Committee Asks Plattsburgh City Council To Take Action On Student Rental Properties

Aug 23, 2019

An advisory committee wants leaders in Plattsburgh, New York to control rowdy off-campus students and deal with their often absent landlords.

The Public Safety Committee of the Plattsburgh Common Council heard a report from the Livable Community Advisory Committee Thursday evening that focused on college housing and absentee landlords.  Code enforcement subcommittee member Arthur DeGrandpre said it only takes a quick walk along Court Street to see that many of the Victorian homes built in the 1800’s are now rental properties catering to SUNY Plattsburgh students and fraternities. The college has about 5,300 undergraduates in the city of roughly 20,000.   “Most of the properties there are rental properties and the buildings are in very very poor condition.  Many of the landlords and owners of these buildings don’t live in Plattsburgh and some live in different states. Back in 1983 the Planning Board they referred to these buildings as ‘people warehouses’. These landlords have no interests or concern for the residents of Plattsburgh and the conditions of their properties reflect that.”

DeGrandpre said the committee is asking the city to take action on two fronts. “Our code enforcement committee would ask the Council to consider adopting a code that would require all rental properties in the city to be registered. On a second and very pressing issue the college students are back. We are asking for a police presence in the center city. Specifically we need foot patrols.”

The committee also requested that regular inspections be required for all rental properties.  Councilors were amenable but uncertain how to proceed.  Public Safety Committee Chair Ward 3 Democrat Elizabeth Gibbs began an extended conversation – that included Mayor Colin Read and Ward 4 Independent Councilor Peter Ensel – about how the council would craft such mandates.  “How do we make every rental property registered? How do we enforce it I mean what would be the process for that?”
Mayor Colin Read: “We’ve had a lot of discussions about that. Ninety percent of the rentals won’t be hard because we have MLD records etc. So we can put together the registry, we can start putting together right away. The resources to go and do inspection more comes with what Councilor (Peter) Ensel researched having a program where we have annual inspections and charge a fee for those annual inspections for multi-family homes.”
Ensel:  “What they do in Burlington not every single apartment is inspected every year.”

The city police chief argued that foot patrols alone would not solve student nuisance problems.
The discussion was tabled for further consideration because the committee’s scheduled meeting time ran out.