What's News?

November 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 ErinR & RuthMc at NPQ for their frequent contributions.  JanetW artfully edits. 

Utility Reselling Setback
Dispatch reports on the rejection of a tenant complaint to the PUCO about a utility reseller. "The rejection of her complaint is notable because it is the first such case since the PUCO said in June that it was taking action to rein in utility resellers, a type of business also called a submeter company. The key point of the June decision was that submeter companies could charge no more than the regulated price that a consumer would otherwise pay, with exceptions. Wingo’s attorney, Mark Whitt of Columbus, said he will continue to pursue the case, first by asking the PUCO to reconsider and then with an appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court. “This will be the easiest appeal I’ve ever had,” he said.
posted November 23, 2017

Ohio is slated to lose Housing Vouchers at proposed 2018 spending levels
     According to Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), Ohio currently has 91,648 vouchers. Under the Senate appropriations bill that number would drop by -1,650. Under the House funding bill, the loss would be -4,857 units. While most of these cuts will be addressed by attrition (vouchers being turned it won't be reissued to families on the waiting list) some cuts may mean families could have vouchers taken away.
     The alternative, of course, is to increase the funding for housing vouchers. But that would take an Act of Congress...specifically an Appropriations Bill that will adjust the voucher line item for increases in rent, being seen all around the country. This year battles over appropriations has been a stepchild in the advocacy world with debates over abolishing ACA and Tax Cuts taking center stage.
Appropriations will be left to a last minute, second thought effort after Thanksgiving and before Congressional reps leave town for a well deserved vacation. But wait! Appropriations will also be the focus for Democratic efforts to save the DACA program so that "Dreamers" can stay in the US.
   What could possibly go wrong?
   And an update from inside the Sausage Factory: Politico's "The Huddle" Blog reports that the House is intent on passing Tax Cuts before considering spending levels. If House and Senate don't agree to raise the caps on spending, the only way Voucher funding can be increased is to take money away from some other HUD program. RHINO says "Can't walk or chew gum."
Thanks to JoyceH for sharing.
posted November 15, 2017

When Calling 911 Makes You a ‘Nuisance’ and Gets You Evicted
Lakewood Ohio in the spotlight in NYT OpEd on nuisance call ordinances.  see more at nuisance codes and criminalization of home.                                                     posted November 10, 2017

Cuyahoga County pulls back funding for demolition.
NextCity reports: "The Cleveland Metro Area Just Lost $17 Million in Blight-Fighting Funds," This is a troubling decision, particularly at a time when City of Cleveland is struggling to get control of foreclosure ravaged neighborhoods. Vacant abandoned homes promote crime, discourage redevelopment and spread lead hazards to neighbors.    
                                                                 posted November 3, 2017

Rental insecurity--a primer on eviction
     Apartment List takes a look at involuntary displacement in addition to eviction filings.
     RHINO has long argued that rental insecurity was one of the forces driving tenants into risky homeownership options that wrecked the economy in 2008.                             posted October 31, 2017

Crackdown on substandard subsidized properties continues
    In Cincinnati the Alms is in the news. Other HUD assisted properties around the country are facing abatement of their subsidy contracts. 
     This week Cuyahoga Metro Housing joined the movement to stop subsidies to substandard properties. The Plain Dealer reports "On Oct. 9, the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority notified residents who rely on federal housing choice vouchers that their rental subsidies will end this month. The agency said that the housing-assistance contract is being canceled because of the poor condition of the property. The low-income, disabled and elderly tenants who rely on vouchers have been grappling with a choice: Find a new, program-approved place to live, fast. Or stay put, facing the prospect of a substantial rent hike or betting that the building's absentee landlord won't ask for the cash."                       posted October 29, 2017

Columbus files lead-paint cases against 13 homes
    Dispatch reports "Columbus officials have filed 13 cases against property owners who have not removed lead paint from their properties even after Columbus Public Health officials ordered them to do so and marked the properties with warnings. All the properties are occupied, either by owners or renters. The city plans to file up to 50 cases, including vacant properties, Assistant City Attorney Shayla Favor said Thursday. Some of the orders have languished for six years."
       Until there's enforcement, voluntary compliance is a myth. 
       Step 1: Advocates can find a list of lead poisoned houses in their communities here.
       Step 2: Ask your local health department to enforce the lead remediation orders.
posted October 27, 2017

Arguing against Manufactured Homes Parks
     An article in CityLab challengesthe economics of owning a home in a manufactured home park. 
    "Today, mobile homes remain the largest segment of non-subsidized affordable housing in the U.S., with around 8.5 million units—about 6 percent of housing overall. The average cost for a new, two-bedroom model is $37,100. These homes, whether single or double wide, provide low-cost housing for 20 million Americans, giving shelter and stability to those who might otherwise be on the streets or moving from place to place. 'That’s the positive around the role mobile homes can play,' says Katherine MacTavish, a professor at Oregon State University and co-author of the recent book, Singlewide: Chasing the American Dream in a Rural Trailer Park." 
     "Yet in interviewing 240 residents of trailer parks across the country, MacTavish and her co-author, Sonya Salamon of the University of Illinois, found that such success stories are rare. Moreover, their research revealed that residents of trailer parks are largely unable to parlay their mobile homes into the American dream of conventional home ownership—though most of them saw their mobile home purchase as a path toward just that."
posted October 26, 2017

Who in Ohio will make eviction reform an issue?
      NextCity reports on efforts by Philadelphia's mayor and council to protect tenants from eviction. "Earlier this month, City Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. introduced a bill that would require landlords to provide a 'good cause' when seeking to evict tenants after a lease ends. It would also dictate that a landlord who wants to raise rent must first give an existing tenant the chance to accept the new rate. And it would give tenants the right to appeal a landlord’s “good cause” finding to the Fair Housing Commission. The proposal is modeled after other cities, like Seattle and Oakland, that have “just cause” eviction provisions on the books."
posted October 21, 2017

Mortgage Interest Deductions helps richies, not low income.
     Columbus Dispatch proclaims "Study: Housing programs help wealthy more than poor" based on a new study from Apartment List newsite. 
     The study is even better than the Dispatch article. Apartment List study shows that the cost of Mortgage Interest Deduction far exceeds the benefits provided by Housing Choice Vouchers.
       In other words, homeowners get far more Federal housing subsidy than low income renters.
posted October 13, 2017

Equifax breach may give impetus to reform of the credit reporting industry
    Cleveland Plain Dealer has a good history of the credit industry and the impact of the Equifax breach of personal information to hackers. 
     "Equifax, TransUnion, Experian have spent decades avoiding transparency, regulation. For decades, the three major credit bureaus, along with a smaller fourth player, Innovis, have operated in the shadows of Americans' finances. And many people who've dealt with one of the bureaus have had an adversarial encounter, such as contacting the bureau to correct erroneous information or requesting a copy of a credit report after they're rejected for a loan or credit card."
     This is a housing issue because so many landlords are using credit reports to "screen out" rental homeseekers.
posted October 7, 2017

"The Rise of the Rich Renter" documents the affordability impacts of more wealthy renters
     NextCity doesn't address the opportunity to bring politically influential advocates into the struggle to win rental rights. Advocates who pit low income renters against upper income renters risk undermining real political power. The fact is that wealthy renters are here. Protesting their impact on median rents is a lost cause. Better to work together to increase affordable developments and more rental rights--both issues could benefit both demographic groups.
posted October 6, 2017

October rents top the charts, Ohio right up there with Colorado and California.
      RHINO is not sure what to make of this news. One month doesn't make a trend, but...Abodo.com reports "The top three cities with the largest rent raises are surprisingly identical to our top three from September’s report: Cleveland, OH (9.9%); Santa Ana, CA (8.2%); and Colorado Springs, CO (6.4%). Cleveland, after seeing several months of consistent decreases at the start of the year, has lately seen steep increases for an increase of $110 since January. The next three cities with the highest increases, interestingly, are also in Ohio, California, and Colorado: Fresno (4.3%), Denver (4%), and Cincinnati (3.8%)."
posted October 5, 2017

Enforcing the winter disconnect rule goes to the Ohio Supreme Court
Columbus Dispatch reports that a long-standing dispute between Ohio Consumer's Counsel and Duke Energy over the Winter Shut Off Rule is headed for the Ohio Supreme Court. OCC is asking the court to force the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to promptly act to enforce the winter shut off rule. 
posted October 4, 2017

CLSN endorses Lead Safe Housing for Kids Act (you should too!)
     Cleveland Lead Safe Network has endorsed the Lead Safe Housing for Kids Act, introduced in the US Senate this week.
      According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, "The bill would require HUD to issue rules that mandate an initial risk assessment for lead-based hazards in low income housing constructed prior to 1978 before a family moves in. More rigorous examination than a mere visual inspection would be required for an initial risk assessment. The bill also provides an emergency transfer process for families without penalty or loss of assistance if a lead hazard is found in the home and the landlord fails to control the hazard within 30 days of being notified. Landlords would also have to disclose the presence of lead if lead hazards are found in the home."
     The movement to Lead Safe Housing is based on a simple idea-make homes lead safe before children move in!
October 1, 2017

90.3% of Clevelanders live in an economically distressed zipcode.
     CityLab reports on a new study by the Economic Innovation Group. "While an analysis of all the ZIP codes reveals that the highest rates of distress are concentrated in the South, the top 10 large distressed metropolitan cities are clustered in the Northeast and Midwest: Cleveland, Newark, Buffalo, Detroit, and Toledo round out the top five."
     Cleveland ranks ahead of neighbors Detroit and Toledo for economic distress, but Cleveland does have championship sports teams, an outdoor chandelier and may soon have a dirt bike track.
posted September 28, 2017

FIRED moves into action to save mortgage interest deduction (MID)
     Y'know that President Trump AND National Low Income Housing Coalition (for different reasons) may want to reduce/eliminate the home mortgage interest deduction. President Trump believes that the savings from eliminating "loopholes" can be used to reduce overall tax rates. NLIHC believes that savings from MID caps can free up funds to support the National Housing Trust Fund which supports affordable housing development.
     PRI's Marketplace reports on efforts by the Finance,Investment,Real Estate,Developer industry to protect MID from tax reformers. It's a nice profile of how lobbying works in DC.
posted September 26, 2017

"Ben Carson: We're changing HUD from a bureaucracy to an efficient organization." 
     From an op ed in The Hill "Among the tidbits: "Reimagine the way HUD works: These reforms are internal and process-based. We want to organize and deliver HUD services more effectively to the American people, which means enhancing the working conditions and training at HUD itself, while eliminating improper payments and waste, fraud and abuse." 
     So...in the 1990's HUD was "reinvented" and in the 2010's HUD was "transformed" and now "reimagined."
posted September 22, 2017

The care and feeding of landlords
Good advice at Abodo. "In the realm of landlord-tenant relationships, you want things to be cordial. But generally speaking, the less the two of you have to talk, the better things are probably going. So send a card at the holidays if you’re really friendly, or a note with your lease renewal."
posted September 21, 2017

Don't mistake "aging in place" for "no where to go"
     New America Mediaprofiles Detroit seniors who are trapped in dysfunctional housing.
     "Like many Detroit seniors, 'aging in place,' a term used to describe a preferable home-based alternative to nursing homes for receiving care and assistance, can be more aptly understood as aging under siege in a city where water shutoffs, tax foreclosures and increasing rent have levied their burdens on the city’s most vulnerable demographic."
     RHINO was shocked to learn that Cuyahoga County is on track to have more seniors than children in just a few years if current trends continue.                      
posted September 19, 2017

Flipping is alive and well in Ohio
     The latest quarterly report by ATTOM on house flipping shows continued strength in Ohio. The study defines flipping as "a property that is sold in an arms-length sale for the second time within a 12-month period." While flipping was stable overall held steady nationally in the second quarter of 2017, Ohio and other rust belt areas saw interesting increases.
  • Highest home flipping returns in Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Ohio, New Jersey, D.C. Homes flipped in Pennsylvania yielded the highest average gross flipping ROI nationwide in Q2 2017 (103.1 percent), followed by Louisiana (100.0 percent), Ohio (88.9 percent), New Jersey (81.7 percent), and the District of Columbia (81.2 percent).
  • Nationwide 40.3 percent of all homes flipped in Q2 2017 were purchased as foreclosures or as bank-owned properties (REO), down from 43.3 percent in the previous quarter and down from 44.4 percent in Q2 2016. A high of 70.4 percent of homes flipped in Q1 2010 were purchased as foreclosures or as REOs. States with the highest share of Q2 2017 home flips purchased as foreclosures or as REOs were Indiana (61.1 percent), New Jersey (60.0 percent), Maryland (59.4 percent), Illinois (52.7 percent), and Ohio (52.3 percent).
  • Among 101 metropolitan statistical areas analyzed in the report, those with the highest average gross flipping ROI were Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (146.6 percent); Baton Rouge, Louisiana (120.3 percent); Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (114.0 percent); Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (103.3 percent); and Cleveland, Ohio (101.8 percent).
  • Other markets where the Q2 2017 home flipping rate increased at least 10 percent from a year ago included Birmingham, Alabama (up 22 percent); Grand Rapids, Michigan (up 20 percent); Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas (up 13 percent); Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (up 12 percent); St. Louis (up 11 percent); Providence, Rhode Island (up 11 percent); and Cincinnati, Ohio (up 10 percent).
posted September 18, 2017

Toledo rentals in high demand. Rents up. Sales of rental units up. 
A report out of Toledo echoes what we've been reading about on the coasts--demand for rental properties is hot. "Apartment living space in metro Toledo is in high demand, which in turn is pushing the apartment ownership market into red hot territory."                         posted September 1, 2017

Bed bug report card for Ohio
Cleveland. com reports "It's happened again -- Cleveland was ranked at the top of a list of cities with bedbug infestations, and now everyone in Northeast Ohio feels itchy. The annual list by pest control company Terminix ranks Cleveland above Cincinnati and Detroit, which rank second and third. Cleveland was third in the rankings last year. Orkin, another major pest control company, also releases an annual list. Cleveland ranked 13 this year and 12 the year before, with other cities like Columbus and Cincinnati ranking higher."
related: Parma High School room to be treated for bedbugs 
     A comment: Why does Ohio have such bad luck with bed bugs? Could it be a lousy (pun intended) policy at the Ohio Health Department?
August 28, 2017
more on bedbugs here

Interesting idea for housing "high risk tenants"
Pittsburgh Tribune Review reports: "Grant intended to spur Allegheny Co. landlords to accept 'high-risk' tenants." From the article: "The $50,000 grant, administered by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, is intended to encourage landlords to rent to tenants with criminal backgrounds, poor credit history and past evictions — factors that could cause a landlord to turn down an applicant, said Tonia Caruso, a spokeswoman for the county's Department of Human Services."
posted August 26, 2017

Trade group asks FCC to open up cable and internet competition for apartment buildings
The Hill reports that "Incompas, which lobbies on behalf of smaller service providers, said the FCC should take up a new rule that would effectively ban rental property owners from giving preferential treatment to certain companies. While it’s illegal to prevent apartment building tenants from signing up with the service provider of their choice, landlords have a lot of leeway to ensure that only certain providers have access to their properties. In some cases they also have an incentive to favor one provider over another. Property owners are allowed to enter into revenue-sharing agreements with companies like AT&T and Comcast, for instance, which provide kickbacks whenever their tenants sign up for service."
posted August 23, 2017

Ohio still underwater
     A new study by the real estate website ATTOM has generated a number of news reports with similar messages: Ohio homes have not recovered value as fast as the rest of the country.
    WKSU reports: "Cleveland tops the list, while Akron, Toledo and Dayton all fall in the top ten. A new survey finds that four Ohio metropolitan areas have some of the biggest shares of seriously underwater homes in the country, and Cleveland tops the list."
      Same study, Toledo perspective
      Cleveland suburb, Maple Heights, is in the bottom 15 of underwater zip codes.
     What does this mean for renters? Low asset values for single family homes drives investors to scoop up at risk properties, invest in rent-to-own scams and disregard basic code compliance.
posted August 20, 2017

Akron supports lead safe housing
Cleveland.com reports: "Akron offers eligible homeowners grants up to 14K to reduce lead-based hazards in homes with children."
posted Aug 19, 2017

Oh, the things you could do...if tenants had political power
     NextCity reports on "NYC Council Just Launched an 18-Bill Attack on Bad Landlords." From the article: "The office, which will be in the Department of Buildings and monitor construction-related complaints for landlord harassment, is one result of an armful of tenant protection bills (18 total) passed by the New York City Council Wednesday. Other measures impose more severe penalties for doing unpermitted construction work, increase regulations where construction is being performed, require that permits posted at construction sites indicate when the building is occupied, classify visits or phone calls from landlords at odd hours as intimidation, and allow Housing Court judges to award damages to tenants bringing successful harassment claims against their landlords."
     If tenant leaders, organizers and activists worked real hard for a year to 18 months, they could get enough political clout to at least take on one issue. Start now.
Posted August 13, 2017
More on VREM

Four trends in the rental housing market
Urban Institute identifies four trends that should shape public policy around rental housing.
1. Renters don’t look like they used to. Not just young and poor anymore. '...people age 65 and over constitute a growing portion of the renter population."
2. Supply isn’t keeping pace with demand. "...except for the limited number of units build with Low Income Housing Tax Credits, multifamily units under construction tend to be high-end developments clustered in a few urban areas..."
3. Beyond building new supply, we need to fix what we already have. "The current affordable housing stock in particular also tends to be older, presenting a great opportunity for making units more affordable. But this stock needs repair and investment, which can create more costly outcomes."
4. Single-family rentals are gaining popularity. More than half of all renters live in buildings with fewer than 4 units.
posted August 9, 2017
more on affordability

Harbor Town Senior Residence under investigation by state agency
    The Blade reports: "The Ohio Housing Finance Agency is investigating Harbor Town Senior Residence in Perrysburg ahead of schedule after two complaints from residents who received unexpected eviction notices. Staff at Harbor Town, a low-income, housing tax credit apartment complex at 7120 Lighthouse Way, improperly allowed seniors making more than the income cap to live in the complex, the agency and the company’s president said. Once the mistake was realized, management sent eviction notices to at least two residents, who protested to the state.
     This is a good example of Tax Credit tenants asking OHFA to look into landlord tenant problems. LIHTC regulations are very complex and legal aid offices are overworked. Maybe OHFA can help more often...if they are asked.
posted August 5, 2016

American Dream Mythology is changing
     Professor Marisa Chappell does a nice analysis of how "The American Dream" of homeownership was crafted by the FIRED* industry in a way that promoted social and economic inequality.
      RHINO's Spencer Wells takes a look at the emergence of "Wall Street Landlords" in Nonprofit Quarterly. Investors have embraced the new social divide in the real estate market by creating single family rentals for the middle class and "rent to own" scams for the working class and poor households.
     This week we learn that small scale investors in Columbus are displacing traditional homebuyers in an effort to promote single family rentals.
     Meanwhile, in Canton, banks and the city are seeking to recreate the American Dream of homeownership with new marketing tools to first time buyers.
*FIRED is short for Finance, Investor, Real Estate and Development.
     What's really going on?
posted July 29, 2017
Wait...there's more. 
Freddie Mac, which underwrites home mortgages for lenders, has suddenly outlawed low down payment mortgages. Seems like maybe mortgage lenders were subsizing low down payment purchases with high interest rates. Another scam nipped in the bud?
Posted August 2, 2017

More news you can use

Ohio 2018-Civic Engagement

Utility Reselling

Stories worth saving

Spencer Wells,
May 21, 2017, 6:47 AM