December 25, 2016 Instead of a Long Winter's Nap, try a book
With the daylight short and the long winter nights upon us, the year end holidays provide a perfect time to relax with a good book (or two). Here's two from 2016 that will have impacts long beyond the New Year.
"Evicted" by Matthew Desmond was on everyone's lips as soon as it was published this past Spring. The book documents the lives of families in Milwaukee as they struggled to hang on to stable rental housing. Dr. Desmond, a Harvard sociologist and a McArthur Genius grant recipient, lived in a manufactured home park in Milwaukee while leading the study. Besides the personal stories, "Evicted" is rich in details about how eviction and a steady decline in housing choice drives poor families into a cycle of despair. "Without a home, everything falls apart." Dr. Desmond also profiles slum owners and gives a detailed view of how small scale entrepreneurs use slum housing as a stepping stone to their own success. His conclusions are that low income renters should have rights to universal housing subsidy program and legal representation in eviction court. Beyond the book, Professor Desmond is continuing his work around the eviction system in the US, giving speeches and participating in advocacy networks.
"Hillbilly Elegy", by part time Ohioan J.D. Vance, has created a firestorm of praise and condemnation. That fact alone demands some attention. The book portrays Mr. Vance's childhood in Southwest Ohio and Eastern Kentucky and is critically candid about the dysfunctions of Appalachian culture. Published on the eve of the election of Donald Trump, the book has been hailed as for giving an insight into the "left behind" rural voter. Mr. Vance told the Plain Dealer "Not to pat myself on the back too much, because I certainly didn't think he [Trump] would win the general election, but I definitely felt like I was one of the first people saying, 'You guys have no idea what's going on. This guy really could do it.' " At the same time, many in rural and Appalachian communities have been insulted by his candid memoir of social dysfunction.
Prophet or traitor, Mr. Vance seems to aspire to be an influential player going forward. The San Francisco-based author has been around Ohio touting a plan for an Ohio-based nonprofit which will address some of the issues discussed in his book: domestic violence, the opioid crisis, social and economic mobility, and family stability.
The Washington Post has some other suggestions When you get tired of reruns and all sports all the time, why not read a book for a change...for a change...get it?
July 28, 2016 Newark Think Tank on Poverty profiled in news story
The online magazine TruthOut has a feature story called "Fighting for Seats at the Table: A Poor People's Movement in a Rustbelt Town." The story features RHINO members the Newark Think Tank on Poverty. From the article: "Lesha Farias and Allen Schwartz are sitting in a booth at the Sparta Restaurant, a downtown Newark diner that hires formerly incarcerated people, as well as people in recovery from addiction. It's one of the places trying to fill the gaps in this community. Both Farias and Schwartz are seasoned community organizers who, a few years ago, grew frustrated with how poverty was being addressed in Newark. There were many charity organizations doing important work offering immediate and much-needed assistance. But charity only stanches wounds, they say. It doesn't fundamentally change the system or promote justice."
Kudos to all the NTTP members for their fine work.
June 8, 2016 Tenant Power in Seattle
NextCity reports "In recent “there should really be a law” news, Seattle City Council unanimously passed legislation Monday that prevents landlords from raising rent on units that don’t meet basic maintenance standards, reports the Seattle Times. The bill is being branded the 'Carl Haglund law,' in a nod to tenants who organized against a South Seattle slumlord last year."
The battle to stop rent increases in substandard properties was guided by Washington Community Action Network (AKA Washington CAN!). Landlords claim that State Law prohibits the city from regulating rental housing. More to come. here's more on the story and even more more on Washington Community Action Network
posted June 8, 2016 and updated on June 23, 2016
June 7, 2016. Public housing residents told to tear up their gardens
Treehugger reports: "Beauty and practicality don't matter to the South Pittsburg Housing Authority, which recently informed all residents that gardens have to go. Residents of public housing units in South Pittsburg, TN are angry. The executive director of the South Pittsburg Housing Authority, Lisa Bradford, recently announced that residents can no longer have gardens in their yards, despite the fact that the residents pay for plants themselves and some have tended their beautiful gardens for many years.
This story brings to mind tenants in Yellow Springs who fought to save their gardens from a similar policy by Greene Metropolitan Housing. Tenants with the support of COHHIO and other advocates sought in vain to save the tenants' gardens. Sadly, two tenant leaders died shortly after the unsuccessful campaign.
June 1, 2016 Like your landlord, or else....
KSL-TV reports: "Some tenants at a Salt Lake City apartment complex are fuming over a new lease agreement that requires tenants to 'like' the complex on Facebook. Tenants of the City Park Apartments told KSL that a 'Facebook addendum' showed up taped to their doors Thursday night. The contract requires tenants to friend the City Park Apartments on Facebook within five days, or be found in breach of the rental agreement, though some of the tenants already signed a lease agreement months ago. More here Thanks SharonMB
June 19, 2016 Four stories ripped from this week's headlines
January 10, 2016, rhino!UP Don't blame HUD (all the time). This week CB-Y wrote to Public Housing (Section 8) (Voucher Holders) HUD Tenants ONLY "I'm very grateful for section 8 housing vouchers. But, this is very stupid how with certain realstate and properties managers it takes up to two months just to inspect and approve the apartment. I mean this is bull... ! One real estate told my husband section 8 housing authority takes 1-2 months just to inspect and approve the apartment! Another one said it take 2-3 weeks up to a month inspect the apartment. But it could be longer or shorter than that. Is section 8 housing just trying to be cruel and hateful? I know they back up but it shouldn't take months or longer 2-3 weeks just to inspect the apartment! I hate section 8!" I know you are frustrated CB-Y but BLAMING HUD is a tired and true method of passing the buck. More seriously, creating a delay is a way to deny your rights. Fair housng advocates say "delay IS DENIAL". Call your local housing authority and find out what is the problem. RHINO recommends: Don't get mad, get even.
January 6, 2016 Blight fighting in Bucyrus.
WSYX TV in Columbus reports on the "most wanted" in Bucyrus. "The most wanted criminal in Bucyrus isn't a murderer or a rapist, instead police are looking for a landlord who has 32 properties, many of which are in disrepair and in arrears for back taxes. The city issued two summons to Randy Strauch, with whom they have been in disputes about his properties for decades." It is good to know that local officials are seeking out absentee owners, instead of wringing their hands about how hard it is. Kudos to ABC6 news for covering the blight issue in Ohio and thanks to Slumlord Watch in Columbus for linking to the story.
Speaking of enforcement...
A picture is worth 10K words.
Displaced tenants: 'It's been a nightmare'
Cincinnati Enquirer reports: "Residents of Avondale's Burton Apartments demanded action from their landlord Wednesday after a roof collapse displaced 30 households – approximately 70 people, 17 of them children. Around 4 a.m. Friday, the residents of 1026 Burton Ave. were awaken by firefighters telling them to leave the building. They sat in a bus outside for hours before being taken to a youth center, resident Michael Pinkston said. Eventually, they were taken the Days Inn on Highland Avenue in Columbia Township, where they remain today." Kudos to Josh Spring, Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless, for his efforts to call this problem to public attention. 11/12/15
Thanks to MaryC and ElizabethB for sharing the news.
Landlord fights city hall (in the worst way)
Is this the Trump-ification of political dialogue? Washington Post reports: "Joe Dunne has some strong feelings about Lewiston mayoral candidate Ben Chin and his proposals for downtown property owners. So the landlord made political signs attacking Chin, and plastered two of them on his buildings. 'Don’t vote for Ho Chi Chin: Vote for more jobs, not more welfare,' reads the sign, next to what appears to be a caricature of former Vietnamese Communist leader, Ho Chi Minh. Dunne told reporters Monday he paid about $400 to make three signs." A couple thoughts:
1. you need to be old enough to know the reference to the Vietnamese leader
2. Kudos to his tenants who posted signs in opposition.
Twenty evictions averted in Warren
But it is unclear what the future holds for tenants at the Reeves building in Warren. A new owner has purchased the building for enough money to pay off the tax lien and give a portion to the old owner. Chris Sikora is quoted in the Youngstown Vindicator as saying that the building only needs minor repairs, but that he's talking to local officials about more extensive renovations. Too early to tell what is really going on.
Affordable housing in Avon Lake Ohio
Cleveland.com reports "People living, operating businesses out of Avon Lake storage units? City says no more." Seems like the Mayor and Councilmembers are outraged to learn that some people maybe living in storage units in this wealthy suburb of Cleveland. "The units typically are about 1,000 square feet, making them larger than some studio apartments and larger than typical storage units. Plus adjoining units can be combined, making them even larger. They are equipped with electricity and can have bathrooms, even galley kitchens installed. They are not rented like most storage units, but purchased like condominiums." Here's two problems for the city.
No one from the city has witnessed residential arrangements and
There's no housing inspection system so they can't verify the reports of people living in the units
According to the article "The facility has been opened since 2004, according to the mayor. Legislation put into place this week is designed to make sure that future storage units are used properly..."
Well, duh? Taxpayer bail out for Youngstown Metro incompetence?Youngstown Vindicator reports: "The financially troubled Youngstown Metropolitan Housing Authority will seek a state legislative bailout from a $1.9 million real-estate tax debt, which includes penalties and interest for nonpayment, and has been accumulating since the authority’s major renovation of Rockford Village. The debt stems from the authority’s $13.6 million makeover of Rockford Village, formerly known as Kimmel Brook Homes, on the city’s East Side in 1999 and 2000. That federally funded project turned 300 barracks-style units into 149 townhouses and 10 single-family homes. Rockford remains the authority’s largest development. When the work was done, YMHA failed to file with the Mahoning County Auditor’s Office the required reapplication for the real-estate tax exemption, said Danielle Mulligan, the authority’s planning and development director."
Another year, another example of local malfeasance at a housing authority. Are MHA's magnets for incompetents? What are board members doing besides wearing ID badges and sucking up sweets at board meetings? what are appointing authorities doing when they appoint people to boards and then ask for no accountability. Time for a structural change before the next MHA fiasco.
OK, there are some bright spots, but no one is minding the store before these multimillion dollar "public" businesses go off the rails. Time for a change in how public housing is operated in Ohio.
9/13/15 Remember the flag flap of 2014?
Back on August 28, 2014, the Columbus Dispatch reported: "One day last week, Julia Lease noticed a piece of paper wedged into the door of her Whitehall townhome. NOTICE OF LEASE VIOLATION, it said across the top. And along the side, written in ink: 'Please remove flag from your front porch. Thank you!' ” In the days that followed, Ms. Lease, an octogenarian, found plenty of support from Veterans and other patriotic groups in her battle fly the Stars and Stripes. Eventually the property management backed down: "It’s not about the American flag, said the lawyer for a management company that’s forcing a Whitehall tenant to take hers down. 'Their policy is a neutral one,' said Dimitri Hatzifotinos..." But, in the aftermath of the Whitehall saga, Ohio House member Ann Gonzales vowed to introduce a bill to protect tenants' right to fly the Stars and Stripes. Rep. Gonzales bill HB18 passed the House unanimously in May of this year. The immediate effect, if Rep. Gonzales' bill is passed by the State Senate and signed into law, is that landlords will not be able to bar tenants from displaying the Stars and Stripes (and some military flags), but it leaves open the question of displaying "other" flags. Remember that the property in Whitehall Ohio where the flap began was worried about "offensive" flags. It is a "worry" that is only made worse by the aftermath of the Charleston church massacre since advocates are pushing for bans on the sale or display of the Confederate Battle flag. In rental housing, the battleground is the porch or window of the rental property. RHINO would argue that blanket bans restrict tenants' free speech rights, but that offensive displays can disturb the "peaceful enjoyment" of the premises. Landlord may not like the END GLOBAL WARMING banner in my window, but it's probably not offensive to a demographic minority. On the other hand the Confederate flag, for better or worse, is a symbol of white supremacy. Court decisions on issues like this are all over the map. But maybe some common sense would work. Still, tenants have a clear duty to preserve the peaceful enjoyment of the premises. ORC 5321.05 (a) (8). Sensitive consideration of tenant complaints about a "display" could remedy most problems. Sensitive consideration could include 3rd party mediation to remove or mitigate the harmful impacts of a display. Still there will be times when, to protect the rights of the community, Landlord will need to terminate offense giving tenants. The flag that tenants want to wave protects even unpopular speech, but not harmful speech.
Read more about the Whitehall Flag flap at http://home.rhinohio.com/advocate/tenant-civil-rights
Footnote to the flag story: A Russian political party released a ‘heterosexual flag’ to counter the rainbow flag
1/25/15 Rental Housing Amnesia?
Housing advocates and ordinary renters are wondering why there was no mention of affordable housing in the State of the Union address. Rents are up, wage stagnant, HUD and USDA subsidies underfunded and the Administration shifts the conversation from the rental crisis. Enterprise Community Partners notes that "President Obama didn’t even mention renters, outside of a clever line about having “two years left on his lease” at the White House. In a follow-up speech at the National Press Club, HUD Secretary Julian Castro mentioned rising rents in passing, but then quickly shifted focus to the benefits of homeownership."
Advocates wonder is Housing MIA means that the Obama budget request will continue a trend of attrition of core programs (public housing and project based subsidies) in favor flashy new programs like RAD (privatization of public housing) and Choice Neighborhoods and Sustainable Communities. We will know more by mid February. The concern is that it's harder to ask for more money for core programs when the White House says they have enough now.
Truila economist Jed Kolko says: housing is not an urgent crisis, housing issues are local not national, housing policy is really economic policy. Sounds like bunk to RHINO. http://dsnews.com/news/01-21-2015/economist-breaks-obama-omitted-housing-policy-state-union-address
Patrick Clark at Bloomberg asks: "How come the President never talks about my rent?" http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2015-01-21/how-come-the-president-never-talks-about-my-rent-
Special thanks to Enterprise Community Partners for their coverage of this issue. ECP's comments on the State of the Union are here: http://blog.enterprisecommunity.com/2015/01/opportunity-americas-insecurity
Child's death triggers code enforcement in Columbus suburb (or maybe not...)
A four year old boy was killed in an apartment in Whitehall just east of Columbus when he climbed into a stove being used to heat his apartment. Tenants' complaints about a lack of heat in the building apparently did not reach the City of Whitehall until after the child was killed. When tenants complained to management, tenants were told to use space heaters. Since the child's death, the City of Whitehall has scheduled inspections and the manager tells the Columbus Dispatch that the problem--a faulty thermostat--has been corrected. read the story here
In a follow up article the Dispatch reveals a troubled history for the building and the owners. Reveals that the City knew of problems. Whitehall complex where child died has troubled history. Follow ups
September 2014: Troubled complex was never inspected.
Astounding story from Columbus--Tenants have no water some for over one month.
This article includes all the hot buttons: predatory slumlords, code enforcement slow to act, immigrant households unaware of their rights..
Woman guilty of embezzling $588,000 from Harvest Management.
Sounds like HUD missed the story and IRS caught the culprit. http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2014/02/06/Woman_guilty_of_embezzling_$588x000.html
more here: http://www.nbc4i.com/story/24655724/columbus-woman-pleads-guilty-to-embezzling-filing-false-income-tax-return
Civic leadership in 3 Ohio cities: Cincinnati, Port Clinton, Bucyrus
Active engagement, active denial, passive support for inclusion.
Upscale building seeks social ambassador, pay is free rent
Are they roommates or tenants?
How Dumb is this?
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