What's News?

October 20
, 2017 updates
Like us on Facebook Become a RHINO member!  
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. 

America Can't Fix Poverty Until It Stops Hating Poor People
     CityLab reports: “For growing percentages of middle- and upper-class Americans, interactions with poor and working-class people are very rare. Well-to-do Americans have almost no meaningful cultural contact with anyone from economically marginalized communities—from struggling inner cities to decaying suburbs to depressed rural counties.”
     Last week's Poverty Truth Commission in Cleveland offered middle class professionals and low income people to share stories, food and time together. In some cases professionals read the stories on behalf of low income. In other cases low income people spoke directly to the meaning of their daily lives, while middle class folks listened with a mixture of empathy and sadness.
posted October 20, 2017

Worried about low income homeowners losing Mortgage Interest Deduction during tax reform?
     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

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

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

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 RUBS (Ratio Utility Billing System). Without protections against estimated billing the so-called "submetering" companies will be tempted to move to unregulated RUBS systems.
      These bills will be on the agenda of the OPLC Housing Task Force in two weeks. More info then!
posted May 27, 2017

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.
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

More news you can use

Utility Reselling

Stories worth saving

Spencer Wells,
May 19, 2017, 4:53 AM
Spencer Wells,
May 21, 2017, 6:47 AM