Sep 30

My company receives messages and phone calls daily from prospective renters who are upset that we have nothing for rent.  Prior to March 2021, on a typical day, we would have 35-60 units for rent.  The number of total units we run has not changed.  One of the small local papers that we used to advertise in told my staff they were struggling financially because, like us, so many owners stopped advertising rentals.  Rental housing today is the Cabbage Patch Kids of 1983.  


In talking to owners it appears the dramatic reduction in vacancies is largely due to small properties being taken off the market and being made ready for sale.  Sellers want the place freshly prepped to sell fast and are aiming for owner-occupant buyers, who typically pay more.  


It is a perfect storm for this disruption.  


Small owners were severely, financially battered by a year and a half of moratoriums.   Dramatically reduced rent collection made it difficult for them to pay their bills, let alone receive compensation for their work and investment.  Harvard had a good report this week, Findings and Lessons from Two National Surveys of Landlords | Joint Center for Housing Studies  Generally, you can not harm one side of an economic equation, without ultimately impacting the other.


There is a general fear amongst owners that the government can step in at will and prevent rent collections anytime in the future for any reason, making selling more attractive.


Housing prices have skyrocketed, in part driven by low-interest rates and in part by a slow down in new construction as both materials and labor are harder to obtain.  Home Prices Continue Record-Setting Pace, Rising 19.7 % in July | Economy | US News


If you burned through all your savings, maxed your credit cards, and are three months delinquent on the mortgage, why would you not sell at the prices offered today?


I fully expect to return to normal vacancy rates within a year as we did not lose 8% of our housing stock and Milwaukee’s population continues to decline.*  However, I do not expect rents to return to 2020 rates due to the prices that are being paid for properties today and the large volume of sales.


The state, federal, and in some places local governments’ actions to “cancel rent” is the prevailing wind in this storm.  Peer pressure- I had to use a weather-related analogy. 😉  The story that these moratoriums simply delayed payment is a false narrative. Less than 2.4% of eviction judgments are ever paid, and less than a third of unpaid rent is reflected in eviction judgments.  So a short-term cancel is resulting in what is undoubtedly long-term harm for lower-income renters.


The answer is FoodShare for Housing.

Jul 13

With inflation according to the Wall Street Journal: “…last month’s consumer-price index increased 5.4% from a year ago, the highest 12-month rate since August 2008.

I was in this business in the late 70s and early 80s, where inflation reached 13.3% YoY. In October 1981 a 30 year fixed FHA mortgage for a primary residence was 18.45% APR. Crazy stuff. Real unemployment was 10.8% in 1982.

For those who are unfamiliar with inflation, here is a neat little article that explains it in an interesting manner.
https://finmasters.com/how-inflation-works/

Jump down to the “Who Benefits…” section to see opportunities and dangers. (Spoiler alert – owners of leveraged physical assets with fixed rate debt typically do well)

Apr 25

This one-hour Harvard webinar is a well-done,  “must watch”  if you are interested in the negative impact of the COVID economic crisis on housing. 
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ke2xkZwwYA

Dec 20

How do landlords think unemployed people will pay rent?:

…an average of 8% of renters don’t pay rent in normal times. During the coronavirus crisis to date, that share has gone up to 15 to 20% of renters not paying.

“But generally, I think we need a better approach instead of just pitting owners versus tenants,” he says. Both the tenants and landlords need some larger, holistic fix from the government that acknowledges that there just isn’t as much money flowing through the system as there should be.

Nearly 12 million renters will owe an average of $5,850 in back rent and utilities by January, Moody’s Analytics warns. Last month, 9 million renters said they were behind on rent, according to a Census Bureau survey.   

The over $70 Billion in unpaid rent, as reported by Moody’s will cripple many housing providers and will cause a housing crisis that will impact both tenants and municipalities for years, if not decades.  In May of 2020 Milwaukee property values finally recovered from the 2008 Great Recession. 

Less than 2.5% of rent judgments are paid in Milwaukee County five years after the eviction.  And eviction judgments represent only a small fraction of the unpaid rent.  In surveying owners, we see on a high end 42% of their lost rent is included in eviction judgments, with most owners reporting less than 10%.  Some owners never pursue money judgments. So the million dollars a month in eviction judgments represent somewhere between $28.5 million to $100 million a year in money that should go into housing but does not.  I peg the number at least to be $48 Million a year in lost rent in one county.  This is just insane. 

The right answer is for the government to step up to the plate and create a portable housing voucher to cover a portion, to all, of the rent /housing costs for people below a certain income, similar to food stamps.

Instead, the government pits tenants against landlords in a zero-sum game where one must lose for the other to win. In the end, this makes housing more expensive or limits choices.

This has been a problem long before COVID. In 1991 I was interviewed by the New York Times on evictions. I asked the reporter, “On $574 a month, how do you buy tennis shoes for the kids, clean shirts for school, and still pay your rent?” Nothing has changed much since then. $574 was the AFDC (now W2) payment amount. Twenty years later in an NYT interview, my comment was basically the same:

“On $673 a month, how do you buy tennis shoes for the kids, clean shirts for school and still pay your rent?” Mr. Ballering said.” 
https://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/19/us/19evict.html 

Some suggest canceling mortgages and rents, thinking that this equivalent and will prevent the economic failure of housing.  Sadly, it will not.

The average mortgage payment is 36-39% of gross income. The average owner earns 7-9% of gross income for their investment of capital, financial risks, and physical efforts.  If you stop mortgage and rent payments, as well as prevent owners from being paid for their investment and efforts, there is still 52-57% of gross rent that is needed to cover other operating costs such as sewer, water, property taxes, maintenance, insurance, etc.

In Milwaukee, for most properties, the City takes a far bigger cut of the rent in property taxes, and sewer/water bills, than the owner gets to keep.

If you read the Brookings report, you will see this plus the “local economic multiplier” effect of wages and other monies expended by owners.

The Census Bureau reported in 2018 that, on average, every unit generates almost $1,200 in wages. Those wages, the property tax money, etc, circulate throughout the community many times over.

Here’s what scholars believe will happen if there is a moratorium without rental assistance; https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3641859 It goes into the economic impact on housing and the cost borne by other current and future tenants. It is an informative read.

Dec 19

I am hearing from more and more owners who are not paying their mortgages, utilities, and even fire insurance because they can’t, due to uncollected rent.  Maintenance was the first casualty.  

If you are facing similar problems and would be willing to share with your elected officials and or the media, please email me. Tim[at]ApartmentsMilwaukee.com

https://www.cnn.com/2020/12/17/success/landlords-struggling-rent-eviction/index.html

If landlords are struggling, tenants will also be affected as home maintenance slides.

“I’m seeing landlords who can’t pay for trash removal,” Gray said. “We’re getting ‘no heat’ calls. They aren’t paying real estate taxes. They aren’t paying their mortgage.”

For the typical landlord in trouble, which he said is someone who bought their property in the last five years and is leveraged to the hilt, there are no reserves. “Despite tenant protection laws, these landlords don’t have the cash reserves, nor the equity in their building to get loans,” he said. “With the moratoriums, they’re taking hit after hit.”

Some landlords, he said, are being paid less and seeing the wear and tear on their property increase as grown children or friends double up after losing their own housing. Routine maintenance that was supposed to take place this year has in some cases been delayed or canceled because landlords just don’t have the money, said Gray.

“They can legislate the need to do timely repairs,” he said. “But for many landlords, there is no money.”

Dec 11

If any of you would like to be interviewed for this project, please reach out to Nick or I.

Tim Ballering Tim@ApartmentsMilwaukee.com
Nick Sakalis realestateplateradio@gmail.com>

I wanted to share these videos just in case you haven’t seen them yet. Let me know your thoughts.

https://youtu.be/pf_bcZrHI88

In the meantime there is a channel dedicated to collect all landlord related videos throughout YouTube in one place. We’ve already assembled a fair amount of content and adding to it everyday. Yours could be next. 😉

This is the link:

https://youtube.com/channel/UCOL_3jEcndU3kxKCjyXqM6g

Dec 08

We are trying to get a handle on what percentage of uncollected rent is not reflected in eviction judgments.  Any data you share will be aggregated and will not identify you when we share our findings.

This information should be only for your Milwaukee County rentals.

  • How much rent went uncollected?
  • How much of the uncollected rent was included in eviction judgments? Do not include damages or money judgments that were not part of an eviction.
  • OPTIONAL:  How many units do you own or manage in Milwaukee County?

You can email me directly

There is an average of about a million dollars a month in Milwaukee County eviction judgments.  Our initial survey shows this represents somewhere between a quarter and a tenth of the total unpaid rent, which in turn means your tenants who are paying as they should are paying an extra $49 to $123 per month to cover those tenants that do not pay.  

Five years after the eviction has concluded only 2.5% of eviction judgments are paid.

Tim Ballering
Tim@ApartmentsMilwaukee.com

Nov 14

Two must view videos.  They tell our story well and the quality of the video work is great.



Have your own story that you want to share?  Send me your contact info to tim@apartmentsmilwaukee.com and I’ll put you in touch with Nick Sakalis, who produced these.  

Nov 14

If you want to share this or any other housing concerns with your elected officials, go to democracy.io and enter your address.  The site allows you to write to both your US Senators and your Congressperson at the same time without searching for their emails or finding who represents you.

We should be asking for housing assistance to prevent the failure of both renters and housing.

If you do write – I’d appreciate if you send me a copy to Tim@ApartmentsMilwaukee.com

Notes on housing, supported by reliable sources such as Census.gov

74.4 % of rental properties owned by individual investors. Source: https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2017/rental-housing.html and in an easier to read format in this report from Harvard: https://www.jchs.harvard.edu/blog/who-owns-rental-properties-and-is-it-changing


55% of rental units as owned by part-time landlords: https://www.avail.co/education/articles/state-independent-landlords-2017


Rent debt will be $25-34B by January 1st. https://www.ncsha.org/resource/current-and-expected-rental-shortfall-and-potential-eviction-filings/ 

roughly 10 – 14 million renter households — home to 23 – 34 million renters — were behind on their rent by a total of roughly $12 – $17 billion as of September 14, 2020.

These renters will owe $25 – $34 billion by January 2021,
(from a chart just below the P1 fold)

More State-Specific info at: https://assets.aspeninstitute.org/content/uploads/2020/08/chart3_fsp.png

Local economic multiplier of rent payments from a report by Brookings Inst.
 

RENT HAS IMPORTANT MULTIPLIER EFFECTS IN THE LOCAL ECONOMYRent checks don’t just line the pockets of fat cat landlords—they also contribute to essential government services and other workers’ wages. If many households are simultaneously unable to pay rent, the economic impacts will be felt throughout the local economy.

The first entity that gets paid by a monthly rent check isn’t the landlord—it’s the local government. Property taxes have a higher priority even than mortgages; if a landlord falls behind on both property taxes and mortgage payments, the local government’s claim supersedes the lender’s.

Cities and counties rely on property taxes from all their constituents—individual homeowners as well as owners of apartments, offices, and other nonresidential properties—to cover the cost of providing public services. Although local governments could defer property tax payments during the current crisis, the pandemic is already stressing local government budgets. Cities are front-line providers of health care and emergency services, and also need money right now to feed children whose public schools are shut down and care for older adults and vulnerable populations.

https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2020/03/25/halting-evictions-during-the-coronavirus-crisis-isnt-as-good-as-it-sounds/ 

Census reports that the average rental unit generates $1,198 per unit per year in wages.
https://www.census.gov/data-tools/demo/rhfs/#/?s_byGroup1=12&s_tableName=TABLE4&s_type=2
Mean Payroll Costs for Employees Per Housing Unit 1,198

We can fix evictions for what it costs to allow the problem to continue
https://assets.aspeninstitute.org/content/uploads/2020/08/Evictions-Data-Update-August.pdf

Providing shelter and services to a family experiencing homelessness can cost local governments $10,000,[1] which is more than the $9,120 average annual cost of one housing voucher to the federal government[2] 

[1] Evans, William, James Sullivan, and Melanie Wallskog. “The Impact of Homelessness Prevention on Homelessness.” Science, 333:6300 694–6999, 2016. https://science.sciencemag.org/ content/353/6300/694.full.

[2] U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “Snapshot of Housing Choice Vouchers, 2016,” June 2018, https://www.huduser.gov/portal/elist/2018-june_08.html

Impact of the 2008 housing crises on Milwaukee

The following is from a letter we wrote to Milwaukee’s mayor.  It outlines some of the economic factors of rental housing and the harm that will come if there is a mass failure.  In 2008 smart money could see prices rising over a two and a half year period at a rate not sustainable by wages.   In 2020 the economy was screaming, then two weeks later it stopped. The suddenness of the event is a recipe for disaster.

If action is not taken to avert this, the aftermath of 2008 will look like a walk in the park on a sunny day.


A December 2019 Milwaukee Dept of City Development report  stated “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.

[ii]Section 2: Housing Needs and Demand Housing Affordability Report Department of City Development  |  December 2019 https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/eb043b089173407aa469eba948dd9601

[iii] State’s Foreclosure Rates Have Plummeted » Urban Milwaukeehttps://urbanmilwaukee.com/2019/07/11/states-foreclosure-rates-have-plummeted/

[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, rehabarchive.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/barrett-wants-to-spend-24-million-on-home-demolition-rehab-b9933176z1-211401301.html/

Nov 12

Household debt was at a moderate level relative to income before the public health shock, but many households have lost jobs and seen their earnings fall. As many households continue to struggle, loan defaults may rise, leading to material losses.  

https://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/files/financial-stability-report-20201109.pdf

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