Friday, July 14, 2006

Tenant-Landlord Coalition Seeks Affordable Solutions

An open letter to City and County Commissioners

July 5, 2006

To: City and County Commissioners

Fr: The Tenant-Landlord Coalition (TLC)


Affordable Housing is a huge challenge for the City and County right now and broadly defined, “affordable housing” includes many groups: HUD subsidized housing (extremely low to very low income), Habitat Homes (for households making $16,000 a year and more), all the way up the economic ladder to the ERA plans for downtown units for professionals making over $55,000.

We choose to narrow down our focus to rentals in the $600 to $900 range.

These reasonably priced rentals are needed by those making $10,000, up to those making $50,000 annually (from the Sarasota Memorial Hospital housing survey and the salary range of workers looking for
$600-$900 a month rentals).

Landlords provide the real affordable housing in the City and County.

Reasonably priced rentals in the City and County of Sarasota must be saved to provide housing to the extremely low, very low and low income workers (these include your service workers and municipal employees), students, retirees, fixed income individuals and families. At least 25-30% of your residents make less than $30,000 a year (top end of low income as defined by HUD) and renting is their only housing option.

Why are rental units being lost?

Because of the following:
The tax structure is totally off balance. Many commercial ventures, which include rentals, in the past three years, have seen their taxes increased at least 100% vs. homesteaded homes at 5%. Homesteaded tax breaks are penalizing the renters who must pay this increased expense.

The low and middle income renters who must carry the burden of these tax hikes are those amongst us who can least afford these increases, and are being squeezed out of the area. A City of Sarasota rental property will have to pay for the tax increases from both the City and the County.

This taxing formula disparity will have to be taken to Tallahassee. Tenants and landlords across the State of Florida will have to coordinate an appeal. All the area government officials should see the impact of losing affordable rentals and should support their appeal.

The County of Sarasota, with a windfall of tax revenues, is thinking about giving a tax break to homesteaded property owners and raising the rates on commercial properties.

Now the City of Sarasota is thinking of doing the same!

Insurance for the commercial and rental properties is much more expensive than it is for homeowners. This dramatic increase also makes rentals less affordable

Pressure to sell.
As you are aware, 10,400 apartments in Sarasota have been lost to condo conversions alone. Lost for good. The high taxes and insurance expenses only encourage landlords to sell out.

What relief can the City and County of Sarasota provide NOW for affordable rentals?

Support tenants by providing tax relief for the reasonable rental properties, and register a complaint against rising insurance rates to the Governor.

Assemble a temporary relief package for tenants and landlords in reasonable rental properties (rentals in the $600 to $900 range) by canceling or reducing their water, sewer and garbage pick up fees. There are plenty of new units coming on line to keep the Utilities Departments solvent.

Work with the Community Housing program to provide vouchers to low income people so they can rent closer to work. These workers are needed Downtown and throughout the county. Service workers and other low income residents need to be able to use public transit, bike and/or walk.

The voucher program could use the HUD Section 8 program as a model. It would be a voluntary program and landlords could choose whether or not they would be willing to accept the voucher for a portion of the rent.

Encourage HUD (Sarasota Housing Authority) to provide incentives for redevelopment of public housing land in North Sarasota to bring back all of the family units (388 family units now occupied, with a waiting list of some 300 families). Yes, there are landlords in the community who will accept Section 8 vouchers, but their units are full. Where will 388 families be housed – either temporarily or permanently – during the redevelopment?

Where can temporary workers (i.e. construction workers et al) be housed safely while they work on homes and high rises?

The City and County have organized numerous Affordable Housing venues and they have all done a good job identifying the challenges, but no action has been taken.

Now is the time to act. Rental properties are dwindling because of the tax and insurance issues. Renters have nowhere to go. Both the City and the County need to act to negate this out of balance tax structure to bring relief to the tenants. The City and County cannot wait for Tallahassee to react.

We are losing families, students, service workers, hospital staff, even professionals, because they cannot find housing.

A response is required NOW, not later.

Issues to be considered for future planning:

How do we restructure the tax and insurance imbalance?

How do we stop the rapid loss of rental stock?

How do we save older and historic apartment buildings from the wrecking ball?

To build new, because of the price of land, precludes the possibility of providing reasonably priced rental units unless they are on City or County land.

Save the buildings we have.

How can City owned lots be developed as multi-family dwellings?

Who will inventory what is currently available and make the data available to all?

Who will assemble a resources directory for low and middle income renters and home buyers?

Where can transitional housing be built?

What sort of incentives could be offered for builders to build efficiencies (400-800 sq ft flats) near town at reasonable sale and/or rental prices?

At least a quarter of households are one person households
(according to the last census).

How do we utilize/encourage the granny flats as rentals?

TLC would like a seat at the roundtable of interested community groups to help solve present and future housing problems - with the subject of reasonable rentals as part of the larger affordable housing solution.

This roundtable on affordable housing would include representatives from the City and County as well from CCNA, CONA, SURE, Habitat, Sarasota Memorial Hospital, the Community Housing Trust, HUD,
Downtown Partnership, Chamber of Commerce, SCOPE, and other interested parties.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Gerri Holmes @ 362-3644 (Landlords)
Jude Levy @ 365-2314 (Tenants)

1 comment:

allspaces said...

A Tenant’s Guide to Renting

The first challenge every tenant faces is finding an apartment for rent that suits their individual needs. For today’s tenant, the most effective apartment search can be done using an online apartment finder. Tenants should decide what they require in an apartment or house rental before beginning their search. For example: the number of bedrooms, location or distance from public transportation and how much the tenant can afford to pay in rent, furnished or unfurnished apartment, etc. By making these important decisions first, tenants can avoid renting an apartment or house only to regret it later. Many tenants today are taking advantage of the convenience of the internet to locate apartments for rent as opposed to the traditional print publications.

Once a possible apartment or home has been found, it is the tenant's duty to thoroughly inspect the premises making a commitment in the form of a security deposit. A tenant should not rely on the landlord or the landlord's agent to tell the tenant if anything is wrong with the property. The tenant must inspect the property carefully and ask questions about it.
Inspecting the condition and functionality of the following areas/features of the apartment before committing yourself as a tenant is highly recommended.
1. Kitchen appliances in working order.
2. Water pressure strong, plumbing without leaks.
3. Electrical outlets and wiring working.
4. Walls and ceiling painted or papered without cracks
5. Ventilation or air conditioning accessible.
6. Floors, railings and bathrooms in good repair.
7. Fire escape easy to use.
8. Stairs safe and well-lighted.
9. No rodents or insects.
10. Heating system in working order.
11. If furnished, check and write down condition of all furniture.
12. Windows and doors operable and weather-tight; screens provided.
The tenant should also check the security of the building to find out if there is a dead-bolt lock, security chain, or through-the-door viewer.
BEWARE OF EXISTING DAMAGES: In order to avoid being blamed for damages that already exist in the rental unit, the cautious tenant should take every step for self-protection. Before moving in (or as soon as possible thereafter), the tenant should make a list of all existing damages and repairs that need to be made. A copy of the list should he presented to the landlord and attached to the lease This way the landlord cannot blame the tenant for damages caused by others and the tenant will know what the landlord intends to repair. If the tenant keeps good records the landlord will not be able to keep the tenant’s security deposit for damages that were actually caused by others. Taking pictures before moving in is also strongly recommended.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Paul Rossano, associated with who “Conveniently Connects All People with All Spaces in All Places” has been dedicated to the Real Estate rental market for over 8 years. He has assisted over 25,000 tenants with their renting needs. Any questions about renting apartments, houses or other rentals, feel free to visit or email him at