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March 4, 2018 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. 

HCV landlords who don't pay local property tax-a Channel 5 study
Channel 5 in Cleveland reports on landlords who are subsidized by Federally funded Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV), but are failing to pay their property taxes. "We found at least 233 homes across Cuyahoga County owned by landlords who have collectively failed to pay more than $1 million in property taxes — despite benefiting from taxpayer support."
posted March 4, 2018
PS: Thanks for the tip, KermitL

NW Ohio landlords again challenge local housing codes using tenants as plaintiffs!
     Blade reports "Landlords sue Bowling Green over tenant restrictions." From the story: "...Bowling Green State University has increased its enrollment but has not built new dormitories to house students, pushing them into the residential market. Many have moved into single family homes, but a 1975 Bowling Green zoning ordinance caps the number of unrelated individuals at three, regardless of the size of the home. That rule ensnared Alex Kuczma, one of three BG tenants now suing the city." But wait...there's more: "Mr. Kuczma, along with his fellow housemates Grant Yoder and Grady Wildman, are represented by their landlord, Maurice Thompson, who is also a plaintiff in the case. They are joined by more than 20 landlords claiming to own 161 rental homes in the city."
      Occupancy codes are a common issue in college towns and neighborhoods. The idea of using student-tenants as plaintiffs is a whole new wrinkle.
    More here on lucrative student housing: Boom in U.S. Student Housing Deals Seems Far from Over 
posted February 28, 2018

Lease-To-Own Contracts Land Many in Anguish
     Vindy.com reports: "Vision Property Management, a South Carolina company, purchased the home for about $5,000. It then offered the woman, who asked to remain anonymous because she worries the company will evict her, a $29,000 land contract. With interest and other costs, she will spend nearly three times that amount by the time she completes her 20-year contract."
     Is Vision Property operating in your community?
more on rent to own here
posted February 25, 2018

'Just cause' in Philly
     PlanPhilly reports: "Hardly anyone attended City Council weekly session this Thursday. The public seats were thinly populated, there were barely any reporters, and even the legislative body itself wasn’t at full strength. But that makes sense: There’s no real need to show up if no new, significant bills are on the docket. Which is why Councilman Curtis Jones’ 'just cause' eviction bill caught most observers by surprise. No one from the tenant’s union or Community Legal Services was in attendance to support the bill; neither was there anyone from the the apartment association to oppose it. The only speech about the bill came from Jones himself. No one in the public comment period rose in support, even though renter advocates have been pushing for such legislation all year." PS: the advocates were out in support on Valentine's Day.

Paris Cracks Down on Slumlords
     CityLab reports: "A new case delivers on the government’s promise to treat bad landlords 'like drug dealers.' ”
     Does this sound familiar? From the article: "That crackdown, announced in December and ratified in January as part of a general overhaul of housing laws, is coming because the courts currently seem to be failing to rein in the excesses of abusive landlords. Under current laws, around 3,000 sites in France are condemned for their poor conditions each year, but only 80 to 90 landlords face actual criminal charges. This is partly because proving guilt is difficult under current laws, and partly because already marginalized tenants can be afraid to complain or testify because of threats and intimidation."
     RHINO says: Cities have been using nuisance laws to shut down and seize properties being used as drug houses. What about the same approach for slumlords and owners of lead poisoned properties?
posted February 9, 2018

No heat, call the cops!
Vindy.com reports. "YPD helps woman just out of hospital get her heat back on. Sandra Gordon is a poet, but little did she know the irony of the last poem she wrote. Gordon wrote of being in trouble and no one helping, but city police stepped up to save her from spending the night in an apartment without heat and made arrangements for her to stay somewhere until it was fixed. For a woman recovering from a heart attack and a broken leg, she said they were angels."

Remind your neighbors of the Winter Reconnect order

Sub metering sausage making continues
     "Submetering bill limiting price hikes for consumers draws mixed reviews". Dan Gearino reports: "Another bill, sponsored by Rep. Mike Duffey, R-Worthington, takes a more aggressive stance against the companies and has not had a hearing or other action in months. Though Bacon’s bill might have a better chance of passing, the current version is too friendly to the companies that would be regulated, according to people testifying on Thursday. The bill 'remains inadequate for protecting Ohioans from middlemen who resell utility services to residential consumers,' said Jeff Jacobson, a former legislator who is now a lobbyist and was speaking on behalf of the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel. He went through the bill and pointed out what he considers flaws, including a customer-complaint process that he said is too cumbersome to be widely used.
     PS: The most important thing that RHINOs can do is to submit utility reselling "horror stories" to their State Senators...and ask the senators to forward the complaints to the Office of Consumers Counsel. OCC can investigate and their findings will make them more effective advocates on behalf of tenants and manufactured home park residents.
posted January 19, 2018

(+/- shows change from 2016)
1. Baltimore
2. Washington, D.C.
3. Chicago
4. Los Angeles (+2)
5. Columbus, Ohio
6. Cincinnati (+2)
7. Detroit
8. New York (-4)
9. San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose
10. Dallas-Fort Worth (+5)
11. Indianapolis
12. Philadelphia
13. Atlanta (+3)
14. Cleveland-Akron-Canton, Ohio (-1)
15. Raleigh-Durham, N.C. (-3)
Posted January 13, 2018

Shrinking Vacancy rates among low-cost rental units causes rent increases
     Joint Center for Housing Studies reports: "While rental markets are cooling nationally, market conditions remain extremely tight at the low end of the market, offering little relief to affordability pressures faced by renters with the lowest incomes, according to our new report, America’s Rental Housing 2017. In fact, by several metrics, lower-priced housing is increasingly hard to find not only in high-cost coastal areas but also in many inland areas where rents are generally lower."
     The report continues: "Metro areas with the steepest drops in the vacancy rate for less expensive units from 2006 to 2016 generally had high vacancy rates to begin with. For example, in Cincinnati and Kansas City lower-rent vacancy rates declined from 16.7 and 14.2 percent, respectively, in 2006 to 7.5 and 6.7 percent in 2016. The Nashville and Detroit rental markets were also transformed over this period, with vacancy rates for low-rent units dropping from 10.0 and 10.9 percent, respectively, to 4.7 and 6.1 percent."
posted 1-11-18

Good Samaritan finds dog a landlord is accused of taking and dumping
     Columbus Dispatch reports "Even though he does not have a pet policy in place, 58-year-old James Helfrich is accused of entering the garage on his rental property on Hollow Road and stealing Frank, a hound-shepherd mix, according to police reports. Helfrich drove about 10 miles away to New Albany and dumped Frank, a rescue dog who belongs to his tenant’s sister, according to the report. The incident unfolded two days after Christmas. Helfrich was uncooperative with police in locating the dog."
     Apparently Mr.Helfrich has had previous encounters with the court. The Dispatch reports that back in 2013, Mr. Helfrich was assigned by the court to write an essay on the value of an independent judiciary. "The case -- in which Helfrich represented himself -- escalated over the past two years to a point where Judge Richard Markus, who recused himself in the current contempt case, called Helfrich a 'petulant child.' Some of Helfrich’s filed documents with the court called Markus 'an idiot,' said Ohio Supreme Court Justice Maureen O’Connor was 'nothing but a lazy hypocrite,' and accused the late-Chief Justice Thomas Moyer of acting 'no better than a dictator in a third-world country.' 
posted 1/10/17
Thanks to RHINO Anon for sharing

New Year, Same old story
      Bloomberg reports "Rent for the Poor Really Is Too High.
After paying for housing, those in the lowest income bracket have little left for life's essentials."  
     From the story "In real terms, the rent paid by low-income households has risen modestly -- about 9 percent. Meanwhile, real income for the bottom fifth fell by about the same amount. Squeezed between smaller paychecks and higher rents, the poor have less and less money each month to spend."
posted January 2, 2018

Wait, there's more...America’s 2017 Rental Market in Review: Despite Renter Population Decrease, Prices Jumped 2.4%
updated January 7, 2018

Pittsburgh's Urban Renewal Authority proscribes new tenant protections.
   WESA reports: "The URA’s tenant protection policy creates three additional responsibilities for landlords before they can end tenants’ leases: it gives tenants more time to move out, requires relocation assistance if multiple leases are being terminated, and requires landlords to notify local government of evictions."
These news rights apply to properties built on land provided by the URA land and/or which receive URA financing for the development of multi-family housing.       The new policy was adopted to implement an executive policy announced by Mayor Peduto in reaction to the sale and demolition of Park Plaza apartments in Pittsburgh. An active tenants movement in Pittsburgh makes local government responsive to affordability and tenant protections.
     This kind of protection makes sense in any community where developers are using public funds (eg. land bank, CDBG or other "redevelopment" assistance) to create rental housing. 
posted December 30, 2017

A good overview of utility reselling
     Dan Gearino provides an overview of utility reselling in Ohio. The message is that consumers need to speak up about getting ripped off
  From the article: "Almost everything about this situation should be an embarrassment to elected officials and regulators who continue to let it happen, said Rep. Mike Duffey, R-Worthington. He has sponsored several bills that seek to rein in the practices; none of those bills has gotten far in the legislature. 'People should be completely outraged,' he said. But there is little evidence that a large number of consumers are upset. For example, the PUCO has logged just 63 complaints and inquiries about submetering since June, according to records from the office’s call center. The underlying problem is that people don’t understand what’s happening because of the complexity of utility rates, said Joe Maskovyak, fair-housing coordinator for the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio. 'The consumer, for one, has to figure out they’re getting screwed,' he said." 
posted December 26, 2017

Lauren Lindstrom of the Toledo Blade does a 2 part series on Ohio's failure to enforce lead regulation.
Every candidate for Governor or General Assembly should put lead poisoning on their list of issues to be addressed.
posted December 18, 2018

New Report: Surge in the Supply of Higher-Cost Rental Housing is Slowing Amidst Persistent Affordability Challenges for Working-Class Households
Joint Center on Housing Studies has a new report on the State of Rental Housing. Here's six key findings:
  • SIGNS OF A SLOWDOWN in the pace of rent increases.
  • THE CHANGING NATURE OF RENTERS.A growing share of renters are older and economically more well off.
  • THE CHANGING NATURE OF NEW RENTAL UNITS. High rent units are an increasing percentage of the new rental housing stock,
  • AFFORDABILITY CONTINUES TO BE A MAJOR PROBLEM. Rent burden continues to be an issue. 
posted December 17, 2017
Here's an initial analysis: America’s Great Renter Boom Is Over

Landlords sue East Cleveland over 900 percent increase in annual rental occupancy fees.
Plain Dealer reports: "In an early response to the landlords' lawsuit, East Cleveland claims that the $100 fee is comparable to what nearby cities charge. But interviews with officials in those municipalities - East Cleveland specifically mentioned Cleveland, Euclid, Cleveland Heights, South Euclid, Shaker Heights and Bedford - indicate otherwise. For buildings with four or more units, Bedford charges $20 per apartment for its annual rental license. Euclid and Cleveland charge $35. Cleveland Heights charges $200 for the first unit, $50 for the second and $25 per unit after that, with a cap of $1,225 per property. Shaker Heights requires $45 per unit for larger buildings, which the city inspects every three years. South Euclid, which once won a court fight over its rental registration fees, charges $200 for a single-family rental and $150 for each additional unit in a building. But the annual fees are capped at $3,000 per property. When challenged in court, Martin said, the city has been able to point to its inspection programs and other justifications for the costs."              
posted December 13, 2017
Rx for infant mortality-safe and decent housing
From the Canton Repository article: "Nearly $50 million was included in the current state budget for community programs to address the problem, following about $87 million invested in the previous six years. Still, the state’s infant-mortality rate hasn’t varied much in the past decade. The report says those numbers underscore the need for a different approach. 'Research suggests that a woman’s health before pregnancy can have a greater impact on outcomes and disparities than do the nine months of gestation. Therefore, interventions such as prenatal care, case management and care coordination that often do not reach women until their second or third trimester are largely too little, too late,' the report said. Yet, over the past few decades, Ohio’s efforts to reduce infant mortality have focused primarily on healthcare access, the report noted. Instead the state should focus on improving community conditions including: Ensure families have decent, stable housing and income."
Posted December 12, 2017

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

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

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