I’m fortunate that the apartment I’ve rented in Nogales for the past nine-and-a-half years is overseen by a conscientious property manager. The four-unit building I live in is a century old, and therefore needs a fair amount of upkeep. And even though the units don’t bring in a ton of income (the monthly rents at mine and other buildings she manages in town start in the high $300s and probably don’t get much past $650), my landlady regularly invests in improvements and is quick to make necessary repairs.

There are many other responsible landlords in town as well. But there are bad ones, too. I know of other renters in local low-to-middle-income housing who suffer through summer and winter without adequate heating or cooling, beat their heads against the wall trying to get someone to respond to problems, and generally watch their living conditions deteriorate as their landlords pocket their rent money.

The NI recently featured a story about one property owner who took exception to the uncaring attitudes of local slumlords, and decided to do it differently after she purchased two properties on the west side of the city.

Maria G. Lopez replaced dilapidated housing at the sites with modern, new homes and decorated them and their surroundings with colorful and inspiring artwork. She’s renting the homes for prices starting at $400 a month, so they haven’t been priced out of reach of people living on modest incomes.

Speaking of the landlord-tenant relationship, Lopez told reporter Genesis Lara: “It’s not fair to just get their money without giving them a dignified place to live.”

Hopefully that attitude will rub off on area landlords who haven’t been quite so conscientious. Local governments take a lot of heat for not doing enough to improve the economy and overall conditions around here. But there’s plenty of room for private citizens, especially those with financial means and influence, to make a difference as well.

(Clark is managing editor of the Nogales International.)

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