Nov 17

An ordinance was proposed that would impose a requirement that all downtown construction with 20 or more residential units set aside units for affordable housing.  10%, if privately financed, or 20% if government subsidies.  If the developer was unwilling to do so, then the city would charge a fee of $125,000 per required affordable unit, PRIOR to issuing the permit.

While providing housing to struggling families is a noble concern, the problem with this type of proposal is it discourages development.  When you have the capability to do a $100, $200, $400 million dollar project, there are a lot of communities vying for the influx of development (I’ll assume as I never did anything close to that big)

Years ago I was in Vegas helping my wife do an event there.  I was standing in line to buy something and started talking to the guy in front of me. He was a large developer.  When he asked where I was from, I said Milwaukee.  His response was ‘you do not have a decent skyline and never will as your city is too hard on developers.”

Fortunately, this proposal was shot down by the Milwaukee city attorney  But there will be further attempts to keep Milwaukee at the economic bottom, I’m sure.

Sep 25

Barrett’s budget [Link to J/S article on the Budget]:   Police and firefighter cuts, property tax increase

The City of Milwaukee would lose 33 police officer positions and 75 firefighter jobs under the 2018 budget plan, which Mayor Tom Barrett is set to introduce this week.

Every budget starts with cutting Fire Fighters and Police Officers, plus they usually throw out the idea of cutting out the mobile mammogram testing in the poorest neighborhoods, but that isn’t in the article so it may no longer exist.

Are Police and Fire Fighters really the only place to cut the City’s budget and more importantly, is it wise to reduce Police positions in Milwaukee, which  MSN reports as the 5th most dangerous city in the nation?

With out of control violent crime, it is harder to attract major businesses and thereby turn around the local economy – and an influx of jobs would cure a lot, including a reduction in crime.

The Effects of Unemployment on Crime Rates in the US – SMARTech
A one percent increase in the unemployment rate will increase the violent crime rate by 14.3 per 100,000 inhabitants. … A one percent increase in the poverty rate will increase the violent crime rate by 23.9 per 100,000 inhabitants, and is statistically significant at the 1% level.

Even property crimes hurt.  I can’t tell you how many times have I had good tenants move because they came out to their car in the morning to find the window broken and their $50 radio stolen.

Better from a long-term perspective would be a shift from an austerity to a prosperity mindset.  Milwaukee should have fought tooth and nail to have Foxconn locate within the City. That could have changed everything well into the future.

There are public hearings scheduled if you wish to comment on the budget, or call your Aldermen (414) 286-2221.

Aug 27

Seattle recently banned rental property owners from screening prospective tenants for criminal records.

Seattle tries to make this a landlord issue, ‘How dare landlords prohibit criminals from renting. These good people paid the price for their crime and should be free to live anywhere they want after being released from prison!‘ And Seattle’s landlords fell into this political trap, opposing the ordinance from a concerned landlords’ perspective, rather than what it really is – an assault on the rights of the vast majority of Seattleans that are not criminals.

Let’s step back and look at this situation truthfully.

Landlords screen for criminal backgrounds not for their benefit, but rather do so mostly out of concern for the safety and tranquility of their other tenants and neighbors. The selfish motivation of the owners, if you want to call it that, is crime devalues neighborhoods.  But that motivation is beneficial to all in the neighborhood as well as the city itself.

This ordinance may benefit the owners as it will:

  1. Raise rents. Seattle has a housing problem. There simply are not enough units for the population. By forcing owners to accept the ten or fifteen percent of residents that have criminal histories that exceed the HUD guidelines for criminal screening, the city fathers have worsened the housing crisis for the rest of the population seeking decent housing.
  2. Reduce owners civil liability for the bad acts of their tenants. Jimmie ‘the Hacksaw’ Smythe from 201 rapes and murders Ms. Jones in Apt 310.  ‘Don’t blame me. I could not screen for his previous twenty years of criminal activities. In fact feel sorry for me,  I now have two vacancies.”
  3. Likewise, owners will no longer be accountable to the municipality for disruptive tenants. ‘Hey, I just rented to the people you told me I had to take.’

In a sad, ironic way, the crime free leasing movement that started in the Pacific Northwest is about to die where it was born. Milwaukee’s Landlord Training Program had its roots in a 1997 Portland program. In fact Washington State passed a Crime-free rental housing program in 2010, a half decade before Wisconsin did.

The motivation behind screening out criminals was to make neighborhoods more stable and more desirable, thereby benefiting the municipality, the residents, and ultimately the property owners.

This screening prohibition is just another case of failed liberal governments harming the very people they purport to help and support.

Sadly, when this ordinance fails, and it will fail, rental owners will face criticism for the increase in crime happening to Seattle’s more affordable neighborhoods.  This time the landlords will be blamed for allowing the very criminals into their units that they were required to under this new ordinance.

Jul 13
Below is the Apartment Association of Southeastern WI’s legislative alert regarding a proposed Milwaukee County Rent Abatement ordinance

Dear AASEW Members:
  .
The Milwaukee County Board is considering a proposal that would permit your tenants to abate rent for maintenance issues not addressed within 24 hours.
  .
For example, your tenant calls on Friday morning to say the bathroom faucet is not working correctly.  You go out and fix it on Sunday, 50 hours after the call came in.  This proposal would allow that tenant to deduct $200 from the rent – Yes! Under this proposal, the tenant can deduct TWO HUNDRED dollars even though you made a timely repair of a minor item that does not affect health or safety. 
  .
  .
There will be a hearing on this proposal at 9:00 AM Monday, July 17th, 2017 at the County Board Committee Hearing Room at the Milwaukee County Courthouse, 901 North 9th Street, RM 201B, Milwaukee, WI 53233 Phone: 414-278-4222.  Ironically this is two floors below the eviction courtroom where the legitimacy of each deduction will be decided.
  .
I encourage you to attend.  If you cannot attend you can still make an impact by reaching out to your County Supervisor and/or County Executive Chris Abele to let them know the potential negative impact of this proposal on both you as the property owner and on your tenants.  If you live in one of their districts please make an extra effort to contact your supervisor and attend.  Constituents of the supervisors make a bigger impact when in attendance.
  .
Who represents me?
           Here is the link to look up your County Supervisor:
           Here is the link for County Executive Chris Abele:
  .
Here are some talking points to help you get started when making your call.
  • How is maintenance even directly related to evictions?
  • Who will be responsible for verifying maintenance issues?  At what cost? In what time frame?
  • What is the plan if the issues are deemed inaccurate?
  • Cost of these abatements and the court costs to fight them will be passed on to good tenants
  • There is a risk of tenants seeing these types of abatements as a means to avoid paying legitimate rent.
  • This proposed system is just another layer of cost to the city
  • There are already programs in place to protect tenants through the Department of Neighborhood Services (DNS).  Why add this? If the current system is not working, why not improve what we have rather than create a new layer of bureaucracy and cost.
  • Evictions are not a result of non-repair, but a result of non-payment
  • This proposal will increase evictions, not decrease them.
Many of the tenants featured in the news surrounding the Eviction Defense Project (Milwaukee) are serial evictees.  This type of evictee increases the rents of good tenants; repeated court costs, employee time, and loss of rent will cause rents to rise.
 .
There are bigger issues to be addressed regarding evictions in Milwaukee.  We need to be looking at ways for landlords to be better landlords and tenants to be better tenants.  Many want to blame housing for all the problems in our communities.  A better approach for both housing and for the tenants that find themselves in eviction would be to look at the underlying cause of the tenant’s failure to pay rent and have both financial assistance and social intervention to make their future tenancies successful. Housing isn’t the problem, it’s part of the solution.  The money would be better spent on education, neighborhood programs, and increased police protection.
  .
The AASEW applauds efforts to reduce evictions as they are time-consuming and costly for the owners as well as negatively impacting the housing stock and the tenants.
Take action today; contact your supervisor or attend the meeting on Monday (7/17/17).
 .
Sincerely,
Ron Hegwood
AASEW President
May 04

Attorney Tristan Pettit recently posted on the most recent in a series of attempts to restrict access to Wisconsin online court records. Current proposals would hide from public view both dismissed criminal cases as well as stipulated dismissals of evictions.  These attempts to restrict access to or hide records is detrimental not only for screening tenants but to families that want to make sure people they hire to work in their homes or care for their children are safe to be around.

Current proposals would create rules to hide from public view certain dismissed criminal cases as well as stipulated dismissals of evictions.

The latter is the troublesome part as stipulated dismissals of evictions are often the most expedient and polite way of getting your property back while avoiding the costs of a Sheriff move.  Evictions are expensive and time-consuming. Owners do not evict on a whim.

These attempts to restrict access to or hide records is detrimental not only for screening tenants but to families that want to make sure people they hire to work in their homes or care for their children are safe to be around.

One member asked, “What can we do to stop this?”  The Apartment Association is working on state legislation to keep these records available. As that process moves forward it is important that we reach out to our elected officials and let them know how important it is to you to be able to access court records.

First, you should reach out to those who represent you – where you live.  Then you should reach out to those who represent the areas where your properties are located, letting them know that such attempts restrict your ability to avoid renting to those that will be disruptive or cause financial losses that will limit your ability to provide the best housing possible.

But, who are my elected officials you ask?  Two websites quickly provide the answer.

Fastest, for state legislators only is Find Your Legislator This site allows you to simply click a button to use your current location to find those reps.

If you want local officials as well as available social media contacts for all your elected officials, then I recommend Who Are My Representatives.  They do not list Milwaukee Aldermen, however, which is odd given the number of officials they do provide info for.

 


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