The county’s Board of Health was poised to vote on a set of revisions to quarter-century-old housing regulations, but an eleventh-hour postponement left advocates wondering if they’ve been heard.
The Allegheny County Board of Health postponed an expected vote to revise a set of rules that empower inspectors to crack down on substandard landlords.
The board was scheduled to vote during its bimonthly meeting Wednesday on proposed changes to the county’s Houses and Community Environment regulation, known as Article VI. It establishes the “minimum standards” for safe housing conditions and explains what owners and occupants must do to meet those standards. If approved, the changes will be the first update to the county’s housing code in more than 25 years.
The vote was removed from the meeting agenda Tuesday to allow the board more time to consider the changes, said Neil Ruhland, a spokesperson for the Allegheny County Health Department [ACHD]. A previous version of the agenda shows that the proposed changes to Article VI had been scheduled for board approval.
“The Board of Health as well as the department wanted to take one more final look at it and try to see if there were ways that they could strengthen it even more before bringing it to a vote,” Ruhland said. He declined to say if the changes would be ready for a vote at the board’s next meeting in November.
The proposed update includes new requirements for installing deadbolts and carbon monoxide detectors, updated violation and penalty procedures, and rules for dwellings to be graded and properly drained to prevent landslides, among a host of other code revisions.
Some board meeting attendees expressed surprise that the vote was removed from the agenda on short notice without communication to interested organizations.
Chavaysha Chaney, manager of advocacy and health policy at Women for a Healthy Environment, attended the meeting because she expected the board to approve the proposed changes.
“It’s disheartening to know that there was no communication made to folks about the change at all,” she said.
Chaney is among a group of advocates that want far more community involvement in the process of updating the housing code. Women for a Healthy Environment is among 18 organizations and 19 individuals who signed a petition calling for the board to create an advisory committee. Composed of experts, advocates and residents, it would help modernize the code, which they said should go beyond minimum standards and do more to protect the health and rights of tenants.