The Problem with Housing Court


Ignoring a problem will never solve it and housing court is one problem our city must face. For years, the Niagara Falls City Court Housing Part has been broken. Today we must take the responsibility to fix it.

Recently, I have addressed the problems of housing court. Housing court reform is one of the major issue areas for this campaign. I spend a lot of time talking to residents and I have consistently heard the same message over and over: We are frustrated.  

This is not acceptable and should not be tolerated. Something needs to change and we are already part of the way there. Housing complaints rarely lead to repairs. Slumlords and absentee landlords need to be held accountable.

Through new code enforcement techniques and technology, we have changed how violations are tracked and presented to court.  This ensures that all cases present the facts clearly and we know when action is being taken or when it is not. When it is time for the court to act, it doesn’t do enough.

Since tracking of housing court began in January 2018, 92% of cases were adjourned by the court, even in instances where no progress was being made to remedy the violations. Out of 1,879 complaints of housing violations  in 2017, less than 300 were heard by a judge.

I have reached out to the city court judges to discuss what is the best way forward. While we are from different branches of government, we still hold a common duty of public officials to serve the residents we represent to the best of our ability.  Unfortunately, the court is not doing enough to come up with a solution to improve our city. These officials, who make $1 million over a ten-year term, are empowered to talk about how to improve the court system. Judges frequently talk with stakeholders regarding other court matters, but refuse to discuss housing court? Something is off.

While I have not had any response about how to improve code enforcement and housing court from the court itself, I have received responses from unhappy political insiders and lawyers. There have been articles and personal messages that have attacked my approach to holding our city to a higher standard. I think there will be more attacks, but I am not worried because I am working to improve our city.  

Imagine if all the energy spent attacking me for talking about housing court was spent on improving it?

Jarrett Steffen