116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Neighborhood associations and a not-for-profit organization fighting systemic injustices have banded together to demand the city of Cedar Rapids revoke a property management company’s business license.
Eric Gutschmidt, president of the Wellington Heights Neighborhood Association and a landlord, said he and others from the Bever Park and Moundview neighborhood associations and the Advocates for Social Justice decided to send the letters to the city after last month’s arrest near a rental property owned by Charles Davisson, operating as Property Holders. Earlier this week, the house was declared a nuisance property by the city.
The house at 1748 C Ave. NE has had numerous reports by neighbors of gunshots being fired there, which has resulted in bullets coming through their homes, The Gazette reported in May.
The house was under surveillance by Police Community Action Team, who focuses on gun violence, last month when Royal R. Jones, 19, was arrested. He was charged with being a felon in possession firearm — one without a serial number known as a “ghost gun,” along with three other charges. He was arrested after running from the house under “suspicious circumstances,” a criminal complaint stated.
In the letters to the city, the associations say Davisson has been unable to manage and prevent rentals from becoming nuisance properties. There have been multiple incidents of people associated with the property shooting weapons in the neighborhood or illegally possessing weapons, but “Mr. Davisson has not been inclined to discontinue renting to this group of tenants,” one letter to the city stated.
When another of Davisson’s properties on Bever Avenue SE was declared a nuisance, the tenants had to move. Davisson rented 1748 C Ave. NE to the same tenants. An employee of Davisson’s lived in the Bever Avenue house, police told The Gazette last year. Neighbors confirmed the tenant moved into the C Avenue home.
“The neighbors are terrified,” the Moundview letter stated. “Their homes have been hit by bullets. They are afraid to let their small children play outside, afraid to contact police, afraid to invite grandmothers over to celebrate Mother’s Day or have a graduation party outdoors like others in Cedar Rapids do with no second thought to safety.”
The Advocates of Social Justice also said Property Holders was “preying on vulnerable people that struggle to make ends meet by entrapping them in unsafe properties and using tenants’ financial struggles as leverage to not fix or upkeep the homes,” its letter to the city stated.
The associations asked the city to revoke Davisson business permit so he can’t move the tenants to another of his properties.
Mari Davis, administrator of Property Holders who runs the day-to-day operations, said she is working with the city on the progress being made their various properties that still have derecho damage, and have been working with SAFE-CR over concerns that neighbors have expressed about the C Avenue house.
The company also has been doing routine maintenance and repairs that occur as a part of the inspection process, Davis said. Several properties have met the requirements this past year and have passed the inspection.
“I would point out, as I did previously, that the tenants who occupy the property at 1748 C St NE are also victims as the home has also sustained damage from gunfire that unknown individuals have engaged in,” Davis said in an email. “Further, the tenants have not, in fact, been arrested for any criminal activity as neighbors allege.”
Gutschmidt said three rental properties he owns across from the 1748 C Ave. house have been affected by the shooting incidents. His tenants had bullets coming through walls. One of his tenants moved out, he said.
Gutschmidt, the Advocates for Social Justice and other community advocates circulated a petition last year, gathering over 1,250 signatures, and called on city officials to permanently revoke Davisson’s permit to lease property in Cedar Rapids.
This came after the city Housing Board of Appeals took the unusual action of suspending Davisson’s rental permit for 2307 Bever Ave. SE and three other properties — all deemed nuisances — for six months.
The city, however, didn’t revoke his rental permit. There are housing laws and due process to be followed, which allows property owners time to come into compliance. Davisson didn’t rent these properties during the suspensions and came into compliance on the nuisance issues.
Greg Buelow, city housing and nuisance manager, said the city has received the neighborhood associations’ letters and is currently “processing and evaluating the proper steps in accordance with law, affording due process to affected parties.”
The 1748 C Ave. house was declared a nuisance property June 6, and a nuisance abatement plan is due June 22, said Amanda Grieder, public safety program manager. The owner has until June 16 to appeal.
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