Sep 02

Over on the ApartmentAssoc Yahoo Group we had a discussion about the number of foreclosed properties Milwaukee has for sale and how the city limits sales to owner occupants.  Orv Seymor replied:

You are missing the point, the city does not want any investors buying or rehabbing any of these properties.

They want control over the entire rental market in Milwaukee or they want to be able to say that they made these bldgs. available on the private market before they tore them down and built new housing with taxpayer dollars, which again, would give them control over the entire  rental market in Milwaukee.

You see, they cannot stand to see anyone make a profit when they in the  housing business

I believe the City’s motivation is more perverse than even Orv’s opinion.

Rather than trying to control the entire rental market and therein the profits as Orv suggests, I would argue these sales restrictions by the city are just another part of the process in which the City’s attempts to exclude the poor and racial minorities from Milwaukee.

Other tools in the City’s toolbox include excessive property tax assessments of lower valued neighborhoods, disparate code enforcement practices that ignores worse conditions at owner occupied housing, while excessive enforcement of even petty violations on rental housing occupied by poorer or racial minority tenants, as well as differential rules for owner occupied and rental housing.

Evidence of this argument? Look at sales of Milwaukee Eastside, Southwest Side and Bayview homes, cash or conventional financing, compared to their assessments. Then do the same with sales, cash or conventional financing, of properties in the 12th or 15th Aldermanic Districts. Those in the higher valued neighborhoods are selling at or above the assessment, while those in the lower valued neighborhoods are selling for often less than 35% of assessment. The effect is lower income occupants have a higher tax burden than more expensive homes as a percentage of their home’s value.

The next time you get an exterior order take a look around the block. Look up the neighboring properties that are in similar or worse condition on the City’s property information site. Most often you will see the owner occupied properties, and even those were the tenants more closely match the race of the neighbors, are ignored. You may, with a bunch of effort, even find the Alderman was behind the complaint. If the City truly thought this was legal, why do they fight so hard to hide the fact that city employees or officials were the complainant .

Then make a complaint to DNS on those adjoining properties and demand that DNS holds these adjoining properties to the same standard as they hold yours. If you are extremely persistent they may even write orders on the worst of those neighboring properties. Go back and review the records and the properties six months later. Often you will find the orders on those adjoining properties show on the City’s computer as being complied with, even though many of the violations remain. The disparity is so ingrained that when asked, the inspectors often justify their actions with social economical arguments that have nothing to do with codes or housing conditions.

On our properties I document these things with written complaints, screenshots of city records and, in aggregate, thousands of photos of our properties and those adjoining. I urge you to do the same. If you wish to share your documentation with me that would be great.

In part Milwaukee stole a page from the St Paul MN playbook, as evidenced by writings between our former Commissioner of DNS and his St Paul counterpart that were obtained by St Paul, MN landlords’ during discover in one of many federal cases St Paul landlords have filed against their city’s (alleged) discriminatory and disparate inspection practices. One St Paul case was accepted by the US Supreme Court only to have the Obama Administration pressure St Paul into dropping their bid for review by the SCOTUS on the eve of oral arguments.

A St Paul official expressed the view at a public hearing that if you ‘Get rid of the nest, you get rid of the vermin’ (Not at the office to grab the actual quote, but this is close) It seems like this too was a sentiment adopted by Milwaukee’s leadership and those sentiment have spread to surrounding communities. Make it impossible to provide housing for certain classes of people to live in your city and they all go away.

Disparate housing code enforcement, rules affecting only certain classes of properties, property tax assessment schemes that put greater burdens on poorer neighborhoods and restrictions on purchasing, all aimed at making it difficult or unreasonable for members of protected classes to live in a city is not proper use of police powers. Preventing these type of discriminatory policies is really the foundation of all Fair Housing laws.

If a city is to employee housing code enforcement and property tax assessment in a manner to drive out certain social economic groups, then those efforts should be funded by the kkk, not taxpayers.

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