Wausau city leaders work to improve rundown properties - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Wausau city leaders work to improve rundown properties

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WAUSAU (WAOW) -

Wausau city officials say they're taking steps to improve rundown properties in the city.

At a meeting on Tuesday afternoon, the Wausau Housing Task Force moved forward with plans to implement a rental licensing program in two problem areas within the city.

City leaders have been working on the plan for months, and homeowners who live in some neighborhoods targeted by city leaders told Newsline 9 their tactics are working.

Wausau officials want to do even more to try and improve safety and quality of life, but some landlords said implementing a city-wide licensing program would punish those who are already maintaining their properties.

Jose Villarreal has lived in a home on Scott Street in Wausau for 9 years. He told Newsline 9 owning a home on the city's east side hasn't been easy.

"Middle of the night it turned into a whole different town," he said.

Villarreal said at times, he's felt unsafe.

"A lot of drug-dealing more than anything. A lot of violence a lot of fights."

He also added that some properties in the area aren't kept in good condition, but he said efforts by the Wausau Police and Wausau Housing Task Force have helped turn things around.

"Whether they're tenants or homeowners, they want better quality of life," Wausau Patrol Officer Ben Graham said.

He told us increased patrols in problem areas of the city, including Villarreal's neighborhood, have made a difference.

"Focusing on those areas within the city of Wausau that have had increased numbers of complaints," Graham said.

Now, Wausau leaders want to implement a rental licensing program in two parts of the city that have had problems, to see if it helps improve rundown residences.

The areas they decided to focus on include neighborhoods in Ward 6 and Ward 23 of Wausau.

"Rather than running any proposed licensing program through the whole city, starting the rental licensing program in those two districts to see what effect that has on eliminating blight," Wausau landlord and task force member John Fischer said.

Fischer supports holding landlords accountable for their properties.

"In the last few months the Wausau police department has gotten fairly aggressive with tracking numerous calls to properties, has gotten aggressive with chronic nuisance properties," he said, but he argues good landlords shouldn't have to pay more to make it happen. "I think making a difference is basically enforcement of the current codes."

Wausau officials said they are still working out the details of the rental licensing program's trial-run. They said overall, this is a long-term process that will take time to iron out. Some city officials hope to have a landlord licensing program in place by the end of the year.

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