What's News?

July 23, 2017 updates
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Read more about rental housing issues at Nonprofit Quarterly

Where credit is due. Thanks to PatriciaB, MikeS, and RuthMc at NPQ for their frequent contributions.  JanetW artfully edits. Find the other RHINO stars here  



Law would require nearly all older Cleveland homes to be 'lead safe'
      The Plain Dealer shares the news of a new way to address lead poisoning in Cleveland. "Cleveland homes, childcare centers and schools built before 1978 would have to be certified as safe from lead hazards by 2021 under legislation City Councilman Jeff Johnson will introduce next month.      Johnson, along with Cleveland Lead Safe Network (CLSN), created the proposed ordinance as part of a sweeping Lead Safe Cleveland Initiative that would first tackle lead paint hazards in homes and then go after reducing the risk from the toxin in soil and water. 
     More than a decade ago, city council made voluntary 'Lead Safe' certificates available to landlords who proved through private inspections that their homes didn't pose a lead poisoning risk to children, which can cause irreversible damage to their developing brains. The effort flopped when not a single landlord signed up.
     Read the proposed ordinance, then learn more about Toledo's Lead Safe Housing ordinance
Councilman Larry Sykes will be guest speaker at Cleveland Lead Safe Network summer convening on Thursday, July 27th. Councilman Sykes was one of the chief architects as the ordinance worked its way through Toledo City Council...twice! For details see the flyer at the bottom of the page.
posted July 23, 2017

Tenant files PUCO complaint against Nationwide Energy Partners
Columbus Dispatch reports: "Renter wants to target property developer, manager in submeter complaint. Month-old rules regarding utility submetering may get their first test as the result of a complaint filed this week by a Reynoldsburg woman. Cynthia Wingo, an elementary-school teacher, is asking the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio for permission to revise the complaint she filed in December against Nationwide Energy Partners, the company that resells electricity service in her apartment complex. Her original complaint was based on a billing dispute with Nationwide Energy and the company’s threat — never carried out — to shut off her power during December. In the revised version, she proposes to expand the complaint to include a developer, Crawford Hoying, and a property management firm, Borror Properties, among others."
posted July 21, 2017

Rochester shows drastic reduction in lead poisoning cases.
     Part one of the Blade series on lead safe housing focuses on Toledo's effort in light of the success of Rochester, NY. "At the end of a hours-long meeting that ran late into the night, city council members in Rochester unanimously voted in December, 2005, to adopt a controversial and novel ordinance aimed at reducing the number of children poisoned by lead in the city. Now more than a decade and 141,000 inspections later, the number of children tested with lead poisoning in Rochester is less than a third of what it was the year the law passed. 'All of us feel a sense of ownership of this, that we did this together,' said Wade Norwood, whose last act in his 15-year tenure on Rochester council was to ensure the lead ordinance passed. “This was taking the city into uncharted territory. ”Rochester’s lead law has served as a model for health and environmental researchers across the country, as well as municipalities looking for a model to follow, including Toledo. A city of about 210,000 in upstate New York, Rochester had more than 1,000 children test positive with lead poisoning in 2003, two years before the ordinance passed. County health officials there identified children with blood lead levels of 10 micrograms per deciliter or greater, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's level of concern at the time."
     In part two of the series, The Blade reports on Rochester's efforts to remove lead from homes. "People want to know how this city drastically has reduced the number of children with elevated blood lead levels, dropping two and a half times faster than comparable cities in upstate New York. Rochester city and health officials field frequent calls from places nationwide. That interest only grew after the lead crisis in Flint, Mich., elevated the issue to a national conversation. So cities want to know — can they do it too? In the decade since Rochester required rental properties built before 1978 to be cleared of lead hazards as part of the certificate of occupancy inspections, documented cases of childhood lead poisonings have fallen by more than two-thirds."
posted July 17, 2017

Tiny Homes Are Baby Steps Toward Reversing the Housing Crisis
     CityLab has an article on new inner city microhomes. "Baltimore certainly isn’t the only city experiencing a housing crisis: The U.S. as a whole can’t seem to keep up with the growing numbers of very low-income households. In response, a handful of cities, from Nashville to Dallas, Detroit, and Seattle, have launched programs to build tiny houses for folks priced out of their homes."
     Another advantage of new housing is that they will be lead free. Reusing old housing has hidden costs.                                     
posted July 15, 2017

Study will explore Franklin County’s high eviction rate
Rita Price in the Columbus Dispatch reports on a new eviction study. "Through face-to-face interviews, field observation and data collection, a new research project aims to dig into the reasons behind Franklin County’s alarmingly high rate of eviction. 'We teach our students that before you run to solutions, you have to understand the problem,' said Trevor Brown, dean of the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at Ohio State University. 'Why is it that so many individuals and families are being asked to leave their homes and places of shelter?' The city of Columbus, Franklin County and OSU announced the commission of the study Thursday at the Glenn College, where graduate students are to lead the research as part of their studies. Franklin County has the state’s busiest eviction court, with nearly 18,000 cases filed each year. It’s not unusual for a magistrate to handle 130 or more cases before noon on a weekday in Courtroom 11A at Franklin County Municipal Court." More from the article "Eviction 'is a crippling reality that my partners and I would like to analyze and comprehend,' City Councilwoman Jaiza Page said. 'This study isn’t an indictment of anyone. It is a chance to come together.' ”
posted July 14, 2017

Nearly 30 Senate Dems urge Carson to protect LGBTQ community from housing discrimination
The Hill reports: "It has come to our attention that the [HUD] has, in recent months, either withdrawn or removed from its website at least six resources that were designed to help housing providers comply with HUD nondiscrimination rules that protect LGBTQ people," the letter reads.
Posted July 9, 2017

A Neighborhood is more than housing
     Rachel Dissell analyzes the impact of St. Rocco's decision to raise rents and raze units. "Vacated St. Rocco Church-owned homes force Roehl Avenue blight, residents say."
     From the article: "Berchin wanted to spend her last days in the grey-shingled home, in the shadow of St. Rocco Church, where she was baptized and attended school, and where she was surrounded by caring neighbors who checked on her, shared meals with her and called her 'Mom.' But the neighborhood she knew is no longer there. Those neighbors also left the street last year, after their landlord, St. Rocco Church, decided the residents of the 10 single and multi-family homes it owned on Roehl Avenue and one on W. 33rd Street must vacate.
posted July 2, 2017

Should tenants be glad that President Trump is a Section 8 landlord...or not?
     Washington Post reports: "Trump seeks sharp cuts to housing aid, except for program that brings him millions  President Trump’s budget calls for sharply reducing funding for programs that shelter the poor and combat homelessness — with a notable exception: It leaves intact a type of federal housing subsidy that is paid directly to private landlords. One of those landlords is Trump himself, who earns millions of dollars each year as a part-owner of Starrett City, the nation’s largest subsidized housing complex. Trump’s 4 percent stake in the Brooklyn complex earned him at least $5 million between January of last year and April 15, according to his recent financial disclosure."
     Here's the *real* reason why there are only minimal cuts to owner subsidies. From the article "Several experts said cutting the subsidy paid directly to landlords can be politically difficult, in part because many beneficiaries of that type of subsidized housing are elderly and in part because landlords are more likely to be politically organized."
posted June 21, 2017

New LGBT protections bill introduced
Columbus Dispatch reports: "An Ohio legislator from near Cleveland has launched another attempt at a bill to ban discrimination in housing, employment and other areas based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. And just like in past years, the measure is likely going nowhere in the GOP-dominated General Assembly. Rep. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, who is a lesbian, introduced House Bill 160. She called it a 'fair proposal that will simply give people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender the same freedom to work, the same freedom to live where they choose, and the same full equal participation in society, just as anyone else in Ohio.' ”                                 
posted June 9, 2017

Internet competition in multifamily complexes
    Ars Technica reports that the FCC is considering ways to open up internet competition in multifamily apartments. This could help tenants argue for access to cheaper alternatives to current "sweet heart deals" between property owners/managers and service providers. 
     From the article: "Exclusive deals between broadband providers and landlords have long been a problem for Internet users, despite rules that are supposed to prevent or at least limit such arrangements. The Federal Communications Commission is starting to ask questions about whether it can do more to stop deals that impede broadband competition inside apartment and condominium buildings. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai yesterday released a draft Notice of Inquiry (NOI) that seeks public comment “on ways to facilitate greater consumer choice and to enhance broadband deployment in multiple tenant environments (MTEs). The commission is scheduled to vote on the NOI at its June 22 meeting, and it would then take public comments before deciding whether to issue new rules or take any other action."

New Efforts to regulate submeter companies 
Dan Gearino at the Columbus Dispatch reports "There’s a new legislative push underway to regulate companies that resell utilities in apartments and condominiums. The effort is a replay of sorts from last year, when two competing proposals took very different approaches. The two proposals, neither of which passed, are being reintroduced this week, giving Ohio lawmakers a choice on how much they want to regulate practices that have led to a torrent of consumer complaints. On one side is Senate Bill 157 from Sen. Kevin Bacon, R-Minerva Park, which says that so-called 'submeter' companies must not charge more than the regulated price of water or electricity, with exceptions. He introduced the measure on Thursday. On the other side is a proposal from Rep. Mike Duffey, R-Worthington, which sets a harder cap on pricing. His plan is set to be introduced on Friday and does not yet have a bill number."
     It looks like neither bill addresses "estimated" billing systems like REMS (Ratio Utility Billing System). Without protections against estimated billing the so-called "submetering" companies will be tempted to move to unregulated REMS systems.
      These bills will be on the agenda of the OPLC Housing Task Force in two weeks. More info then!
posted May 27, 2017

Legal Aid Society sues Cleveland on behalf of toddler 
Cleveland.com reports: "The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland has asked a court to order the City of Cleveland to follow state laws designed to protect children from being lead poisoned. The city has, for more than six months, failed to protect a toddler it knew was harmed by lead hazards in her West Side rental home, according to the lawsuit, filed Thursday afternoon in the Ohio 8th District Court of Appeals. 
But the case isn't about one child. It is about hundreds of children living in the city who are potentially affected by years of city inaction, attorneys say.
posted 5/19/17

Ohio House proposes to turn over all lead enforcement to the State
After all they've done a fine job so far, right?  The Blade reports: "State orders unsafe homes in Toledo vacated due to lead Families unaware; Official says health dept. is addressing its ‘deficiencies’"     
Tell your state senators to remove Lead Pre-emption language from the State Budget Bill.
posted May 14, 2017

Dispatch and PD go after poisoned houses!
Poisoned houses news appears in the Dispatch
The headline is misleading, but the story is good. The Dispatch picked up on the report provided by ODH last Friday afternoon about poisoned houses in Ohio Metro areas. From the story: "The owners of 51 Columbus residences have been told their properties, mostly rentals, must be vacated because of a lead hazard. The houses, duplexes and apartments have been referred to the city attorney’s office for action. The properties are among 540 on a state registry whose owners have refused to comply with an order from the Ohio Department of Health or a local Board of Health to correct known lead hazards, department spokesman Russ Kennedy said. Columbus has more properties on the registry than any other Ohio city. Ten of the 51 houses in the city have children living in them, said Jose Rodriguez, spokesman for Columbus Public Health."
     Here's Rachel and Brie's story on the same issue from a Cleveland perspective. They make the point that the actual number of properties in Ohio should be vacated is double the number that were posted by ODH "There are far more properties, more than 1,000 statewide with identified lead hazards, which have not reached the point of receiving an order to vacate."
     You can find the list of poisoned houses in your community here
Posted May 3, 2017
Update May 19, 2017.  Apparently Ohio Department of Health is unable to display it's webpage on lead poisoned houses.linked above. RHINO has downloaded the file of poisoned houses and attached it at the bottom of this page.
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Three stories this past week underscore the "existential" threat to lead poisoning programs.
Only one of the stories provides a pathway to success in the face of proposed EPA budget cuts and an outmoded "poisoned child" approach to prevention.
  • Living on Earth suggests fighting as hard as we can in Congress to prevent budget cuts and then no plan B.
  • "Hundreds more lead hotspots are identified as Trump prepares to gut programs. Part 2 of An ongoing Reuters investigation has found another 449 areas around the U.S. with lead exposure rates double those found in Flint. But cities across the country say pending federal budget cuts could imperil efforts to eradicate the toxic metal."
  • Nonprofit Quarterly proposes fighting as hard as we can in Congress for as much as we can get for existing programs, and then investing local tax dollars in remdediation and shifting to a system of primary prevention supported by property owner testing and compliance. If's not a matter of if...but when Cleveland and Ohio will come to their senses and stop blaming those "bad" politicians in DC.
posted April 24, 2017

Toledo council approves amendment to lead law Compliance deadline for landlords extended; dust-wipe requirement stays
The Blade reports "Toledo City Council on Tuesday approved an amendment to the city’s “lead-safe” rental property law that extends compliance deadlines, but keeps a controversial dust-wipe requirement for home inspections. The amendment passed with a 10-1 vote, with Councilman Tom Waniewski the lone dissenter. It delays the fast-approaching original Sept. 17 deadline when all of an estimated 50,000 affected dwellings were to have been inspected and certified. Now, there are three deadlines divided by census tracts, starting with areas identified as highest-risk for poisoning children."
posted April 22, 2017
more on Toledo Lead Safe Ordinance

Peoria Public Housing Tenants Evicted by HUD
      Nonprofit Quarterly tells the story of tenants at a failing PHA. Tenants are resisting voucherization. This fits a pattern with what's going on at East Calumet properties in East Chicago Indiana and the tenants at Washington Townehomes in Canton. Since about March, at least in the midwest region, HUD is showing zero tolerance for failing properties.
      For Project-based Section 8 properties in Ohio, check your property's REAC Score here. If your property is below 60, start investigating to find out what are HUD's plans. If you are in an at risk or failing public housing authority, start communicating with the PHA board and director.

posted April 21, 2017

More evidence of the strength of the rental business in Ohio

A while back RHINO cited a story about how investors were finding high Return on Investment (ROI) in RustBelt cities. Even though rents are lower than in coastal and sunbelt markets; unit cost are much lower than in hot rental markets, so ROI is higher. Here's another example from the Dispatch: "Homebuyers aren’t the only ones combing central Ohio for real-estate deals. In the past three years, investment firms searching for bargains outside the nation’s largest cities have paid more than $1.2 billion for 145 central Ohio complexes containing 30,000 apartments, according to Yardi Matrix, a commercial real-estate data company that tracks complexes with at least 50 apartments. 'Interest from investors is incredibly strong,' said D.J. Effler, senior vice president of Bellwether Enterprise’s Columbus office. Last year, it arranged financing for more than 60 real-estate deals, among them 20 Columbus-area apartment transactions including the Enclave at Albany Park in Westerville, and Lake Club and Enclave Village in Columbus."
Don't let public officials tell you that landlords are strapped and can't afford to make health and safety improvements.
posted April 19, 2017

More Renters Put Moving Plans On Hold Even As Financial Optimism Grows, Says New Freddie Mac Survey
"More renters are optimistic about their financial situations and expect to stay where they are even if their rents increased, according to new research released today by Freddie Mac .... Meanwhile, a declining number of renters say they are working toward homeownership, expect to buy a home, or move within the next few years. According to the latest Freddie Mac renter survey [PDF], renters today are also saying renting is a good choice for them, expect renting to stay affordable, and would move into a smaller rental unit to be closer to a city. While sentiments differ among urban, suburban and rural households, nationally those saying they expect to rent their next home increased to 59 percent from 55 percent since Freddie Mac's last renter survey in September 2016.
posted April 16, 2017

Senator Seitz hosts an "industry only" meeting on Utility Reselling

    Dispatch reports: "Consumer voice omitted from meeting on possible ‘submetering’ bill."
     Senator Seitz (Cincinnati) is also the brains behind the efforts to undermine alternative energy programs in Ohio and the "unfair" housing bills of the past several years. From the article: "The Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, the Ohio Poverty Law Center and other consumer advocates have long argued for rules on submetering and have proposals of their own. Asked why they were not at the meeting, Seitz replied: 'We thought it would complicate things to have them there, so they were not on the guest list.' ”
     One thing is for certain, the utility resellers are feeling the heat of public opinion. According to Gandhi, "first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they attack you...then you win."
posted April 15, 2017

The problem with Low Income Housing Tax Credits is low income people cannot afford the rents
The solution could be a renter's tax credit. CBPP reports "Renters’ Tax Credit Would Complement Existing Housing Development Credit" could lower the rents in LIHTC properties to a level that will work for the Extremely Low income renters who are now served by HUD project based programs and vouchers. "The nation’s most pressing housing needs are heavily concentrated among extremely low-income families, defined by federal policy as those below the poverty line or 30 percent of the local median income. These families, which include low-wage workers like cashiers and food workers along with the poorest elderly and disabled people, account for close to three-fourths of renters who pay more than half of their income for housing...."
If Congress will be considering tax reform (not just tax cuts for the wealthy) a benefit for low income renters could be offset by reductions in the Mortgage tax credits for the highest income owners.

more on renter tax credits here and here
posted April 14, 2017

Toledo to review lead-safe rules City council may extend, stagger compliance deadline and eliminate registry
April 12, 2017, The Blade reports "City council will consider changes to Toledo’s rental lead-safe ordinance to extend and stagger the compliance deadline, eliminate a required registry of names and addresses of affected tenants, and create a hardship extension program to help landlords be in compliance. Council members discussed the potential changes at a committee of the whole meeting Tuesday and are expected to vote on it next week. The law requires rental properties with one to four units and day-care facilities to be inspected visually and tested for lead dust before the properties can be issued a lead-safe certificate and rented to tenants. Proposed changes would set staggered compliance deadlines by census tracts, beginning with those identified as having the highest risk for lead hazards to poison children."
posted April 12, 2017


Big week for eviction stories
Posted April 11, 2017
Thanks to ElizabethB

Unsafe landlording
     Hire an ex-con with a history of arson convictions to be your on site maintenance man, give him keys to everyone's apartment. Then fire him, but let him continue to live in the building, and then give him a termination notice on New Year's Day after he's been welcoming in the New Year in style.
     Here's the report from the Plain Dealer"Fisher's landlord served him with a 30-day eviction notice about 4 p.m. Jan. 1. Fisher, who had drunk several 40-ounce bottles of King Cobra malt liquor, became irate and told the landlord 'I'm going to punch your lights out,' according to police reports. The landlord left, and about an hour later, neighbors saw a shirtless Fisher sitting in the parking lot across the street, screaming threats to the landlord, Smith said. Fisher moved to the building in May 2016 and originally worked as a janitor. He was fired from the position in November, but kept a master key to all the apartments. Smith said Fisher got into a vacant unit next to his that was being remodeled, and prosecutors believe he used a bag of sawdust, some sandpaper disks near the front door and a lighter to start the fire, which ignited the wooden door frame."


All eviction all the time...
The impact of Matthew Desmond's book "Evicted" continues to ripple through the country, maybe because Professor Desmond has set up some on-going efforts to support eviction reform. made two recommendations in his book "Evicted"--one was for universal rental subsidies, the other for eviction court representation. What's going on in your jurisdiction to reduce involuntary displacement?
posted March 23, 2013

Amend local nuisance ordinances to prevent eviction of the abused: Vanessa Hemminger and Marissa Pappas (Opinion)
"Calling the police for help should be a reassurance of your safety and security, not the first step toward homelessness. It shouldn't cross your mind that calling for help might lead to homelessness, but that concern is a reality for thousands of people throughout the country under bizarrely worded city laws that encourage the eviction of domestic violence victims."
posted March 22, 2017

Life in Columbus Eviction Court
As a part of the Dispatch's Dividing Line series, here's profile of Franklin County Municipal Courts Eviction Court.
posted March 20, 2016


Submeter firms could face regulation by city
Dan Gearino at the Columbus Dispatch reports: "Years of inaction by the state may push the Columbus city government to set limits on companies that resell utilities in apartments and condominiums. That was the conclusion of Mike Stinziano, a council member, following the public hearing he convened Thursday to gather comments on the topic. 'Having it all on the record is important to then further the discussion,' Stinziano said about the hearing, which lasted about an hour and a half. 'It has been a real education about why this is important.' "
posted March 17, 2017

Evict them all and let god sort them out?
Columbus Dispatch reports "An apartment complex on the city's Near East Side that has been the site of two homicides in seven months has also been the location of several covert police investigations, Columbus officials confirmed this week. The city is building a nuisance case against the Nelson Park Apartments, which requires specific evidence of criminal activity such as drug violations, prostitution and underage drinking, said Shayla Favor, an assistant city attorney who handles cases in the area that includes parts of Downtown and the Near East Side."
posted on March 12, 2017

Dr. Ben Carson unchained!
Keep in mind that Dr. Carson did a stint as a talk show host and became a pyramid sales promoter after giving up "the knife." Selling worthless information is his second career.
posted March 10, 2016

PD breaks another lead story.  This time with state-wide consequences
     Maybe Cleveland can't be embarrassed into taking responsibilities for it's lead poisoned properties, but Ohio Department of Health is finally tired of being the poster child for neglected inspections....and it's not just Cleveland in the crosshairs. 
     The "scam" works like this, parents of a lead poisoned child get the news and move out of the house. 
Then the local health department "loses track" of the family and so closes the case against the house that caused the poisoning. Please not that the house itself did not move. Another family moves in and history repeats itself.
Below is the range of 'no contact' closures each delegated authority could end with once all 2016 cases are closed.
  • Canton: 26 % to 47%
  • Cincinnati: 36% to 46%
  • Cleveland: 23 % to 57 %
  • Columbus: 7 % to 22 %
  • Cuyahoga County: 33 % to 46 %
  • Toledo-Lucas County: 15% to 48 %
  • Montgomery County: 0 to 28%
updated March 5, 2017

Tax dollars keep flowing to landlord D.C. is suing over housing conditions
      Washington Post reports: "The District has for years subsidized substandard housing owned by one of the city’s most controversial landlords, despite evidence of wretched conditions and official promises to ensure safe dwellings in the nation’s capital. Over the past eight years, District officials have issued more than 200 warnings for housing code violations at apartment complexes owned by Sanford Capital, charging the company more than $150,000 in fines — about a third of which have gone unpaid."
     RHINO says don't blame the District, this is just another part of the on going failure of HUD to address 'troubled properties, even when pressured by local officials
     This year when Dr. Ben Carson comes to the Hill to defend HUD, he most likely won't be defending this kind of malfeasance, especially in light of a movement in Congress to voucher out failing properties
Posted Feburary 27, 2017
more on troubled properties

Mayor Jackson's take on Cleveland lead inspections wrongly puts landlord interests over children's health
Cleveland Legal Aid's Abigail Staudt writes "Frederick Douglass, a leader in the abolitionist movement and fierce defender of equality and fairness, once said, 'it is easier to build strong children than repair broken men.' It was 1855 and Douglass was making an argument about the moral wrong of slavery. Douglass' words resonate today in Cleveland as we debate the moral and ethical consequences of lead poisoning in our community."
posted February 26, 2016
More on Cleveland's movement to Lead poisoning prevention

Columbus Downtown Tenants take on Utility Reselling
     Dan Gearino of the Columbus Dispatch reports: "Downtown residents among latest activists in fight against submetering's costs.
The people gathered in this living room could have talked for hours about why it is great to live Downtown. But they ended up focusing on one big reason Downtown living can be lousy: high utility bills from submeter companies. ' We can't in good conscience say 'come Downtown' and then put them into these submetered places where they just get hammered,' said Rick Colby, a board member of the Downtown Residents' Association of Columbus. 'It's very much an economic-development issue.' "
posted February 19, 2017

Tenants in Action 
A new way to fight gentrification 
Pittsburgh Tribune Review reports "Chopping 10 trees in Pittsburgh without permission could cost Penn Plaza developer big."
protecting their newly won rent control and just cause protections
After the explosion that killed a young disabled man, tenants reported more gas leaks. Maybe the reports saved some additional lives. Moral of the story--complain early and often.
posted February 17, 201


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Jul 23, 2017, 5:51 AM
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May 19, 2017, 4:53 AM
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May 21, 2017, 6:47 AM
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