Opposition to Tulsa mayor's substandard housing plan

Monday, January 16th 2006, 12:26 pm
By: News On 6

Tulsa's plan to eliminate substandard housing might hit a snag this week at the Tulsa city council. A resolution of support for the plan is up for a vote - but it's not a sure thing.

News on 6 reporter Emory Bryan says everyday in Tulsa, there are thousands of families living in homes politely called substandard - but realistically called pitiful. And every so often, a family like this gets a chance to move up in and into decent housing.

Habitat for Humanity broke ground Monday on a house for the Jamison family. Habitat homeowner Rhonda Jamison: "And I just want to thank everybody for helping us support this dream."

Habitat for Humanity founder Millard Fuller challenged Tulsa to eliminate substandard housing. It's now a long term goal of the mayor's office, but the city council has yet to endorse it - partly out of concern that eliminating the worst houses will leave some people without a house at all.

Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune: "and we're not just talking about eliminating, we're talking about providing standard housing, safe and affordable housing, so whatever is eliminated would be replaced by safe housing."

Substandard homes are all over Tulsa, but a study of the problem showed the greatest concentration of them in north and northwest Tulsa. There are 8,200 homes in the city that experts consider unlivable and beyond repair. The effort to get rid of substandard houses doesn't just target the run down but still occupied homes like this one - it's also the boarded up and abandoned homes. The goal is to build livable viable neighborhoods instead. Gary Casteel with Habitat for Humanity: "And I think a simple decent affordable home is the least that we try to attain for everybody."

The construction of Habitat houses is only part of the equation and other charity groups are on board with the plan to eliminate substandard housing. They are all waiting for a unified city government effort to lead the way.

The mayor doesn't have to get city council approval to work on the goal, but would need it to beef up code enforcement and put in place other strategies that would help reach the goal. The council might vote on it this Thursday.