbalance,” Ligon said.

Vacant property affects the values of those nearby. Everybody is facing the same dilemma of limited resources and shrinking funds, he said.

“We know everybody’s facing that,” Ligon said. “We do the best we can with what we have.”

Gary Kansky, Gainesville’s code enforcement manager, said his department has issued about 10 written warnings and about 15 citations. The agency works to educate property owners to address building code violations. There have been nine cleanups, 10 building demolitions and four remodelings.

Kansky addressed problems with the Norwood and Versailles Apartments, which required new stairwells and landings for safety. The owner of the apartment complexes has cleaned up some of the abandoned housing on his land, including removing graffiti and repainting buildings.

Councilwoman Myrtle Figueras said she received a message of thanks from a resident there who said they feel safer since improvements were made.

Code enforcement has received more than 2,000 complaints, but many positive end results are the product of working with property owners, Kansky said.

“It was an education thing again,” he said.

Ligon and Kansky also addressed some junk furniture left behind a building at the Lennox Park Apartments, but the property management cleaned it up within two days after code enforcement officers kept after the problem, Kansky said.

Mayor Danny Dunagan said the Norwood and Versailles complexes, owned by Gainesville businessman John Lovell, are in foreclosure.

The city is currently conducting a housing survey and has evaluated about 2,600 structures. The survey only evaluates the exterior of the buildings; inspectors stay on public property while evaluating them. If there seems to be code violations, city officers will make a more through inspection.

“We’re almost to the halfway point,” said Jessica Tullar, special projects manager for the Community Development department. “We’re not gaining access to anyone’s property.”

Kansky said if the front of the building looks bad, they’ll still check it out more thoroughly before making a final determination.

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