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The general failure of city officials to embark on a sustained and comprehensive program of housing code enforcement may be explained by a variety of factors: housing codes often contain obsolete or impractical requirements;' successful code enforcement does not yield great political dividends for the incumbent administration; since code enforcement is such humdrum work, it does not often attract personnel of high quality; present methods of enforcing compliance with code requirements are woefully deficient; finally, the poor often lack the political power to maintain a sustained regulatory effort on their behalf.2 All of these considerations are quite real and I do not mean to minimize them. Nevertheless, my casual conversations with both city officials and representatives of tenant organizations have suggested to me that these factors do not in themselves fully explain the general failure of code enforcement programs. In large measure, the lethargy is itself a symptom of a more fundamental problem-most policy makers involved in housing code enforcement are themselves unsure whether code enforcement is a good thing. They are not convinced that strict enforcement of even an ideal code will really benefit the tenants whom the code is intended to "protect." They fear that landlords who are required to improve their properties to code standards will simply pass on the added costs to their tenants by increasing rents or that they will abandon the properties entirely, thereby depriving tenants of even sub-code accommodations. Thus, "effective" code enforcement may simply require the poor to allocate an additional share of their meagre budgets to the purchase of housing services when the poor themselves would prefer to purchase more food or entertainment or automobiles.
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