Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘court’

Photo: Anthony Fomin
Is it time to revisit the idea of letting tenants buy their buildings?

In Massachusetts, the Covid-related eviction moratorium will expire October 17 with no plan to help tenants who have lost their jobs and can’t pay rent. The C.D.C. moratorium is in effect, but with many stipulations. Landlords need relief, too, but there has to be a better way than eviction court, where it will all end up. It’s especially worrisome given some new research showing many tenants lose in court because they haven’t received notice of their court date and therefore don’t go.

Clyde Haberman at the New York Times revisits the possibilities of a tenant-to-ownership program.

“Even before the coronavirus pandemic rang down the curtain on much of the U.S. economy, times could be tough for the roughly 110 million Americans living in rental housing. … Nearly four million eviction petitions were filed each year. On any given night as many as 200,000 people were without a home.

“In the pandemic, losing shelter is an ever-present threat on a far bigger scale, by some estimates potentially affecting upward of 30 million cash-strapped tenants. A calamity of that magnitude has been averted, for now, under a moratorium on evictions imposed through 2020 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But equitable and compassionate solutions to America’s chronic housing problems will clearly remain an elusive goal long after the coronavirus is conquered.

“One method with promise is explored in this video from Retro Report. … The underlying premise is a familiar one: giving people a genuine stake in their apartments and houses by turning renters into owners. The video focuses on two situations separated by half a century: in San Francisco, where the idea was not able to get off the ground, and in Minneapolis, where it has taken flight, albeit with an uncertain future.

“The San Francisco story dates to the late 1960s on Kearny Street, in a neighborhood known as Manilatown because of its many immigrants from the Philippines. There, the three-story International Hotel was home to 150 people, principally Filipino laborers who rented rooms for about $50 a month, about $380 in today’s dollars. In 1968 the hotel’s owners handed tenants eviction notices. …

“After nine years of turmoil and with the courts’ blessing, the owners evicted the hotel residents in 1977. … But the outcome could have been different. A year before the evictions, San Francisco’s mayor, George R. Moscone, suggested a new approach, proposing that the owners sell the hotel to the residents, who were to get the necessary money through a government loan. ..

“The mayor’s idea never really got rolling. … But the concept behind the Moscone plan had resilience, and in 1980 it became embodied in legislation passed in the District of Columbia: the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, or Topa. It gave tenants or allied developers the right to be first in line to buy any building about to be sold by its landlord. Once tenants made clear they were interested, the landlord had to give them time to make an offer and raise the funds.

“Studies show that several thousand units of affordable housing in D.C. were preserved this way, for less than it would have cost to build new housing. …

“One place that has made the idea a reality is a low-rise complex in Minneapolis that houses 40 families. As recounted by Retro Report, the landlord sought to push out the tenants so that he could sell the buildings. But while lawyers duked it out, the residents took action, forming a collective to buy the complex, aided by city officials and an activist group called United Renters for Justice. The sale, for $7.1 million, was completed in May. A nonprofit group put up the money as a loan, and will manage the property for three years while the residents pay back the debt.

“Tenant leaders like Chloe Jackson expressed confidence in their ability to keep up the payments. Still, success is not assured, especially when millions across the country are out of work. If people who lose their jobs can’t cover the rent, why would they be in a better position to repay a loan?

“Some landlords have their own concerns. They are hardly real-estate giants. On the contrary, they are so-called ‘mom and pop’ owners with maybe a building or two. But they account for nearly half of all rental units in the United States. …

“What will happen once the C.D.C.’s eviction moratorium ends is anyone’s guess. Even before the pandemic, millions of Americans were crushed by their rent burden. … That is one reason Ms. Jackson embraces her new status, inherent risks notwithstanding. Yes, the loan must be repaid, she said. ‘But we are thinking as owners, our mind-set is as owners, and we’re ready to do it.’ ”

More here.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: