FARMINGTON — Discussion on a proposed housing code ordinance that could give Farmington officials power to combat sub-standard housing was tabled Tuesday morning.
City Manager Rob Mayes will lead a one-month study and create a "comprehensive staff report" of what the city can do in its current ordinances and laws to combat housing-related issues.
"There are cases where we can do something, but we have found some holes there," Mayes said.
The housing code ordinance could range from measures to combat so-called criminal nuisance abatement, such as prostitution and illegal drug laboratories, or it could be extended to give the city authority to enforce issues related to appearance and housing safety.
City officials said they might be open to drafting an ordinance but that they need more information on what issues affect the community.
"I'm not sure that I know what the scope of the problem is in Farmington," said Mayor Tommy Roberts.
Councilor Mary Fischer said she has heard of a variety of housing issues from Lynn Love, housing assistance supervisor at the San Juan County Partnership, a local social service organization.
"I spoke with (Love) with the San Juan County Partnership, and he said there are two concerns," Fischer said. "The mobile home parks and extended stay motels -- appliances are not working, the roofs are falling in, the floors are caving in, no working smoke detectors or no smoke detectors at all, and at the motels some have bars on the windows that can't detach."
Fischer said that she doesn't believe the problem is extensive, but that the city needs to act quickly before blight and uninhabitable housing spreads.
"We really need to find out what the scope of the problem is," she said. "Some of these things could be addressed with existing ordinances."
Roberts asked what the scope of landlord-tenant law is in New Mexico.
City Attorney Jay Burnham said that tenants can sue landlords if they fail to repair housing when it is uninhabitable, or if they violate terms of a rental agreement.
Roberts said he is weary of any unintentional consequences that could be caused by a housing code ordinance.
"We need more information on the costs associated with implementation and enforcement," he said.
Fischer requested additional information on foreclosed property regulation and asked who is ultimately responsible for maintaining those properties.
She also asked for information on the city's powers of condemnation and whether anything can be done about homes contaminated by illegal drugs.
The city's codes and ordinances do not allow for an effective way to reverse the blight intruding on the neighborhood, said Councilor Jason Sandel.
"We're stuck as a community," he said. "All we can do is clean up the weeds and trash. That type of circumstance shouldn't exist within our community."
Sandel said finding some kind of code, ordinance or other legislation is imperative.
"We need to get something in place to empower staff and empower the community to start addressing these wrongs," he said.