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Change is in the air

updated January 30, 2016 updates in red
When change is in the air, open all the windows
    Even before the first national primaries, the RHINO votes are in and members have made decisions for the coming year. There was a three-way-tie for the quote of the year. Each will run for four months. For Jan-April, you'll be seeing “Focus on our goals, not on our enemies.” And, RHINO has some new goals to focus our work in 2016. 
  1. Affordability/rent burden: expand rent assistance, preserve affordable units, make new affordable units, promote energy savings 
  2. New legal protections for tenants: just cause, rent increase notices, early termination, source of income protections, security deposits, tenants in foreclosure. Just cause in the news as Bryden House tenants are kicked out. 
  3. Tenant consumer rights: banning, surveillance, rental scams, deposit to hold a unit, credit reporting, blacklisting, harassment/senior abuse.
  4. Healthy homes-combating lead, asthma, pesticides, mold. Lead is in the news in the wake of Lansing and Sebring.
  5. Eviction legal reform: just cause, pay to stay, expanded mediation. 
  6. Minimum wage increases: local, state, national  Financial stability and residential stability is in the news
  7. Ohio Fair housing act-protect and expand: LGBT, Source of income Source of Income protections in Pittsburgh and around the country.
  8. Re entry housing policies and programs 
  9. Federal funding issues 
  10. HUD changes: future of contract administration, dealing with troubled properties, impact of transformation, congressional proposals (eg. Ryan plan) 
    You will be reading more about each of these in rhino!Up in coming weeks. Your local stories can help explain these issues. Send your thoughts to communitymanager@gmail.com.

    In the year end survey, RHINO members said they want more "how to" publications and more group training, so the next steps for the RHINO Community Manager (RCM) are to develop plans for webinars/conference calls, printed materials, and advocacy training for RHINO members. Spoiler alert. Later this month, the RCM will be asking members to set priorities around specific rental rights topics to be developed. RCM will also be contacting members who indicated an interest and willingness to become RHINO contributors. You know who you are! Watch your inboxes for more details.

    Does it seem strange to you that experts say that the Great Recession has been over for six and a half years? The fact that things don't feel better is a sign that the economic reality of America has changed forever.  2016 presents a unique opportunity for rental housing advocates to push for changes for tenants. The affordability problem has become the affordability crisis as even middle class households and the children of decision makers are facing a new housing reality of low wages, stringent mortgage requirements and high debt that makes house purchase unattainable for many. 

    Whether families are renters by choice or renters by circumstance, more and more "non poor" (LINK) and "new poor" (LINK) renters are conscious of the need for a change. They are suburban, working, and accustomed to being politically active...but they lack leadership. They are attracted to the "angry" voices on both ends of the political spectrum (Trump and Sanders), and they could become active in efforts to expand renter rights. Without ideas about what changes are needed and opportunity to work for change, they could sour from frustration and choose to blame "outsiders" for their misery. Think about the post World War I generation in Germany that turned to Nazism because progressives couldn't offer an alternative. There are plenty of ideas in the new RHINO Objectives. Every local action contributes to the movement!
    What does it mean for advocates to give leadership to this unrest? Advocates can help these renters to:
1. Tell their stories of being left behind. 
2. Take action on solutions that are within their reach
3. Build organizations or networks to sustain the changes they win.
    Here's some examples: 
  • Marion Trailer Park. Landlord failed to pay the water bill (if you don't like it, move...). Tenants took legal action to stop the shutoff. Question is: will they stay organized to demand more change? 
  • PUCO utility reselling hearings Tenants are pissed off about being overcharged for utilities. Will they rally around Mark Witt (a condo owner/utility attorney) to press the issues with the PUCO? 
  • Source of Income protections in Pittsburgh and around the country. A progressive Councilman pushed for discrimination protections for housing choice voucher (HCV) tenants. Will the housing authority, fair housing advocates, and HCV homeseekers challenge discrimination? 
  • Slumlord Watch of Columbus fought for and won new code enforcement procedures, but now there's a new Mayor. Will advocates fight to protect the changes?
 Update 1/4/16: Voter disgust is another sign of citizen anger getting sour.
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