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April 28, 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  

Toledo Blade reports: City lead abatement law might be at risk Ohio House bill would give sole authority to the state
From the article: "Although Toledo’s law does not require abatement — but rather mandates that affected properties undergo lead-safe inspections, cleaning, and repairs — it’s seen as a possible attempt to usurp or weaken the city’s law, as it voids “any law or rule governing the abatement of lead, lead-based paint, or the employment or licensing of lead abatement professionals.” The language calls regulation of lead abatement 'a matter of general statewide interest' that should be handled uniformly.
     Cleveland Lead Safe Network says "nice try, but it's a lie." Lead poisoning is a local issue because housing is local. Taking away the rights of local municipalities to address lead poisoning is like taking away the right to local code enforcement.
     This is not just a Toledo issue. If adopted this amendment could be used to shut down Mayor Jackson's very modest Healthy Homes inspections.
     Action steps
1. Today would be a good day to call or email your local State Rep and say "no lead poisoning pre-emption" Find your State Rep here
2. Please share this news with your networks, on Facebook, and other social media.
3. If your organization is lobbying the state legislature around budget issues, include this in your discussions with leadership and with the Governor's office.
4. 4. Contact your local city officials to alert them to this new attack on home rule. The language in this amendment is broad and could block code enforcement where you live.
5. Provide feedback to communitymanager@rhinohio.com if you hear from legislators. It will help the advocates address their concerns.
posted April 28, 2017

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."

Three updates from Ohio Healthy Homes Network

1. Legislative Lead Study Group: Progress Report. The Ohio Healthy Homes Network (OHHN) has been working with Senator Peggy Lehner since November 2016 to draft legislation to create a legislative lead study group for the purpose of reviewing and improving Ohio's lead law. To date, 23 organizations have agreed to be named to the study group. The study group is being proposed as an addition to the Ohio Senate budget. If approved, the group will begin meeting this summer and issue its recommendations within 12 months.

2. Update on Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Lead Proposals ODH Director Richard Hodges testified in March to the House Finance Subcommittee on Health and Human Services on two lead proposals in the Executive Budget.

The proposed lead safe housing registry will be located within the Ohio Rental Housing Locator of the Ohio Housing Finance Agency. Participation by owners of rental properties will be voluntary. Lead dust testing and training will be required before a property can be listed.

The CHIP (Medicaid) funds will be used for lead abatement in properties with 2nd or 1st lead orders. Rental property owners will be eligible for assistance but are expected to contribute to the overall cost.

The House Subcommittee on Health and Human Services completed hearings on March 23. OHHN submitted written testimony support of the Governor's proposals.

3. OHHN is keeping an eye out for any legislation that would preempt local lead laws, such as the bill/language being drafted by Rep. Derek Merrin. OHHN would like to see potential conflicts between local and state laws addressed in the study group (see #1 above). OHHN will be following up with the ODH septic staff and rural health departments. You can join OHHN at http://www.ohhn.org/membership/ Thanks to Patricia Barnes for these updates.
Toledo Stays Serious about Lead
     At least that's the message from the Toledo Blade in the wake of news stories about delaying implementation of the 2016 ordinance requiring landlords to certify certain rental properties as being lead safe. 
This past week the Blade editorialized support for continuing to pursue the goals set by City Council last year and resist efforts to weaken the law. "No, a visual inspection is not enough. An inspector can’t tell if paint or dust has lead in it with the naked eye."
     The most recent editorial follows up on an editorial on March 6th which demands: "Toledo needs to get lead out."
     And...the Blade doubled down on lead in water, calling on city officials to "Get serious about lead and water" when it comes to addressing lead pipes in the Toledo water system.
posted April 1, 2017 (no fooling)

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

Eric Liu offers hope for progressive engagement
CityLab reports: "He’s the founder and CEO of Citizen University, an organization that promotes civic engagement, and a former White House speechwriter and policy advisor to Bill Clinton. In his new book You’re More Powerful Than You Think: A Citizen’s Guide to Making Change Happen (out March 28) Liu outlines an action plan for re-creating civil community and plugging-in a disaffected populace...."
posted on March 18,2017, update March 19, 2017

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
"...Community Action for Safe Apartments, or CASA, a volunteer group of residents primarily from the South Bronx who led nearly three years of organizing efforts to get support for the right to counsel from a veto-proof 42 out of 51 council members."
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 Febraury 17, 2017

Nuisance laws and victims of domestic violence
     Plain Dealer reports on ACLU campaign against local nuisance laws. From the article: "Here's how the laws work: Communities can declare a property a nuisance after a certain number of police responses to complaints for incidents spelled out in the nuisance ordinance. Among them are loud noise, barking dogs, and other crimes. Many such ordinances locally and across the country include domestic violence as one of those 'nuisance' crimes. But what if the person making the call to police is the victim of domestic violence? Calls for help might lead to the property being declared a nuisance. And once a nuisance is declared, communities levy fines for every police call. What happens then, says Mike Brickner, senior policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, is that landlords who are facing fines evict their problem tenants. Or, worse, victims simply stop calling police."
     Using landlords to crack down on people calling for help is a particularly insidious way of "criminalizing tenancy."

Placed in a poisoned home by DC homeless program.
     A year ago a story like this in the WashPo would have triggered HUD into action--requiring PHAs and Rapid Rehousing providers to do lead safe clearances as a part of the Housing Choice Voucher and Rapid Rehousing programs.  Today in Trumpville...don't hold your breath. Instead, local advocates and housing providers should begin pestering your local housing authorities to 
1. require landlords to submit lead disclosure forms and 
2. require  inspections to include dust wipes by a licensed lead clearance techs and don't send your clients to untested homes. 
Or, wait til your read this story in your hometown newspaper.
     From the article: "The tragedy exposes key weaknesses in federal guidelines followed by the District and other cities to ensure safe housing for homeless families, especially those with young children, according to interviews with five housing advocates and experts. Instead of specifically testing for lead or asthma-inducing mold, D.C. inspectors following the guidelines visually check for peeling paint and deteriorating conditions. To help a property pass an inspection, some landlords simply apply a fresh coat of paint and “it looks good for one day,” said Kathy Zeisel of the Children’s Law Center. 'If there’s moisture, it starts peeling right away.' ”
     PS: a blood lead level of 120 mg/dl is 24 times greater than the CDC action level. 
posted January 31, 2017

Criminalizing Eviction in Arkansas
     The Arkansas Tribune Democrat reports on efforts by the Arkansas State Senate to make non payment of rent a criminal offense. No more wrangling with the eviction court...just call the cops and arrest the tenant. This proposal is actually a throwback to the past. "Arkansas' law -- the only one in the nation allowing landlords to seek criminal charges against delinquent tenants -- has been inactive for nearly two years after being ruled unconstitutional by a Pulaski County judge in 2015. Senate Bill 25 would remove the most recent changes to the law that caused it to be struck down." Local advocates believe that the law will be reinstated shortly despite efforts to block enactment.
     In Ohio, the General Assembly has not (yet) become so bold, but efforts by law enforcement to support board ups and banning raise the likelihood that a cop will evict you without due process.                          
More on efforts to criminalize home.
Posted January 29, 2017

Legal Aid Society of Columbus provides Eviction Navigators
Same day in court advice and (some) representation is the goal of Legal Aid Society of Columbus' new program. 
Nonprofit Quarterly expands on an article in the Columbus Dispatch.

A Portland Start-Up Is Smashing Barriers to Affordable Housing
"Tyrone Poole, the founder of NoAppFee.com, was homeless once. Now he’s demystifying the rental search, one application at a time." Nice profile of a young person who "solved" the rental housing maze. "Poole launched NoAppFee.com in beta in 2015. This version was targeted at the general housing market, not just affordable-housing seekers. Eight Portland-area management companies agreed to participate and provide their open units—at, above, and below market rates—and screening criteria to Poole and his team. They paid nothing to include their listings (about 80 at first); renters had to enter their Social Security number and date of birth and pay $35 for a credit and background check, refundable once they have paid the first month’s rent. In return, they’re matched with all vacancies that they qualify for, automatically."
Apologies if this sounds "Trumpian," but finding ways for housing markets to fix their own glitches sounds like a step in the right direction. Without an open market for rental applications, it's "who you know" that decides.
posted January 28, 2017
more on homesearch

Lead Poisoned Houses are not just a Toledo and Cleveland Problem
Rachel Dissell and Brie Zeltner report for the Plain Dealer/cleveland.com. "Ohio lead poisoning cases go without investigation, follow up across the state. According to data on the performance of more than a dozen of the state's health districts with authority to conduct lead poisoning investigations:
  • Only 38 percent of the 6,688 lead poisoning referrals statewide were investigated from 2011 to 2015;
  • State investigators were able to reach families and complete investigations for only about half the referrals it is was responsible for since 2011;
  • When hazardous levels of lead were found, they were cleaned up or the public warned of the danger with placards 57 percent of the time from 2011 to 2014.
posted on January 21, 2017

OCC and OPLC join forces to demand a utility reselling re-hearing
     The decision of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to consider when private utility resellers (including landlords and Manufactured Home Park operators) will be subject to PUCO regulation around rates that they charge. Half a loaf, says Ohio Consumers Counsel (OCC) and Ohio Poverty Law Center (OPLC). The two groups are demanding a rehearing to address issues like shut off policy, fees and charges, and eligibility for public benefit programs like Percentage of Income Program. 
     Dan Gearino at the Dispatch profiles the latest action on the utility reselling issue including rehearing requests from the utility companies.
Posted January 16, 2016

Why should low income people worry about credit scores?
1. No or bad credit means it's hard to do business other than in cash. Could move folks to reliance on payday lenders and "cash only" scams.
2. No or bad credit may limit the choices of housing. More and more landlords are running a credit check for prospective tenants. Landlords of "better" rental housing are more likely to use credit as a screening mechanism. They are looking for characteristics like past evictions, paying bills on time, and living within household means (eg. not a lot of debt to income.) Homeseekers without a credit record or a bad credit record will need to find landlords who can vouch for their reliability.
3. No or bad credit could mean higher secrurity deposit, required co-signer, or other "credit" restrictions like pay in cash or pay in advance.
     As affordable rental homes remain scarce, landlords can be more picky and just looking for ways to "screen out" applicants. Credit Score is one way that happens.
     Dispatch reports: NEO has best credit scores--no explanation,
posted Jan 10, 2017

Is the bed bug crisis is over?
In the ten years since bed bugs became an epidemic, healthy housing advocates have made a lot of progress--we know how to treat the problem. That does NOT mean that we've solved the problem...in fact bed bug infestation has graduated from being acute ("gunshot") to chronic ("arthritis"). Still, Ohio leads the pack and it can't be coincidence that Ohio Department of Health continues to take a "lazy fair" LINK approach to real control. As with lead, the strategy is wait til someone get affected and then treat the symptoms. How about a little prevention?
posted January 4, 2017