Mar 11

Follow up to the Milwaukee County Proposal on making Rent Assist a protected housing class.  with a hearing is Monday March 12th, 9:00 AM at the Milwaukee County Courthouse building, Room 201B,  901 North 9th Street,  Milwaukee, WI 53233

My company accepts,  and likes the Rent Assist program.  We also have not found the inspections particularly cumbersome.  In our market we see Rent Assist as a benefit to both owner and tenant.

Yet, I oppose the bill.

  1. Mainly because it attempts to hide the fact that the true reason that people do not get Rent Assist is that Milwaukee County does not provide as many vouchers as there are folks eligible to receive vouchers.If Ms Dimitrijevic wanted to help tenants in need of Rent Assist she would look at her own branch of government and say ’We need to increase the available vouchers.’  If that was her proposal the Association and I would fully support her, as would most tenant advocates.Instead she tries scapegoating owners, making it look like discrimination against voucher holders is the problem.
    Ask Ms Dimitrijevic if there are more applicants than vouchers and how many months or years the Rent Assist waiting list is.

    The other reasons I oppose this are:

  2. Rent Assist does not allow for month to month occupancies.  Owners are more likely to take a chance on a questionable applicant if they can use a month to month and terminate tenancies that are not working as expected.  If you are a tenant, I’m sure you do not want to live in an apartment next door to a disruptive neighbor and when you complain the owner tells you that this person that is making your apartment less enjoyable has to stay for 11 more months due to a year lease.
  3. Another issue is that per the RA contract an owner must serve both the tenant and the RA agency with notices of default, such as non payment.  This creates an additional opportunity for an eviction for good cause to have problems.
  4. Finally, an owner may have to wait for the first payment.  While not a concern to our company, this is a big problem for mom and pop owners who are often under capitalized.

What the bill actually does.

Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic, the bill’s author,  states on FaceBook:  “This change to the ordinance does not mandate acceptance of certain sources of income rather it makes it illegal to discriminate against tenants based on source of income.”  The bill is worded consistent with her statement.

Currently.

Prospective tenant:  ‘Hi, I have a Rent Assist voucher.  Will you accept my app?

Landlord:  ’Sorry.  We do not do Rent Assist.’

Prospective tenant:  ‘Okay,  There are thousands of other owners that love the program and I am one of a few tenants who are eligible.’ and under her breath says ‘What a donkey’

Result: The tenant does not waste time and possibly money apply for a unit they will not receive.  Everyone understands upfront.  ANd the owner who does not accept the Rent Assist voucher holder loses a  great tenant, and the accompanying revenue,  that we end up with. 😉

Image what a terrible experience this will be for the tenant under the new law if they apply with an owner that will not accept Rent Assist vouchers.

Prospective tenant:  ‘Hi, I have a Rent Assist voucher.  Will you accept my app?

Landlord:  ‘Of course you can apply. I follow all laws.’

Prospective tenant: ‘Was my app approved?

Landlord:  ‘Why yes.  You met all my requirements and seem like a wonderful tenant!’

Prospective tenant: ‘Great!  Here is the Rent Assist app you must sign.’

Landlord:  ‘Sorry.  I do not accept Rent Assist, but I did accept you.’  and legally the owner could say ‘By the way, because you are accepted I expect you to take the place or forfeit the earnest money’

Prospective tenant: ‘WTF! This is an outrage.

Landlord:  ‘Sorry. This is the unintended consequences of  Ms, Dimitrijevic’s law.’

Result:   Confusion, a terrible experience  and possible negative financial consequences.

Instead of this bill, a true tenant advocate would require that owners disclose in advance of taking an app if they will accept Rent Assist or other programs.  That is what is fair and equitable, not some non discrimination code that will harm and confuse tenants.

Mar 07

Note: While Affordable accepts Rent Assist, I personally am opposed to mandating its acceptance.  Proposals like this reenforces the falsehood  that people who need Rent Assistance and not receiving it due to landlords not accepting the program.  This would make one believe that hundreds of eligible families are suffering  because no one would accept their voucher.  The truth is the waiting list is due to the County not providing enough vouchers to meet the demand.

This is more of the anti landlord posturing used by politicians to shift the blame for government actions and inaction onto our industry and make us look like the cause.

Here’s a legislative alert from AASEW Attorney Heiner Giese:

Here’s a big alert:

Milw Co. Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic is proposing an ordinance to REQUIRE all landlords to accept Section 8 housing vouchers or any other kind of voucher for rental assistance. This would mean landlords would have to get a property registered under a section 8 program and submit their property for inspections. It would also require you to use one year leases — you could not rent month to month anymore because the Section 8 program mandates one year leases.

Further, it is so loosely drafted that a landlord could not evict a tenant who is behind on the rent if they get an Emergency Assistance check.

This may be coming up for a hearing before the County Economic Development Committee next Monday, March 12, starting at 9:00 AM.

We need people to appear and speak against this. Also, contact your County Supervisor..

The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors does ordain as follows: 
 
Section 1. Chapter 107 of the Milwaukee County Code of General Ordinances is hereby amended as follows:
 
107.01. – Intent.
 
It is the intent of this chapter to render unlawful discrimination in housing and to enact this chapter pursuant to the authority granted to counties by s. 66.432(2) 66.1011, Wis. Stats. It is the declared policy of the county that all persons shall have an equal opportunity for housing regardless of sex, race, color, disability, religion, creed, national origin or ancestry, marital status of a person maintaining a household, lawful source of income, receipt of rental or housing assistance, age, sexual orientation, as defined in s. 111.32(13m), Wis. Stats., status as a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking, gender identity and gender expression, or status in a domestic partnership.
 
 
107.02. – Definitions.
 
(9) “Receipt of rental or housing assistance” means the receipt of any form of financial
contribution from a third party for the purposes of creating or keeping affordable housing for tenants, purchasers, or other potential housing recipients, including but not limited to, assistance provided pursuant to Title 42, United States Code, section 1437f (commonly known as the “Section 8” housing program), the HOME Partnership Program, the Community Development Block Grant program, or any other public or private rental assistance vouchers or programs.
 
 
Section 2.
The provisions of this Ordinance shall become effective upon passage and publication.

Atty Heiner Giese
1230  N. Prospect Ave.
Milwaukee, WI. 53202-3014
Tel. 414-276-7988 Fax: 414-276-8342

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.


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