New Housing Inspector Appointed to Focus on Off-Grounds Housing Units

August 01, 2008

July 31, 2008 — Aaron Joseph Fabio of Radnor, Pa., will replace Cory Jordan as the City of Charlottesville's housing inspector tasked with overseeing the area around the University of Virginia — home to many students living off-Grounds.

Under an agreement with the city, the University of Virginia pays for the salary and benefits of the city-employed inspector, whose primary mission is to focus on housing units in areas surrounding the University. This includes the Venable, Fry's Spring, Jefferson Park Avenue, Lewis Mountain, Jackson-Via and Barracks Road neighborhoods.
 
"This is one more step in cooperation between the city and the University," said Jerry Tomlin, the city's building maintenance code official who oversees the inspectors. "I don't see any disadvantages."

Nor do University officials.
   
"Nothing is more important than the safety and security of our students, whether they live on-Grounds or off-Grounds," said Leonard W. Sandridge, executive vice president and chief operating officer. "The University-funded city housing inspector is an example of the University and the City of Charlottesville achieving something together that neither of us could do alone. It's a model that has been gaining national attention from universities and local governments who seek ways to collaborate for the greater safety of their students."  

Before there was a specific inspector for the University district, Tomlin said inspectors tended to only respond to complaints from students or landlords.

"Now we are able to concentrate on the neighborhood and do inspections proactively," Tomlin said. "The process is no longer complaint-driven."

Property owners living in neighborhoods bordering the University have expressed appreciation for Jordan's responsiveness, said Ida Lee Wootten, U.Va.'s community relations director. 

"City residents have voiced gratitude for Cory's promptness in following up on concerns about property maintenance and safety issues," she said.

Jordan, who has a psychology degree and will pursue a master's degree in teaching at U.Va.'s Curry School of Education, said the job can be confrontational by its nature, but he viewed it as an opportunity to educate.

"I was 'teaching' the landlord what to do to keep the property up," Jordan said, "or 'teaching' students that they had to pick up their trash in order to be responsible citizens."

Tomlin praised Jordan's diligence in attending classes to obtain certifications in the building industry and noted that he was a prominent member of the James Madison Area Building Code Officials Association.

"He was doing a great job and he was active and dependable," Tomlin said. "He had bright ideas, including helping with a new computer system and changing how files were recorded and updated."

Fabio, Jordan's replacement, has a background in the construction industry and completed some undergraduate work at Cabrini College in Pennsylvania.

"The property maintenance inspector position, however, does not require extensive construction knowledge as much as it requires good people skills and problem-solving skills, and an understanding of the customers we encounter," Tomlin said. "With regard to those skills, Mr. Fabio seems to be a very good fit for this position."

City housing inspectors enforce the Virginia Property Maintenance code and the city's public nuisance ordinances, as well as conduct fire and safety inspections in both rental units and in private homes. They also enforce regulations on inoperable vehicles, excessive vegetation and trash and graffiti. "The inspectors conduct annual inspections of fraternity and sorority houses, which involve at least two visits each year," Tomlin said.

Jordan's records indicate that since he began working in February 2005, he has conducted more than 5,100 inspections — including 450 housing unit inspections for compliance with the Virginia Maintenance Code, 922 inoperable vehicle inspections, 1,342 overgrowth of weeds/grass/vegetation inspections, 2,355 accumulations of trash inspections, 29 graffiti inspections and five Albemarle Housing Improvement Program feasibility inspections.

"When I was a renter, I would have laughed if I had gotten one of my letters telling me to cut the grass or pick up the trash," Jordan said. But now he knows his impact in improving the appearance of a neighborhood. "You see the importance of it when you do it day to day."

Jordan also learned that he could be tough when he had to be, because he was generally telling landlords and tenants things they did not want to hear.

"You need to learn to take the abuse, because that is part of the job," he said. "But I also have to figure out their side of it, too. That's where my psychology degree comes in."