VALPARAISO — Officials plan to strengthen the city’s rental registration ordinance, last amended eight years ago, in the wake of the infestation that forced five families from their bug-filled apartments.
Residents of the 2,800-square-foot building at 502 Union St. were displaced as a result of a bug infestation so severe that a resident had been treated multiple times at the hospital, according to officials. The Porter County Health Department declared the building “unfit for human habitation” and gave the residents until July 26 to find other accommodations.
A statement, issued six days after residents were evicted, said the administration and council will work to fix the city’s rental registration ordinance, which was last amended in 2011.
"We were dismayed upon learning about the conditions at the apartment at 502 Union St. and how the lives of several fellow Valparaiso residents were disrupted," according the joint statement issued by Mayor Jon Costas and City Council President Deb Porter.
The city said steps will be taken by Community Engagement Director Maggie Clifton to reach out to the residents and neighborhood leaders in College Hill. She will be seeking input to determine a course of action and also to find possible "other apartments in a similar situation." State legislature limits the ability of local communities to inspect rental properties, according to the statement.
"No complaint was ever filed with the city and the city was not aware of the conditions," the statement noted.
Complaints or credible information concerning a violation of city ordinance is required for the city building inspector to make inquiries, the statement says. Clifton will also be informing residents of the process in place to report improper conditions.
Efforts by an ad hoc group of nonprofits and local businesses coordinated through United Way of Porter County was applauded by the mayor and council for "the swift action taken" that "provided aid and shelter to those in need."
All residents have secured temporary shelter, according to the press release. The United Way arranged rooms at a Valparaiso-area hotel for the displaced tenants, assistance with their housing search and sorted out schooling for the displaced children and healthcare.
The city will "continue to monitor the situation" and plans to make sure all code requirements are met before residents are able to return to the building.