Jul 05

Below is the letter the Apartment Association sent to Mayor Barrett, President Johnson, and the Common Council on June 15th, 2020. We have yet to receive a response, but still hopeful that those representing housing providers are included in designing a meaningful solution to these problems

Dear Mayor Barrett

We are pleased that Milwaukee is considering offering financial help for tenants who are struggling to pay rent, and we would like to be a part of the process. We have been working with a coalition that includes Community Advocates, Legal Action, Legal Aid, and Mediate Milwaukee. The AASEW can bring valuable experience and insights to this effort, and we hope you will strongly consider our offer to participate in your deliberations.

While we applaud Governor Evers’ $25 million Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program, it represents approximately $30 of assistance per rental unit in Wisconsin. We believe the size of the rental population in Milwaukee and the financial fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic may necessitate a more robust response.

In our view, sustainable rental housing is critical to the well-being of Milwaukee. Nearly six in ten, 58.2%, of Milwaukeeans live in rental housing.[i] In some neighborhoods, such as 53233, the number of renters exceeds 97%. The success or failure of neighborhoods and rental housing are closely tied. Currently, Milwaukee offers some of the most affordable metropolitan rents in the nation, a significant advantage compared to similar-sized communities in the country.

However, if landlords cannot collect rents and continue to cover the operating expenses for their properties, the impact could be worse than the 2008 housing crisis. “The economic impact of the Great Recession and mortgage foreclosure crisis has had a significant, detrimental, and ongoing effect on City households.” DCD 12/2019.[ii] Foreclosure filings in Milwaukee County were three times higher in 2009 than last year.[iii] From 2008 through 2010,16,000 Milwaukee properties were in some stage of foreclosure by lenders and the City.[iv] In those two years, the tax base lost almost $2 billion in value, with a resulting $16.7 million loss of tax revenue. The resulting demolitions had a large impact on the City’s budget due to the cost of razing along with the impact on the property tax and municipal services collections.[v] The neighborhoods where those properties were located suffered long-term damage. We continue to feel that impact even today, and we certainly hope to avoid a similar outcome in the future.

Rental Housing is the largest small business in Milwaukee, with over $10 billion[vi] invested in the City. Rental properties account for more than $700 million dollars per year of economic impact, starting with $270 million[vi] paid in property taxes.

In 2018, the Census Bureau found the yearly mean operating costs, excluding mortgage payments, per unit for rental properties was $5,270. [vii] Milwaukee’s rental housing contributes $1,198 in wages per unit, $161 Million per year. But more than direct wages are involved. There is also the local multiplier effect because the wages paid to employees of Milwaukee landlords are a major economic factor in the well-being of the City and its residents.

These numbers highlight the critical importance of a healthy and vibrant rental housing market in Milwaukee. We hope you will accept our offer to participate in the upcoming process to deal with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and Eviction Moratorium this year. Thank you for your consideration, and please feel free to use the contact information above for any clarifications or questions you may have.

Sincerely,

Ron Hegwood
President
Apartment Association of Southeastern WI, Inc

[i] https://data.census.gov/cedsci/table?g=0600000US5507953000&layer=VT_2018_040_00_PY_D1&t=Housing%20Units%3AOwner%2FRenter%20%28Householder%29%20Characteristics&tid=ACSDP1Y2018.DP04&vintage=2018&hidePreview=true&cid=B25008_001E

[ii]Section 2: Housing Needs and Demand Housing Affordability Report Department of City Development  |  December 2019

[iii] State’s Foreclosure Rates Have Plummeted » Urban Milwaukee

[iv] www.sewrpc.org/SEWRPCFiles/HousingPlan/Files/foreclosure-in-milw-progress-and-challenges.pdf

[v] Tom Barrett wants to spend $2.4 million on home demolition, rehab

[vi] MPROP assessor records April 2020

[vii]  https://www.census.gov/data-tools/demo/rhfs/#/?s_byGroup1=12&s_tableName=TABLE4

Jul 05

Vulnerable Renters Face Evictions -NYT

Landlords argue that they are unfairly being forced to absorb the brunt of the financial burden of pandemic job losses. “Why isn’t food free? Why isn’t clothing free? Why aren’t all the other necessities of life free, yet shelter is being made free?” said Sherwin Belkin, a legal adviser for the Real Estate Board of New York, which represents property owners.

The government, he said, should provide vouchers to tenants who cannot pay rent because of the pandemic, and landlords should be allowed to use the courts to evict those who still do not pay. “Something is wrong when a private industry is being asked to take on its back what is really a public housing emergency,” he said.

Jul 01

One troubling number that is underreported is Milwaukee has had 72 homicides YTD 2020, compared to 43 YTD 2019, a 67% increase.

Similarly, Chicago has seen record homicides. They had 18 shooting deaths in one 24 hour period, with 329 people murdered in the first six months, which was “only” a 34% increase over last year. Shootings in Chicago were up 75% in June, with murders up 78%.

I think we can all agree that even one murder is too many unless the victim is on Arya Stark’s list (GoT) “Joffrey, Cersei, Walder Frey, Meryn Trant, Tywin Lannister, The Red Woman,…”

Jul 01

On the Apartment Association email discussion board (free and open for anyone to join) there was a comment that the reduction in evictions “Seems obvious since couldn’t evict for 3 months.

Yes, it was obvious to those of us actually involved in housing.

But, some folks and the media were predicting a “tsunami” of evictions after the moratorium ended May 26th that would push us way past prior-year eviction counts in a single month.

For example, the Journal reported: “Predicted surge comes true: Eviction filings jump over 40% in Milwaukee County and state” citing a single week over week increase, using the first week that most evictions could be filed after the moratorium.

Owners are working with tenants more now than ever.

Groups such as the Apartment Association of Southeastern WI and the WI Apartment Association are working with Community Advocates and Legal Action to find resources to help tenants pay rent in ways never seen before.

Both “sides” understand that owners need their tenants to succeed for owners to remain viable, and tenants need owners to succeed for housing to remain available and viable.

My company has pledged to attempt mediation before eviction and waived late fees beginning in April, a month before the moratorium.

We need to remain vigilant as the true economic crisis may come later this year if the economy doesn’t rebound and /or the virus does. Regardless of your political leanings, the one thing we can all do is wear masks in public. If they do work, and I believe there is a value in wearing masks, then wearing a mask will keep infection rates down and allow businesses to remain open. If mask does not work, no harm, no foul.

Jun 30

[Updated 7/3/20: The original count increased slightly (~1%) after June 30th due to evictions filed towards the end of the month, but not posted to CCAP until July. These appear to have been paper filings. While the change is insignificant in the overall impact, I wish to be as accurate as possible. ]

Evictions for the first six months of 2020 are down 32.1% in Milwaukee County over 2019, and down over 30% statewide this year over last.

Jun 28

The NYT article is title is “Lori Lightfoot, mayor of Chicago, on who’s hurt by defunding police.” But it has a lot to do with rentals from what I perceive as a very liberal politician’s view.

I would take the Chicago Housing Solidarity Pledge as it is what my company is already trying to do.

From the NYT’s article interview with the Chicago Mayor:

As a result of what we’ve all been going through, a lot of us, I think, have been reconsidering some of the fundamental assumptions we had about our government and economic system. Have you? Are you thinking differently now about things like rent control? [6]

When I think about rent, I think about it in the context of the entire ecosystem. The problem is mortgages that have to be paid and the banks that hold those mortgages and whether they’re going to give any forbearance. I think about landlords who are under pressure to pay their mortgage, their utilities, their property taxes. I think about renters and how stressed they are, worrying about being able to pay but also about possible evictions and what impact that is going to have on their credit rating. So the way I think about public policy is not individual levers and solutions in isolation. I try to look for the balance. Many times, there’s a solution lurking in the center.

So where might there be a solution for helping people who are struggling to pay rent because the economy cratered?

One thing that we did here is we brought together banks, landlords and people representing renters into what we called a solidarity pledge.[7] It’s voluntary; it’s not mandatory. But we put a lot of emphasis on saying: “Be good neighbors. Give each other grace and space in this difficult time.” That means not filing evictions. Not penalizing people because they can’t pay their mortgages or their rent. Be engaged in conversation to find common ground. We heard from all the actors that they were engaged in a lot of these conversations already. But by me, as mayor, publicly challenging them, it moved a conversation that was in the backroom to a more public reckoning.

Don’t you think that a voluntary “solidarity pledge” could just give landlords the cover of paying lip service?

You’re underestimating the level of activism here in Chicago. Any instance in which people feel there’s been a deviation, they are not hesitating to call it out. But of course, not everybody’s taking the pledge.

————

6 Rent control has been banned in Illinois since 1997.
7 In addition to the solidarity pledge, Lightfoot recently proposed a prohibition on landlords’ eviction of a tenant without first allowing the tenant five days to deliver a “notice of Covid-19 impact” outlining financial hardship brought on by the pandemic. Delivery of the notice would then earn tenants an additional week for negotiation.

Jun 26

The House plans to vote next week, possibly Monday, June 29th, on the “Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act of 2020” (H.R. 7301).

This bill contains both emergency rental assistance,(good for housing) and a national eviction moratorium regardless if the owner has federal financing.(Very bad for housing)

https://rules.house.gov/sites/democrats.rules.house.gov/files/BILLS-116HR7301IH.pdf


Easy reading at ONLY 92 pages…

Jun 26

Legislative committee blocks rule prohibiting landlords from charging late fees on rent

The ban on late fees was determined to be “arbitrary and capricious” yesterday morning by the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules, on a 6-4 vote, and therefore unenforceable.

Important Note:
If your property or tenant is subject to the CARES act you cannot charge late fees until after July 24th, 2020.

Just because you can charge late fees, does not mean you should charge late fees, without exception.  Discretion should be given to tenants that are facing hardships.

Think of this like the speed limit. The sign says 70 and you usually do 75 to reach your goal a bit sooner. But trying to even do even close to the limit in a blizzard may well have the opposite effect. We could see an economic blizzard later this year.

The purpose of late fees is to encourage on-time payments by those who can pay, it is not to penalize those who are facing hardships.

My company did not charge late fees in April, even though the moratorium did not exist then, because anxiety was high for tenants.

Even though we can again charge fees, our company will waive late fees for tenants that can provide proof they have not received their unemployment checks or are waiting on WRAP, etc.

We have a list of resources for tenants facing hardship due to COVID or otherwise that you can share with your tenants if you wish.

Jun 21

Desmond says eviction filings are rising. “In Milwaukee, for example, evictions are up 38 percent last week from where they should be on a typical week in June in Milwaukee,” he says.

https://www.npr.org/2020/06/19/880859109/zoom-call-eviction-hearings-they-ll-throw-everything-i-have-out-on-the-street

This is accurate for the single week chosen, which was the first week when most evictions could be filed after the moratorium on notices, and the courts having been closed for months.

But it is a grave distortion of the overall facts, even if you only look at the month of June.

The greater truth is YTD evictions are down 40% year over year in Milwaukee and down 34% year over year statewide. I expect as June plays out those percentages will close a bit, but we will not see anywhere close to 2019 eviction rates.

Landlords never “profit” from evictions. It is always a money-losing, stressful time for everyone.

Property owners and managers are now working with tenants more than before to avoid court as this is a hard time for everyone.

Jun 19

The SBA EIDL loans have re-opened applications on June 15th  for all businesses, including residential landlords. 

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