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It’s the Final Countdown for our Housing Rules

The Town & County are updating the rules for both housing mitigation requirements (how much affordable housing developers have to include in their projects) and housing rules & regs (who gets to live in our affordable homes, and what strings are attached). These are part of their “Engage2017” work and there’s a ton of info on their website.
 
Town & county elected representatives met last week and gave preliminary direction on how they want to address all the important topics in these two projects. We are extremely encouraged by their decisions on some of our “top 6 priorities” that we listed below. Please thank them for taking steps in the right direction, especially for agreeing to stop asking renters for immigration documentation.
 
The town & county have one more joint meeting next Monday November 13 to finalize their policy direction for both topics. We hope to see you there! If you can’t make it in person, email our representatives ahead of time – council@townofjackson.com and commissioners@tetonwyo.org.

 

OUR TOP PRIORITIES (in short form)

  • Mitigation: instead of the current complicated proposal that leaves out seasonal employees, please use a simpler setup: “developers should mitigate for 65% of all employees – both year-round AND seasonal – and re-do the Nexus Study so we have up-to-date data.” And, please require 1-for-1 replacement of all workforce units destroyed by redevelopment.
  • Rules & regs: thanks for moving away from asking renters for immigration documents!

 

MORE DETAIL…

Housing rules & regs: overall, simplify the rules, and don’t discriminate either intentionally or unintentionally against most vulnerable community members.

  1. Don’t discriminate against renters based on immigration status. The comprehensive plan calls for housing 65% of all local workers, not just documented workers. Unlike with employment, no law requires asking about documentation for housing – it’s just a policy decision, and one that is currently excluding a large number of our community members who have lived here for decades, work hard, and pay taxes. Please remove immigration status from your rental criteria. (Policy Question 1.) >>> Almost all our representatives agreed with this – please thank them!
  2. Owners should be able to rent rooms to other local workers. For employment-based homes without income restrictions, there is no reason to prohibit roommates. And if roommates do not push an income-limited owner over the income limit, that should be allowed too. Ultimately, allowing roommates who also work here further helps house our workforce. (Policy Question 9.) >>> Our representatives asked staff to bring more info back on Monday. Keep asking for this!
  3. Simplify the lottery process by entirely removing preferences and points. The current system is complex and also gives extra weight to people who have the ability to volunteer – excluding service workers forced to work multiple jobs just to provide for their families. (Policy Question 10.) >>> Our representatives may change the system but still need to hear from more people that our housing should be available for all our workers in an open and fair lottery – not based on an idea of “earning” our way in.

Housing mitigation / requirements: overall: simplify the program and fully mitigate for 65% of new employee generation

  1. Our housing mitigation program should generate enough units to actually *keep up* with new jobs created, and house 65% of our new employees. This will likely mean increasing mitigation rates, as well as applying them for both year-round and seasonal jobs, for all jobs paying below 200% area median income, and on commercial and residential projects. >>> The new proposal may do a better job “keeping up” with job growth, but it’s hard to know because there’s no math showing how it connects to our 65% community goal. We strongly recommend a simpler system that includes both year-round and seasonal employees and requires developers mitigate for 65% of all full-time equivalent employees (FTEs).
  2. Simplify the program by reducing the number of use categories and removing the change-of-use fee – instead, just charge an averaged rate initially. >>> This helps make the previous point work better.
  3. Require 1-for-1 replacement of any existing units lost to redevelopment. In addition to “keeping up” with the new development, we also need to replace affordable/workforce units that are bulldozed before that new development is built – and we should require these be replaced 1-for-1. Otherwise, we’re just digging our hole deeper. >>> Our elected representatives are considering this idea, but need to hear more support from all of us!

 

FULL COMMENTS

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The 6 most important changes to our housing rules

We’ve been closely tracking the housing mitigation and housing rules & regs updates in the town and county’s “Engage2017” planning updates. Town Council and County Commission are getting input that opposes our goals of fair housing for all, and more affordable and workforce housing … so hearing from community members who support housing is critical. The town & county have a joint meeting on Monday October 30 about both mitigation and the housing rules & regulation. We hope to see you there!

 

UPCOMING SCHEDULE

Oct. 30: Joint Town Council and County Commissioners meeting to consider alternatives and develop a draft policy direction. 5 p.m., Town Hall. May be continued to Nov. 1-2 if necessary. Public comment to be accepted.
Nov. 3: Release of draft policy direction. 5 p.m., Town Hall.
Nov. 13: Joint town and county meeting to finalize policy direction. 5 p.m., Town Hall. Public comment to be accepted.

 

OUR TOP PRIORITIES

Housing rules & regs: overall, simplify the rules, and don’t discriminate either intentionally or unintentionally against most vulnerable community members.

  1. Don’t discriminate against renters based on immigration status. The comprehensive plan calls for housing 65% of all local workers, not just documented workers. Unlike with employment, no law requires asking about documentation for housing – it’s just a policy decision, and one that is currently excluding a large number of our community members who have lived here for decades, work hard, and pay taxes. Please remove immigration status from your rental criteria. (Policy Question 1.)
  2. Owners should be able to rent rooms to other local workers. For employment-based homes without income restrictions, there is no reason to prohibit roommates. And if roommates do not push an income-limited owner over the income limit, that should be allowed too. Ultimately, allowing roommates who also work here further helps house our workforce. (Policy Question 9.)
  3. Simplify the lottery process by entirely removing preferences and points. The current system is complex and also gives extra weight to people who have the ability to volunteer – excluding service workers forced to work multiple jobs just to provide for their families. (Policy Question 10.)

Housing mitigation / requirements: overall: simplify the program and fully mitigate for 65% of new employee generation

  1. Our housing mitigation program should generate enough units to actually *keep up* with new jobs created, and house 65% of our new employees. This will likely mean increasing mitigation rates, as well as applying them for both year-round and seasonal jobs, for all jobs paying below 200% area median income, and on commercial and residential projects.
  2. Simplify the program by reducing the number of use categories and removing the change-of-use fee – instead, just charge an averaged rate initially.
  3. Require 1-for-1 replacement of any existing units lost to redevelopment. In addition to “keeping up” with the new development, we also need to replace affordable/workforce units that are bulldozed before that new development is built – and we should require these be replaced 1-for-1. Otherwise, we’re just digging our hole deeper.

 

FULL COMMENTS

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How should we change our affordable housing rules & regs?

The town and county asked for public input on a series of questions about our Housing Rules & Regulations as part of their Engage2017 planning work. The ShelterJH policy team dug deep into the questions and wrote the following letter to our elected representatives. We hope it helps explain what mitigation is and how it can help. Make sure to share your ideas with the Town Council and County Commission! Contact us with any questions at info@shelterjh.org, and please become a member and build our power today!

 

RE: Housing Rules & Regulations

Dear Mayor Muldoon, Town Councilors, and County Commissioners:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on your joint housing rules and regulations. ShelterJH is a membership organization that works to ensure all who work in Jackson can have a home here. As we consider changes to housing rules and regulations, we should always ask what the changes will do for our workers and community – especially our community members in the most vulnerable situations.

We believe it is important to have clear rules and regulations governing the “who” and “how” of rental and ownership homes provided by the public sector to ensure that policies are equitably serving all working households. The current rules and regulations have evolved over the last 22 years to address shifting needs and implement diverse programs established by the Board of County Commissioners and Town Council.  This patchwork of rules and regulations has:

  • Contributed to the complexity of the housing program creating management challenges and increased staffing requirements
  • Reduced transparency, created misconceptions and made it difficult for residents to understand; and
  • Is likely disproportionately serving different demographics – maybe not to the benefit of our most vulnerable neighbors.

We believe this exercise is a great start to understand community perceptions about the existing housing program, explain how the current program operates, and learn about what is being done in comparable communities. We also believe the next step of this work should be undertaken by the Joint Housing Authority Board because most of these questions are technical and deserve scrutiny by those that have expertise and will be implementing these rules and regulations.

This next step should include an analysis of the existing housing program to understand through data instead of perceptions whether the existing rules and regulations have been effective at achieving the intended housing program goals.  Because there is no data in the materials to date, it is impossible to determine whether there are problems with the status quo, or if any of the proposed alternatives will actually improve the housing program.

Additionally, the basis for the proposed alternatives has some shortcomings.  The term “best practices” of comparable communities is misleading because the comparison is of the practices used by these communities without an analysis of whether the practices are effective.  Additionally, the reliance on Aspen as a model is troubling because the Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority is actually right now undertaking a major overhaul of their rules and regulations based on a thorough study of their housing program.

In order to work within this Engage2017 process, we provide comments for your consideration that distinguish between the various housing programs, such as Affordable, Employment-Based, and Accessory Residential Unit, where appropriate. Our comments are intended to simplify the existing housing framework, make the public market work with more efficiency and ensure fairness.

 

1. What should the employment criteria be to rent or purchase a restricted home?

1A: Modify the employment criteria to make them more user-friendly while adhering to the Fair Housing Act:

  • Eliminate the employment preferences in the lottery system; they are complex to manage, difficult to understand, confusing to potential buyers/tenants, and they are discouraging to new employees. (See also question 10.)
  • It is crucial to define what “local workforce” means. We support your definition: working at “a business located within Teton County, holding a business license with the Town of Jackson, or one that can provide other verification of legal business status in Teton County, WY”.
  • Telecommuters have a choice to live anywhere and should not be eligible for any housing programs subsidized by the public sector. There is a limited supply of this housing and occupancy should be optimized by restricting to local workers or classes protected by the Fair Housing Act and seniors.
  • We suggest that you remove immigration documentation requirements from rental units: currently “at least one member of the household [must be] a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (Green Card).” While that may make sense for ownership units, where lenders require immigration documentation for a mortgage and sellers of deed restricted homes can be impacted by the inability of a buyer to obtain a loan, rental units do not have this challenge, and our community goal is to house the local workforce in our valley. We should be concerned with whether the renters are employed in the valley and within the income limits that we require for everyone – and that’s it.
  • We support allowing families to buy affordable/employment homes if at least one adult household member is documented (e.g. citizen / legal permanent resident). While we recognize there are reasons to require that our homeowners have documents (such as obtaining leases, and the security of knowing their employment situation), we do not believe our community should be in the business of immigration document inspection for all household members. If any adults qualify, let’s not worry about other household members.

 

2. What kind of assets should be allowed and/or counted, and how much is the limit?

2G: This is a technical question demonstrated by 7 options for consideration and is beyond the scope of appropriate public outreach. The Joint Housing Authority Board should provide a policy recommendation based on technical analysis of the current asset limit and calculation methodology.  Data would enable answers to several questions, including:

  • How many households are denied access because of the current asset cap?
  • How many households would be impacted by a change in the asset cap?
  • What percentage of household assets are retirement savings?
  • What is an appropriate asset cap to allow equal access to restricted housing inventory?

We offer some suggestions for consideration to the options proposed:

  • Ownership of another home or mobile home within 150 miles should not be allowed while owning a deed restricted home. Upward mobility is achieved by offering an opportunity for safe, secure, and affordable housing with a share of the equity at time of resale.
  • Ownership of a home or mobile home at time of qualification for an “Affordable” home should be allowed to enable households to move back into the valley from our bedroom communities and to move into more suitable housing to meet their household needs.
  • Ownership of a home or mobile home at time of qualification for a rental product or an “Employment-Based”, “Attainable” or “Workforce” unit should not be allowed. Special circumstances can be addressed through the relief process.
  • If ownership is allowed in any of the programs, the income from the residential property should be used in calculating household income and the equity in the home should be used to determine household assets.
  • Implement a set asset cap, such as $200,000, that applies to all “Affordable” categories.
  • Eliminate retirement savings that are not used to purchase the home from the calculation of assets so households are not ineligible because they have been financially prudent by saving for retirement.

 

3. How many months out of a calendar year should a household be required to occupy a restricted unit?

3B&D: The intent of using public resources for restricted housing is to provide a safe, decent and affordable place for local workers to live.

  • The occupancy requirement should be 11 months out of the year for the deeply subsidized “Affordable” homes – in order to reduce competition for lower priced homes from those that choose to work fewer months out of year, and recognize the unique character of Jackson’s workforce that often hold seasonal jobs.
  • The requirement should be 9 months per year for the Employment-Based and Workforce homes, as those programs are more flexible by design, and not targeted to low-income workers.

 

4. What livability standards, if any, should apply to restricted units?

4G: This is another technical question demonstrated by 7 options for consideration and beyond the scope of general public outreach. The Joint Housing Authority Board should provide a policy recommendation based on technical analysis of the current asset limit and calculation methodology.

We offer some suggestions for consideration to the options proposed:

  • Rental units designed for seasonal employees, often in the form of dormitories, do not have the same storage needs as units for long-term employees.
  • Standardize the size requirements between long-term rental and ownership units. Allow flexibility for design creativity that does not compromise livability.
  • Maximum sizes should be implemented to encourage more units instead of larger units, if mitigation is based on square footage.
  • Energy Star appliances are competitively priced and widely available. Use of Energy Star appliances should be required to decrease the operational costs, which impacts long-term affordability.
  • Consider an incentive that allows developers to raise the maximum sales prices if they incorporate elements that lower costs to operate and maintain the home compared to current building codes.

 

5. What percentage of a household’s income should be spent on housing?

5A: Determining an affordability standard is a common challenge for policy makers in resort communities. Selecting a measure that minimizes the subsidy to create the unit, while ensuring that housing is a source of financial stability to the occupant is a delicate balance. The 30% ratio of income-to-housing cost is the most common figure used in comparable communities.

The Joint Housing Authority Board should provide a policy recommendation based on technical analysis of the current methodology. Data would enable answers to several questions, including:

  • How many households are getting homes that could afford to pay more?
  • How many households are in homes that are unaffordable?
  • How many households have been denied housing because they exceed the debt to income ratio limit?

We offer some suggestions for consideration to the options proposed:

  • The Affordable homes have qualifying income ranges designed to prevent households from earning too much to qualify for certain homes.
  • The minimum debt to income ratio discourages households from being financially sound and carrying unnecessary debt.
  • The maximum debt to income ratio was implemented prior to the financial crisis when banks were offering high risk loans based on stated incomes and high debt to income ratio. This standard should remain because it protects the community asset by offering a method to ensure the buyer can afford the home and lessening the risk of foreclosure. It also ensures that the buyer is eligible for a conventional loan.
  • Consider lowering the percentage of income spent on housing for “Affordable” Category 1 households. Households earning $100,000 per year have much more left over after paying 30% of their income for rent or mortgage to cover other necessary costs than do households earning less than $30,000 per year. The flat 30% ratio does not take into account the varying ability for households at different income levels to afford non-housing essentials such as food, clothing, transportation, healthcare and childcare.

 

6. When should a household have to qualify for a rental or ownership home?

6D: 6B is recommended to streamline the requalification process, but consider a longer time-frame for requalification of rental units to between 2-3 years to reduce management costs and increase renter stability.  Requalification on “Affordable” ownership should not be required as long as owning other residential real estate is prohibited (see question 2).

 

7. How should the sale/rent price be set?

7G: This is a technical question and the Joint Housing Authority Board should provide a policy recommendation, based on an analysis of the current program. It is unclear whether there is a problem with the current system and if any of the proposed alternatives and data would improve it. We recommend answering several questions, including:

  • Are the homes affordable to the current occupants?
  • Are households able to pay more for housing? If so, how much?
  • Are households paying too much for housing? If so, how much?

We offer some suggestions for consideration to the options proposed:

  • Make sure the methodology to calculate initial sales prices and rental rates is clear, transparent, and easy to update.
  • Set initial sales prices for Employment-based units and Workforce ownership units to serve households earning at or below 200% AMI.
  • Interest rates significantly affect the affordable purchase price of homes. For every 1%-point rise, the purchasing power of a household decreases by about 10%.  This needs to be considered when establishing prices for new affordable homes.

 

8. How should restricted ownership homes be valued at resale?

8A: Maintain status quo until an analysis can be completed to evaluate the inventory of affordable housing and see which alternative is creating affordable outcomes over time.  There is an opportunity to analyze these alternatives because the housing program has been in existence for 25 years and there is a supply of affordable housing units to evaluate. This is in contrast to arbitrarily selecting alternatives without basis.

 

9. How should renting or subletting be handled?

9C: Owners should be able to rent rooms to other local workers. This especially makes sense for owners of employment-based homes. Currently, no homeowners may have roommates. This may make sense in income-limited (e.g. Category 1-3) homes, where roommates put household income over the limit. However, for employment-based homes without income restrictions, there is no reason to prohibit roommates. And if roommates do not push an income-limited owner over the income limit, that should be allowed too. Ultimately, allowing roommates who also work here further helps house our workforce.

 

10. How should the buy/sell process work?

10 None of the Above: Streamline and simplify the lottery system by removing all preferences (including for critical service providers and for length of time living here).  This will allow access to all members of the workforce in an equitable manner, which is the appropriate use of local, state and federal tax dollars as well as developer exactions.  It also makes the selection process transparent, easy to understand, and far less costly to administer. Finally, instead of being perceived as a system where people are rewarded for “earning” affordable housing because of how much they’ve contributed, it is a simple and equitable system that – once people are in affordable homes – ensures they can stay and contribute to our community.

 

11. What types of relief should be allowed from the Rules & Regulations?

11D: Formalize the appeals process, clarify the process and set standards for making determinations. Make the appeals process and determination criteria available to the public in a transparent manner.

 

12. How should new Rules & Regulations be applied to existing units?

12E: The Special Restrictions should at a minimum include terms and conditions related to occupancy, use and resale. Instead of relying on public comment, legal advice should be sought to determine what needs to be in the Special Restriction or Ground Lease to protect the community asset, what can be contained in the Rules and Regulations, and which set of Rules & Regulations must be referenced. If a rental product, the relevant and current Rules & Regulations should be incorporated in the lease agreement.

 

Thank you for your consideration and these technical issues.  Again, we respectfully recommend that the next step is a technical, data-driven analysis of the existing housing program with review by and recommendations from the Joint Housing Authority Board. Please be in touch with any questions if we can help.

 

Sincerely,

Christine Walker

Policy Team Chair

ShelterJH

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30-day notice tenant protection hangs on by a thread

Despite a last-minute push to stop it, Jackson’s first tenant protection – a 30-day notice requirement – passed its “first reading” tonight, and is on track to become law.

Every new town law must be approved three times, with public hearings every time – a great way to make sure that a community really wants that law, and gets input. The mayor and town council have also held a number of meetings and workshops about tenant protections, and heard extensive public input about how dire the rental market is (as well as hearing from a few lawyers and property managers who are paid by landlords and said there isn’t any problem for renters in Jackson).

Tonight was the first reading, and at first it seemed things were going smoothly for the 30-day notice requirement. The only public comment was support from Barbara Prescott of Teton County Access to Justice (previously on KHOL). Mayor Muldoon spoke for the tenant protection, and Councilor Jim Stanford did too.

Things took a turn when Councilor Bob Lenz said he would vote against it – because he thought it should be 50 days, not 30 days, and because he thought the maximum fine (set by state law) was too high. But he was open to discussion.

The real pushback came from Councilor Don Frank, who declared that “This ordinance is inequitable. There’s nothing in this ordinance that protects landlords. It’s a very one-sided ordinance.” Don spoke for many minutes about how this small step toward protecting tenants is unfair to landlords. We are shocked that he seems not to realize that the current housing market is extremely biased in favor of landlords – so this law is one small step towards making things more fair. But he went on in his opposition to the law.

Council also wanted to learn more about how the law would be enforced. Town Attorney Audrey Cohen-Davis and Assistant Attorney Lea Colasuonno provided excellent information in response, answering all of council’s questions with clear and detailed replies. This information seemed to assure council that the enforcement of the law would be handled well.

Before council voted, Don Frank made another attempt to stop the law, appealing to his fellow councilmembers to focus on educating tenants on what they should do differently, instead of passing a law to give them protection from unjust treatment.

Hailey Morton-Levinson had not expressed many opinions yet – making it unclear if the bill would pass or fail.

At the end of the night, the mayor called for the vote, and it was 3-2 in favor!

Voting for 30-day notice: Mayor Pete Muldoon, Jim Stanford, and Hailey Morton-Levinson.

Voting against: Don Frank and Bob Lenz.

ShelterJH applauds the council for taking another step in the direction of protecting our hard-working local renters.

What you can do:

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A step forward for tenant protections

After months of debate over whether we should enact tenant protections, Town Council voted today to get started with a “30-day notice requirement” ordinance. This is a good first step for our tenants, and we’re excited that the Council is taking action.

What are tenant protections? Wyoming laws disproportionately favor landlords and provide virtually no protections to tenants, and our local ordinances contain nothing at all on the subject of landlord-tenant law. When we don’t take care of our employees, it’s not only bad for them as human beings, it harms our community and economy by making it difficult for business owners to retain quality employees. Read more details here.

Who doesn’t want tenant protections? Town Council heard a report from the stakeholder taskforce they appointed a couple months ago. Three people on the taskforce were landlords or property managers who absolutely refused to even consider new ordinances for tenant protections. Kevin Kavanagh of the Clear Creek Group (known for $100,000 a week short-term rentals and for breaking short-term rental rules) spoke at today’s meeting, saying that any ordinances would be “governmental overreach,” and claiming that even a 30-day notice requirement would result in landlords taking rentals off the market. Kavanagh also said that there’s no “data” to show that we have a problem, so any tenant protections are “a solution in search of a problem.” This idea is astonishing to those of us who rent and experience problems every day. Another landlord, Todd Oliver of the Blair Place Apartments, who tried to raise rents 40% in one fell swoop two years ago, said that people should just get leases – something that is impossible for many tenants who have no negotiating power.

Who does want tenant protections? A number of tenants, including Jorge Moreno and Jeremy Weiss, spoke about their experiences being evicted with little notice, ranging from 3 to 20 days – after years of renting the same house. Jessica Chambers also asked the council to enact tenant protections, for the most vulnerable members of our community. And Mary Erickson and Rosie Read, both on the task force, spoke in favor of tenant protections – not just 30-day notice, but also non-discrimination (based on immigration status and gender identity / sexual orientation) and repairs to major appliances. Read, who is an attorney, noted that even she hasn’t been able to obtain a lease for her current residence. “Just get a lease” is not a solution.

What did the council decide? The council voted to direct staff to prepare a tenant / landlord education resource (which is great, but not tenant protections), and to bring back more information about a 30-day notice ordinance. Mayor Muldoon tried to expand the motion to include research into non-discrimination, requiring leases, and restating and clarifying the state tenant/landlord laws, but Councilor Hailey Morton-Levinson shot that down, twice. Morton-Levinson said she wouldn’t consider those other ideas (which we’ve been asking for) now, but that the mayor could bring back more-detailed proposals for the council to discuss.

What’s ShelterJH’s take? We’re glad the council is taking a first step towards tenant protections. We hope the council will quickly write and adopt a tenant protection ordinance that includes a 30-day notice requirement – and also include non-discrimination, as well as a requirement for leases and the repair of major appliances by landlords.

What’s your take? Email the council and mayor at council@townofjackson.com to let them know!

And please become a ShelterJH member today, to help build power for tenants through work like this!

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Tenant protections workshop response letter, March 10 2017

March 9, 2017

Mayor Muldoon and Jackson Town Council

P.O. Box 1687

Jackson, WY 83001

council@townofjackson.com

 

RE:           Tenant Protections

Dear Mayor Muldoon and Councilors,

Thank you for holding an informative and in-depth workshop regarding tenant protections in January. We were very encouraged to hear your support for our neighbors living in the toughest conditions, and look forward to seeing what your legal team brings back for your next meeting. We support the idea of starting with areas that the community can agree upon, such as requiring adequate notice before a rent increase and addressing health and safety issues.

We would like to offer a few points of clarification regarding the various topics you discussed:

1. Non-discrimination: our federal Fair Housing Act includes seven protected classes: race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. In the staff report, your legal team identified only one additional class you might want to protect: transgender people. Two important additional classes for protection are left out: sexual orientation and immigration status. These classes are not protected under federal law; they could be under local law.

Please include sexual orientation and immigration status as protected classes in our municipality, and make it illegal to discriminate when it comes to housing, based on these categories.

2. Non-retaliation: your legal team also told you that the federal Fair Housing laws already covers non-retaliation. But that’s only the case when landlords retaliate against tenants for standing up for their rights under the federal Fair Housing Act. So it doesn’t cover retaliation against tenants for fighting discrimination that isn’t covered by federal law (see above), or for anything else like safety issues, repairs, insufficient notice, etc.

Please add non-retaliation for situations not covered by the Fair Housing Act.

3. Habitability: your discussion focused on health and safety issues with homes, such as mold or working plumbing. As your legal team pointed out, most of these issues are already covered under state law. Our hope in raising this issue in a previous letter was that you would consider also covering repairs to major essential appliances, such as refrigerators and stoves, because that is not currently covered under state law.

Please include major (critical) appliances in your habitability/repairs ordinance 

4. Support for landlords: also on the topic of repairs, we respectfully request that you consider setting up a low- or no-interest loan fund for landlords who want to make the required repairs to their homes. This will prevent the negative effect where some landlords may decide it’s too expensive to make the repairs, and instead they’ll stop renting places long-term to our workers. A loan fund will provide an incentive to make needed repairs. If you want to be sure that public funds have clear public benefit, you could include a requirement that landlords accessing these funds promise to rent at an affordable rate until the loan is paid back.

Please use existing funds designated for affordable housing to support “preservation” of existing affordable housing stock.

Also, we would like to offer our help if you do put together a stakeholder committee; a representative of Shelter JH would be interested and willing to participate.

Again, thanks for your energy and effort for our neighbors in the hardest housing situations.

Sincerely,

Christine Walker

Policy Chair

Shelter JH

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Tenant protections – letter to council Nov 20, 2016

November 19, 2016

Mayor Flitner and Jackson Town Council

Tenant protections in the Town of Jackson

Dear Mayor Flitner and Councilors,

Shelter JH is encouraged that you are discussing tenant protections in Jackson. As we have worked with our membership of tenants and low-income workers, we have found a tremendous need for basic tenant protections. Wyoming laws disproportionately favor landlords and provide virtually no protections to tenants, and our local ordinances contain nothing at all on the subject of landlord-tenant law. When we don’t take care of our employees, it’s not only bad for them as human beings, it harms our community and economy by making it difficult for business owners to retain quality employees.

We recognize you are working hard to provide housing and to encourage the private sector to do the same. We also support you taking action to protect those of us who have found housing and are vulnerable to mistreatment because we lack leverage and legal protections.

We have investigated options for what our Town can do, and researched what other communities have done. We believe it would be prudent to start with easier actions, such as notice requirements or non-retaliation rules, assess how they go, and then tackle more challenging and impactful areas, such as rent stabilization measures. Understanding that resolutions do not allow for enforcement, we ask that you pass ordinances and assist with changing the behavior of those that choose to mistreat tenants. Here are six areas we recommend discussing:

  1. Notice requirements

The Town could pass an ordinance establishing a minimum of 30 days (for monthly lease) or 60 days (on a longer lease) notice before (1) no-cause eviction, (2) non-renewal of lease, (3) rent increase.

  1. Habitability and repairs

The Town could pass an ordinance that requires landlords to (1) maintain a minimum standard of habitability (including heat and appliances like stoves and refrigerators, beyond the plumbing, electricity and running water standard required by the state), and (2) make repairs to property as needed to keep premises in condition in which they were rented, other than to repair damage caused by tenant. This would, in addition to water/electricity as currently required. The Town could then create an inspection program, similar to how HUD requires habitability inspections for units rented with federal funding. The Town could also establish a small fund to support landlords in making these repairs.

  1. Fair Housing / Non-discrimination

The Town could pass an ordinance that prohibits discrimination against tenants, or potential tenants, in addition to existing federal Fair Housing protections. This ordinance would protect people based on immigration status and sexual orientation – two areas that are not protected by federal laws.

  1. Non-retaliation

The Town could pass an ordinance stating that landlords may not retaliate against tenants who exercise their other rights.

  1. Lease content and renewal

The Housing Department could provide a “standard lease” that includes all of the rights as outlined in the other sections here, to ensure that leases are in compliance. Additionally, the Town could pass an ordinance establishing (1) a “first right of refusal” when a lease is available for renewal and the existing tenants haven’t violated their lease in any way, (2) leases automatically default to month-to-month leases upon expiration of previous lease.

  1. Rent increase cap, a.k.a. rent stabilization

The Town could pass an ordinance preventing egregious rent increases. This is not “rent control,” but simply a limit on how much landlords can raise rent in a year. We recommend working with stakeholders including landlords, tenants, business owners and housing advocates to determine the appropriate percentage – for example, we know 20% or 40% are too much, but perhaps 3% or 5% or something similar, tied to inflation, would be acceptable.

Thank you for considering these options. Please know we truly appreciate your commitment to protecting the most vulnerable members of our community through tenant protections. ShelterJH is ready and willing to support your work through legal research, research into what ordinances have been effective in other communities, and conversations with the public and stakeholders.

 

Sincerely,

Christine Walker

Policy Chair

ShelterJH