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December 5, 2017 Tale of two cities in Cleveland--no simple answers

NextCity features an article that raises troubling questions about who benefits from urban redevelopment. "Cleveland Sees Challenges of Development in Struggling Neighborhoods" describes efforts by Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization (DSCDO) to replace slum housing with new homes. Low income households who depend on the slum housing will be relocated. At first glance, it seems like DSCDO failed to address the needs of local residents by undertaking a plan that will create new, less affordable housing development. But the reality is more complex.

To a great extent, DSCDO was acting because city code enforcement has failed to assure basic health and safety conditions. For decades, landlords in Cleveland have zero expectation that housing code requirements will be enforced. Even if inspections take place, there's every reason to believe that relatively few cases will make it to court. When a landlord was held accountable, it was only after heroic efforts by private sector advocates. This year, Mayor Frank Jackson rolled out a new rental code enforcement plan that holds out hope for renters, but in a series of press statements the Mayor also undermined that hope saying he was not in favor of rigorous code enforcement.

Without rigorous code enforcement, tenants are left to fight their own battles. Slumlord Neil Clough undermines that hope by a business practice that is based on a kind of free-market feudalism. He accepts partial rent payments and overlooks stringent occupancy standards. That strips the tenants of their right to make claims under the Ohio Landlord Tenant Law. 

When a family which is living on the edge financially or needs to take in other family members, they sacrifice their rights to put rent in escrow or call an inspector or seek a motion to compel repairs. At the same time, the slumlord's "generosity" often makes tenants more loyal to him. After all, the slumlord seems to understand their problems better than their owner-neighbors and their "community" development organization.

At the macro level, this breakdown between the needs of local residents and community development corporations results in a proliferation of "myths" about howthe system works for poor people. Frank Ford's article "Myths and Misconceptions About Demolition in Cleveland" in Shelterforce addresses many of the myths around the demolition policies of Cuyahoga County's Land Bank program. All these myths seem rooted in residents' disbelief in redevelopment policies. The poor lack of a voice in community decision making and an advocate at the development table. 

After the purge of Cleveland's grassroots community organizations at the end of the 1980s, nonprofits figured out that providing gap-filling handouts (social service agencies) or promoting civic boosterism (community development organizations) were the only two ways to assure organizational survival. The few organizations that aspire to speak for and with their low income neighbors are largely volunteer staffed and chronically underfunded. A generation of Clevelanders have grown up believing that this is normal.

Without organizations that speak for their needs, low income families are left to rely on slumlords who cut them a break on rent and rules, or on payday lenders, or on rent-to-own scammers. Until the tenants become the victims of "urban renewal." 

Cleveland really does have too many crappy houses, especially in the wake of massive depopulation. The failure to engage residents in redevelopment reinforces the underlying economic and social inequality that has made Cleveland the nation's most economically distressed community in 2016 and 2017. There aren't enough holiday turkeys to turn this reality around. 

RHINO friends Gail and Eileen provided the basic material for today's story about low income tenants and redevelopment.                  

A virtual postscript from NextCity: 
"Gentrification Can’t Be the Theme of Rust Belt City Recovery, In Buffalo, organizers are fighting for development without displacement, parcel by parcel."

November 5, 2017 Tenants play defense in the General Assembly...again

RHINO learned Friday (11-3-17) that Rep. Derek Merrin (R- Monclova Township) just introduced HB 390 which, among other things, would mandate that a three day notice to vacate would count Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Until now, how to count "three days" has been a local court rule. Some courts count weekends and holidays, some don't.

The effect of Rep. Merrin's bill would be to reduce the time that a tenant has to leave a rental home before the landlord files an eviction with the court. A minor change that doesn't make much difference for landlords, but inconveniences tenants. Since an eviction filing is picked up by most credit reporting agencies list an eviction filing usually appears on the tenant's credit record, regardless of the outcome of the case, this shorter time frame may cause more tenants to be stigmatized as "evicted" in a public record.

The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO) has already told Rep. Merrin that COHHIO opposes HB 390. So far, no hearings are scheduled and there are no co-sponsors. Tenants may remember Rep. Merrin, a real estate investor in Northwest Ohio, as the sponsor of the Lead Preemption Amendment in the State Budget bill.

Another bill, House Bill 282, would increase the penalties for "criminal mischief" in connection with a rental property and would bar Housing Authorities from renting to individuals who were charged with "criminal mischief." Sponsored by Stephen D. Hambley (R-Brunswick), this bill is also opposed by COHHIO. COHHIO is seeking support from tenant serving organizations around the State in preparation for opponent testimony. At a hearing at the House Financial Institutions, Housing, and Urban Development committee on October 10th, HB 282 supporters included representatives of Ohio Real Estate Investors Association and Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Apartment Association.

The danger with HB 282 is that landlords might encourage a law enforcement officer to charge a tenant with "criminal mischief" as a way of criminalizing the tenant. Even if the charge was later dropped for lack of evidence or a prosecutor's unwillingness to become a shill for the landlord the arrest stays on the record.

Why don't tenant advocates go on the offensive? For two decades, tenant advocates have chosen to play defense because of a fear that landlord advocates would manipulate pro-tenant initiatives in ways that would take away existing rights.This is not an unreasonable position, but it has resulted in the current landlord strategy of "nibbling away" at tenant rights without provoking massive resistance like was organized around the lead prevention preemption provision.

The trouble with always playing defense is that every effort that undermines tenants' rights also strengthens the hands of anti-tenant forces. Legislators use anti-tenant proposals as a way to raise campaign donations from landlord and real estate organizations. These organizations, in turn, use anti-tenant legislation to recruit new members and raise funds for "political action."

The challenge that tenant advocates need to consider is whether both sides can play "small ball." What about using these "little" bills like HB 390 and HB 282, to "open up" the eviction statute or the criminal mischief in order to increase tenant protections? Give tenants something to fight for like a "pay or quit" provision in ORC 1923, instead of the current "notice to vacate." There's nothing to lose and maybe it is a way to build a tenants' agenda in the General Assembly. Tenants won't get what they don't ask for.

September 19, 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.                    

July 29, 2017     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.

June 21, 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."

July 2, 2017 A Neighborhood is more than housing
     Rachel Dissell analyzes the impact of St. Rocco's decision to raise rents and raze units. "Vacated St. Rocco Church-owned homes force Roehl Avenue blight, residents say." 
     From the article: "Berchin wanted to spend her last days in the grey-shingled home, in the shadow of St. Rocco Church, where she was baptized and attended school, and where she was surrounded by caring neighbors who checked on her, shared meals with her and called her 'Mom.' But the neighborhood she knew is no longer there. Those neighbors also left the street last year, after their landlord, St. Rocco Church, decided the residents of the 10 single and multi-family homes it owned on Roehl Avenue and one on W. 33rd Street must vacate.

May 15, 2017 The loss of "white male privilege" is at the root of the opioid crisis. Narcan won't replace it.

Here's the reality. All social isolation is crippling. Social isolation is the consequence of discrimination, segregation and now...the loss white male privilege. In any socially isolated community household instability is an outcome.

City Lab notes: "Men were once the primary breadwinners in areas like Ross County, where they worked good manufacturing jobs and came home at the end of the day to wives like Kemper-Hermann, who sometimes worked, but sometimes stayed home. But today in Ross County, manufacturing jobs have been outsourced or automated, and men have more time on their hands and less income to support their families. Some have turned to alcohol or drugs to fill their time—Ross County is one of the areas of Ohio hit hardest by the opioid epidemic—and are dying early of drug overdoses or other health problems. Others are just spending more and more time watching TV and playing video games. Women...are left to raise children, work full-time jobs, and generally pick up the pieces of a region ravaged by the opioid epidemic and the decline of manufacturing."

Instead of making common cause with other socially isolated groups (African Americans, Hispanics, and women), white working class men are mourning the loss of white male privilege. And the elite play them like a violin through the media myths of their victimization: guns, feminism, and immigration. At the same time white working class males have given up on institutions that once met their needs. "Thirty-six percent said they never participated in secular organizations such as book clubs, sports teams, neighborhood associations or parent-teacher associations." Advocates can take control of grassroots channels to begin to address white working class instability. Social service providers know how to promote "grief work" and couples' counseling. Community activists know how to promote social engagement and diversity. The time to start is now.                                                                               Read more on civic engagement

Update May 17, 2017
     We know that social isolation can be a physiological killer. A new study of African Americans in segregated communities how higher rates of hypertension (a killer) than African Americans in integrated settings. 
    The idea that white working class males are socially isolated is a relatively new discovery, but the phenomenon goes back to Archie Bunker.
     For decades, working class whites, regardless of wealth or education, have been "promised" that they get to climb the ladder towards success two or three rungs above everyone else. More likely to graduate from high school, avoid arrest for "pranks," and get a job with a career pathway (apprenticeships, family connections, unionized workplaces). It's only natural that white male workers would support "the system" that provides them with these benefits.But "the system has changed. The social evolution of increasing rights for non-whites and females, coupled with the increasing structural inequality in the economy, means that today's white male workers face a profound contradiction. They (we) are no longer starting several rungs up the ladder and, as they(we) perceive it, other "demographics" like women and African Americans are getting "benefits." The result for the white, male working  class is resentment and despair.   
     Researcher Carol Graham says: "One of the things we find is that there is really low optimism for the future among poor whites, and desperation and suicide. Even though Hispanics and blacks are equally poor and probably more disadvantaged on many fronts, they maintain much higher levels of optimism about the future, and they’re not suffering from the same levels of suicide and depression." 
     Given the choice between continuing to support "the system" or joining the resistance, white male workers by and large choose the devil they know and, in the process. As so, white male workers become increasingly reactionary, blaming non-whites for stealing their opportunities. The upshot of this blaming could include police violence, domestic violence, punitive immigration policies, and "Making America Great Again."<br>What the opioid crisis teaches progressives is that "Trumpism" is not just sociological, but psychological as well. Treating the psychological symptoms of despair without creating a new sociological context seems half-doing the job. Not treating the psychological symptoms means perpetual despair and dysfunction among individuals and communities.
     The message to advocates is the same: rebuild a community of hope.

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, 2016Public 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 
Abandoned tires get due process, residents...not so much! 
      Neighbors are urging local officials  to  clean up debris around an abandoned motel on Route 40 in Etna Ohio. The Newark Advocate reports: “The motel, which is on the southwest corner of U.S. 40 and Watkins Road, has been closed since March. That is when the Ohio Fire Marshal's Office served the motel's tenants with an evacuation notice because there was no power in the motel, creating potential safety issues.” 
     Township trustee John Carlisle tells the Newark Advocate: 'It's not like we haven't done anything," Carlisle said. "We have, but it's a process. We have to abide by the legal process.' "      Wait! The abandoned tires and junk get their day in court and the residents, some would call them tenants, have their rights stripped away by the Fire Marshall? Junk has more rights than people? 

Cleveland residents fight a steep rent hike from their landlord -- the Catholic Diocese

Cleveland.com reports "About 20 Roehl Avenue residents, many of them low-income, elderly or single parents, gathered Friday night to discuss their options: fight the Cleveland Catholic Diocese over large rent hikes or leave their homes. About two weeks ago, families who live in at least nine homes on the street got hand-delivered letters that started this way: 'This is to advise you that the Most Rev. Richard G. Lennon, Bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland, owns the property in which you reside.' "
But the Bish says he doesn't know anything about it! According to a follow up article "...the letter was sent on behalf of St. Rocco Parish and that Bishop Lennon and the Diocese were not aware it was being sent or that a decision had been made to raise rents." 
Whoops...maybe the Diocese could blame HUD...or Obama! 
Wait, there's even more. Now it's not safe to live in the units where two months ago the parish was proposing rent increases. 
posted May 10, 2016
Updated July 20, 2016
SLAPP suit settled
     Columbus Dispatch reports that The Connor Group has dropped its law suit against activist/blogger James Raney. "Connor Group, a Dayton-area real-estate firm, has reached an agreement with the now-former tenant, James Raney, that calls for Connor to drop the suit and Raney to no longer disparage the company. 'We’re pleased to have resolved this case,' said Jeffrey Nye, Raney’s attorney, in an e-mail. 'Jim maintains that he didn’t do anything wrong, and the resolution includes no admission of liability on any claim. ... We agreed to settle the case because Jim no longer lives or works in Ohio and it made sense for him to move on.' ”
     No word from Jim directly. Still, the tenant oriented Facebook page "Tenants Against Connor Group and Heartland Regional Power" is as  active as ever. A recent post discussed how TCG was advertising for property managers under the heading "Store manager." Another tenant commented that TCG refers to their on site employees as "PCM" which she interpreted to mean "profit center managers." Since the RHINO doesn't want to be sued by TCG, he hastens to add that we're just reporting other people's news.
     PS: SLAPP stands for "Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation."
posted May 24, 2016
State assists tenants against bad landlord
     Pittsburgh's Tribune Review provides an update on a notorious landlord in the story "Carrick landlord's former tenants closer to getting money back." The Trib reports on efforts of former tenants to recover money their were owned as well as an update on repairs to the property. "Refugees and other tenants who endured 'unlivable' conditions in a Carrick apartment complex are one step closer to getting some of their money back after embattled landlord Davin Gartley failed to respond to a state lawsuit."
     An important part of this story is, unlike in Ohio, State government is assisting the tenants to recover from the nightmare which included poor conditions, sexual harassment and involuntary displacement. The state attorney general's office plans to ask for a court order to repay all the security deposits--nearly $6,000--to the affected tenants and state officials may also ask for rent refunds and other penalties. In addition, the AG's office will seek civil penalties and a permanent injunction to prevent the landlord from operating as a residential landlord in the future.
      Imagine that happening in Ohio! Think about the support received by the Riviera Maia tenants in Toledo in a similar situation of abuse and neglect.

Low Income seniors move to make way for upscale hotel in Columbus 
     According to the Columbus Dispatch, Bollinger Tower in the Short North neighborhood will become a Cambria Suites hotel. Who benefits? The Dispatch interviewed a local coffee shop operator who admitted to being excited about new customers, although he will lose a "regular" who lives at Bollinger. 
     The Housing Authority benefits from unloading an old building and management headaches. "The agency has said the sale will provide enough money to pay for as many as 300 affordable housing units — either new or renovated CMHA housing." 
       The  tenants get the "opportunity" to take a housing voucher into an overheated rental market in search of a landlord who will accept their voucher. Who knows? Maybe they will find places in neighborhoods with stores in walking distance on a public transit line...or maybe they will be stuck in some out of the way cul-de-sac in an ex-urban neighborhood. 
     Service providers get to spend their meager government grants and charitable donations to help their program participants with relocation expenses like home search, utility hook ups, security deposits, and movers.
     Who represents the interests of the tenants in this transaction? Not HUD, not CMHA, not the social agencies who fail to denounce the displacement of their clients, not the City Councilpersons, who are elected at large.
    As for the promise that the Housing Authority actually will build or renovate housing with the money? The Dispatch owes it to the community to track how those dollars end up being spent.  more on Bollinger tenants here

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..
http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2014/02/08/city-inspectors-cite-apartments-lack-of-water-electrical-service.html
http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2014/02/13/apartment-owner-ordered-to-make-more-repairs.html

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.
  • Kudos to Cincinnati Enquirer for an article highlighting an Urban League study of racial inequality.  "Cincinnati: 20 years later, it’s still ‘two cities’."  Are your local newspaper, TV/radio, or public officials addressing racial inequality? Then Enquirer adds:  "Admitting there are problems may be the first step."  More from Cincinnati:  How A Once-White Church Broke Down Racial Barriers  
  • Port Clinton, maybe not:  Here's a bad example setter.
  • Active and passive protesters in Bucyrus this weekend. Mayor offers passive support.   "I am glad that 99 percent of Bucyrus residents concentrate on symbols that unite rather than divide us, and I thank those residents and business owners who proudly displayed our Stars and Stripes today."  Coming out in favor of the Stars and Stripes, now that takes guts!
 Thanks JoyceH for the tips.

Upscale building seeks social ambassador, pay is free rent
    The Vue Beachwood, an upscale apartment building in suburban Cleveland, is seeking a social media ambassador by staging an on line contest to find the most qualified applicant.  NEO Media Group reports:  "The ambassador is expected to 'Bring to life socially what life is like at The Vue,' and 'Be a cheerleader for The Vue,' with daily tweets, three to five Instagram images a week, and at least one blog post per week. He or she is also encouraged to write for the resident e-newsletter, participate in Beachwood and Cleveland events, develop relationships with Vue residents and staff, and help coordinate events at The Vue.  In exchange, the ambassador will get six months' free rent in a one-bedroom, one-and-a-half bathroom unit that faces the heated in-ground pool and carefully landscaped courtyard, that normally rents for about $1,700 a month."
    What's NEWS about this story is that The Vue Beachwood is upfront about their goal of shaping social media comments about the property.  In fact, the gimmick has already got them a favorable mention on Cleveland.com.  Many upscale buildings have a more covert approach (some kind of gift card in exchange for a favorable post on a social media site).  

Are they roommates or tenants?
Columbus Dispatch reports on a petition against a Lancaster homeowner who's advertising on Craigslist for "roommates." Neighbors complain that this part of the city is zoned "single family."  Sounds from the article like the owner is running a boarding house, still...consider them renters!
read the story here
another version here 

How Dumb is this?
    WKSU reports:  "Stinziano says the bill could help keep people like his grandparents in their homes.  Stinziano says the bill could help keep people like his grandparents in their homes  to make their existing homes more accessible for disabled people or to build accessible features into new homes. That includes features like wider doors and lower cabinets. "  Nice idea, however, a quick look over seems to suggest that the grants would only go to disabled homeowners.  "(B) An applicant is not eligible for a grant under the home accessibility grant program for the purchase, construction, or renovation of residential rental property."  
    How dumb is that?  Most low income persons with disabilities live in rental housing.  

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