Nov 05

An important piece from DSnews

In an opinion piece published on the Informed Comment website, John Buell, a former professor at the College of the Atlantic, observed that an after-effect of the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic trauma will weigh on the housing market as homeowners and renters struggle to keep up with housing costs.


“If foreclosures and evictions are standing in the way of recovery, it is also safe to say that the draconian cuts in budgets of state and local governments translate into wage reductions and/or unemployment for public sector workers and thus more pressures on the housing market,” Buell wrote. “If homeowners and government workers are not able to create sufficient demand to restore economic growth the federal government must step in. State governments are constitutionally prohibited from borrowing for daily expenses.”

Nov 03

https://www.jchs.harvard.edu/blog/who-owns-rental-properties-and-is-it-changing

Institutional investors own a growing share of the nation’s 22.5 million rental properties and a majority of the 47.5 million units contained in those properties, according to the US Census Bureau’s recently released 2015 Rental Housing Finance Survey (RHFS). The changes are notable because virtually all of the household growth since the financial crisis has occurred in rental units, with more than half of the growth occurring in single-family rental units.

According to the RHFS, individual investors were the biggest group in the rental housing market in 2015, accounting for 74.4 percent, or 16.7 million rental properties, followed by limited liability partnerships (LLPs), limited partnerships (LPs), or limited liability companies (LLCs) (14.8 percent); trustees for estates (4.1 percent); and nonprofit organizations (1.6 percent) (Table 1). However, because the share of rental properties owned by individual investors tends to decrease with the property size, individual investors owned less than half (47.8 percent) of rental units, followed by LLPs, LPs, or LLCs (33.2 percent), trustees for estates (3.3 percent), real estate corporations (3.3 percent), and nonprofit organizations (3.2 percent).

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

https://www.globest.com/2020/07/30/small-apartment-landlords-worry-about-payments-as-pandemic-continues/

Small “mom and pop” landlords, often defined as landlords who own or manager fewer than 20 units, reported lower rent collections in 2020, with 25 percent of them borrowing money to cover operating costs, according to a survey by The National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals and UC Berkley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation.

In the survey, about 58 percent owned or managed 1-4 units, and 25 percent owned or managed 5 to 19 units. The majority of respondents were in California, Texas and Illinois. About 67 percent of these landlords perceived their rental properties as a source of retirement income.

Oct 30

There has been a proliferation of online services that sell fake employment and housing documentation used by tenants to pass screening when they do not have a legal source of income. (Drug dealers and prostitutes do not get pay stubs for their efforts.)

Here is one such “service” is https://paystubsnow.com/pricing/ There are dozens of similar offerings on FaceBook, some for as low as $9.

One trick the fraudsters use is selecting employers that will not verify employment, such as Waste Management, which requires people doing background checks to use https://theworknumber.com, an Equifax service that charges $41-$48 per inquiry. At that point, many property owners simply accept the pay stub as real.

I encourage people who have been a victim of this to report this to the District Attorney

Oct 27

WI evictions are down statewide by 28% year to date through September 30th. In Milwaukee, that percentage is slightly higher, at just under 31% reduction.

A telling part is that August evictions were much lower than last year, despite the state’s moratorium being lifted.

This drop in evictions occurred even while reported collections are down by 12-16%. In talking to property owners, I’ve been told by many they have pulled back on maintenance, some suffering the impact to the point they have forgone insurance, utility and mortgage payments.

The impact on the other side will be higher housing costs for all as owners fail, or try to make up for losses in the future.

Oct 15

The Massachusetts Governor puts $171 Million into emergency housing funding. Advocates call it “a drop in the bucket”

The story is in Boston Magazine

Oct 14

Although the CDC guidance issued last Friday provides a mechanism for owners to challenge declarations that appear fraudulent, it should have little overall impact. If a large portion of the tenant population has no ability to pay rent or simply decides not to pay, housing will fail.

The Census Pulse shows nationwide 17.9% of tenants did not pay their August rent. (The reporting trails by about three weeks. Sept should be out next week) https://www.census.gov/data/tables/2020/demo/hhp/hhp15.html Scroll down to the housing tables.

Wisconsin is doing better at 11.9%. I attribute our slightly better fortune to our tenant advocates, our Governor, and those who support landlords working far more collaboratively than other areas. Some metros are hovering around 20% of tenants who are behind, Los Angeles nearly 19%, NYC ~23%.

When you take into account that in good times typical owners receive 7-9% of the gross rent for their effort and investment, and today collections are off by 18%, it is easy to see we are on a collision course with massive housing failures.

A scarey side note: Nationwide 10.8% of homeowners did not make last month’s mortgage payment. This will open the door to another corporate housing buy out. https://theintercept.com/2018/01/20/you-think-your-landlord-is-bad-try-renting-from-wall-street/

It is estimated that unpaid rent by 12/31/2020 will be $34 Billion. This deficit will devastate both renters and housing for many years to come. In turn the harm to housing will continue to haunt tenants through reduced housing choices and increased future rents as owners try to stabilize.

Whether moratoriums exist, the true need is for rent assistance. This need has existed well before COVID. If renters are able to pay their rent, they avoid eviction and insurmountable debt, while enabling owners to pay their obligations as well. So far our federal government is failing at providing that assistance.

Oct 13

A well thought out comment on the post moratorium housing crisis

https://www.citywatchla.com/index.php/cw/los-angeles/20564-landlords-are-not-the-devil

The government’s destruction of small landlords in 2020 will be calamitous for tenants in 2021 and beyond. There will likely be an outbreak of foreclosures and sell-offs by those who are unable to endure the eviction-moratorium storm. When the small landlords disappear, so does much of the affordable housing. Corporate investors, real estate conglomerates, and Wall Street vultures will swoop down for the kill, snapping up properties, remodeling them, and raising rents. In the end, communities will be left with fewer economical rentals, and the chasm between the rich and poor will be a little wider. 

Oct 11

Michigan’s EDP
https://www.michigan.gov/mshda/0,4641,7-141-5555-533463–,00.html

An interesting program, but I’m not sure how well it is received by housing providers as they must forgive 10% of the back rent. If anyone has a contact with apartment associations there we should ask, otherwise I’ll cold email them.

A “must read” the diversion pilot final report:
https://nationalcenterforstatecourts.app.box.com/s/n7w8zu89tbayfjr0qz6h7mn6nrg0x6qh/file/679673021905

The National Center for State Courts has a bunch of info on EDPs. The link below is a starting point.

Generally speaking, an eviction diversion program offers tenants with legal assistance largely supplied by Legal Aid services and financial assistance provided by local governments and nonprofit organizations. Some programs also include financial literacy education for tenants. Programs require the voluntary participation of both landlords and tenants. The focus of these programs is to help tenants and landlords avoid evictions where possible.

https://www.ncsc.org/information-and-resources/info-and-res-page-card-navigation/trending-topics/trending-topics-landing-pg/eviction-diversion-programs

The one common flaw in many of the existing EDP programs is they require an eviction to be filed. There are advantages to both renter and housing provider if diversion occurs prior to filing. Perhaps they feel requiring a filing would reduce fraud, or maybe it is because they were initiated in the courts and therefore are from the courts’ perspective. But requiring an eviction to be filed also reduces benefit. (costs, conflict, court resources)

Looking at pages 7-9 of the diversion pilot final report linked above, the heading should not be “You have been sued by your landlord.” but “Are you behind on your rent?”

Ultimately though the goal needs to be portable housing vouchers, i.e. FodShare for Housing, as the need has existing long before COVID.

Oct 10

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/eviction-moratoria-order-faqs.pdf

What can a landlord do if a tenant has declared that they are a covered person under the CDC Order, but the landlord dodoes not believe the tenant actually qualifies?

The Order does not preclude a landlord from challenging the truthfulness of a tenant’s declaration in any state or municipal court. The protections of the Order apply to the tenant until the court decides the issue as long as the Order remains in effect. 

What if individuals act in bad faith when completing and submitting the declaration?

Anyone who falsely claims to be a covered person under this Order by attesting to any material information which they do not believe to be true may be subject to criminal penalties under 18 U.S.C. § 1621 (perjury) or other applicable criminal law. 

Oct 10

WI Governor Evers, without much mention and no fanfare has just added an additional $10 Million to the Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program.

Everyone in housing, whether they are a renter or a housing provider, owes Governor Evers a large thank you!

Press release from the WAA/AASEW/WRA joint effort is below

Helping Hands for Housing Statement on Expanded WRAP Program

“Helping Hands for Housing applauds and appreciates the Evers’ administration’s efforts to keep financially struggling Wisconsinites in their homes. The $10 million extended pool of Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program (WRAP) funding helps ensure that rental property owners will be provided the necessary relief to maintain properties and help their tenants stay in their homes. This program is a vital lifeline for those who provide housing to more than a million renters in Wisconsin. With no further action coming from Congress at this time, it is essential that programs like WRAP are funded so rental property owners and landlords continue to provide the essentials to their tenants during this pandemic. We encourage Congress to follow the Evers’ administration’s lead and pass federal legislation to provide continued funding for rental assistance programs directly to housing providers, in order to protect renters’ access to affordable housing and our nation’s critical rental housing sector.”

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