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How Can Cities Address the Affordable Housing Crisis

A few weeks ago I wrote about the prospect of the repeal of Costa-Hawkins act in California.  This measure is being pushed by tenant rights groups claiming it will help with affordable housing.  Although I do believe there is an affordable housing crisis, I do believe that the repeal of Costa-Hawkins  would only be a short term relief and significantly hurt affordable housing in the long term.  So what can cities do to address the affordable housing crisis? Cities have many tools available to them, and if utilized correctly can significantly positively impact the affordable housing market.  It boils down to simple economics, if a developer can build affordable housing, and make money doing so, then they will.  How can cities promote the development?  It starts first with the approval process.  After the cost of land and actual hard construction costs, the time cost and soft costs are the highest expenses for a developer.  The city of Dallas did this earlier last year.  They passed measures to streamline the process to construct affordable housing.  By streamlining local administrative review of plans, and lowering the costs of permits they have made it easier for developers to develop low income housing.  With faster approval processes and lower costs affordable housing becomes that much more attractive to a developer.  Another benefit for streamlining the process is that it minimizes the risk to a developer, and like any other investment development is a risk vs. reward calculation, with lower risk translating to lower demand for r......
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Don't Let the Sign Police Outsmart You- Know Your Sign Code!

We all know that sign code enforcers love to catch us trying to advertise our properties! When I leased for CLASS in the late 90's, most of our clients were under the belief that they really couldn't do much advertising with temporary signage and balloons. It was our job to educate the client and ourselves on the code and rethink how we work around what is permitted/not permitted.  Over the years sign code has closed some of the loopholes we found, but there are still some there if you are savvy enough to find them. We recommend becoming familiar with your sign code and keeping a copy saved to your desktop. Code enforcers take advantage of the fact that most properties are unaware of what their sign code says. Back in the day, we used to put a banner on our rental car and tie balloons to the antenna to attract drive by traffic. We've used bubble machines in Orlando, FL (strictest sign code EVER), purchased the largest American flags allowed by code (they could be seen from the interstate!), and lined the wrought iron fence with red, white, and blue buntings. There is a way around pretty much any code, if you just look hard enough. I challenge each of you to peruse your local sign code and come up with a few ways to advertise your community using temporary signage, balloons, sign spinners, etc. It is as easy as 1-2-3! 1. To find your code, visit Municode.com and click on the red library tab at......
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Why Repealing Costa Hawkins Will Only Hurt Affordable Housing

There has been much talk in the news of the tenant advocate groups receiving enough signatures to add a measure in this November’s ballot to repeal Costa-Hawkins.  The Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act is a California state law enacted in 1995 that placed limits on local rent control ordinances.  Costa-Hawkins did not outlaw rent control, but instead placed two main limits to municipalities that had/have rent control:  1) It exempted certain types of buildings from rent control (Single Family Residences, Condominiums and new construction), and 2) it instituted vacancy decontrol (whereby the rents of a unit subject to rent control could be brought up to market rate upon a resident moving out. Citing that Costa-Hawkins is responsible for high rents in California is the mantra of the tenant advocate groups.   Unfortunately, this is not the case.  High rents boil down to one simple economic fact…   supply and demand.  When supply outweighs demand we see a decrease in prices, conversely when demand outweighs supply prices will increase.  Currently demand for housing outweighs the critical supply, causing a dramatic increase in rents.  Repealing Costa-Hawkins may have a short term effect of slowing rent growth, but ultimately will cause higher rents and less options for tenants. Why is this?  Well, if developers cannot get market rate rents on new developments, or on properties that are repositioned, then they are disincentivized to build new developments or put in capital improvements in older properties.  This will cause a supply issue where demand is continuing to grow.  Also, in......
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What You Need To Know About The Rent Control Measure.

The Affordable Housing Act which was presented by Assemblymembers Richard Bloom and David Chiu as AB 1506, died in the Assembly’s housing committee earlier in the month. Now a new proposed ballot measure plans to repeal the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act. Costa-Hawkins Act, the state law which more directly effects 5 of the 15 California cities with rent control, applies to large housing developments built prior to 1995 and does not include single-family homes, condos, and duplexes. Currently, in these markets, the landlord has the right to raise rents upon a tenant moving out and second, prevents the capping of rent on units constructed after February 1995. In Los Angeles City, rent control is applied to units constructed prior to October 1979, under the Rent Stabilization Ordinance, and yearly increases are capped at 3 to 8 percent (as set by the Rent Control Board) for the controlled units.   As a self-described union for renters, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), filed the paperwork along with Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Citing that California is facing a growing demand for affordable housing, a rise in homelessness and the historic housing crisis is pushing out low- and middle-income renters out, at times even in cities with some rent control. Supporters like the ACCE, say they have been gathering signatures easily, as people are expressing enthusiasm for the proposed November ballot. They have already collected 100,000 signatures, of the total 365,880 signatures needed by June to qualify for the ballot.   Critics like the California A......
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The Effects Of The Blockchain On Real Estate

  Blockchain is an emerging technology which will transform the way we buy, sell and lease real estate. “A blockchain is a digitized, decentralized, public ledger of all cryptocurrency transactions. Constantly growing as ‘completed’ blocks (the most recent transactions) are recorded and added to it in chronological order.  It allows market participants to keep track of digital currency transactions without central recordkeeping. Each node (a computer connected to the network) gets a copy of the blockchain, which is downloaded automatically. Originally developed as the accounting method for the virtual currency Bitcoin, blockchains – which use what’s known as distributed ledger technology (DLT) – are appearing in a variety of commercial applications today. Currently, the technology is primarily used to verify transactions, within digital currencies though it is possible to digitize, code and insert practically any document into the blockchain. Doing so creates an indelible record which cannot be changed; furthermore, the record’s authenticity can be verified by the entire community using the blockchain instead of a single centralized authority.” (1) Real estate will not be passed over when it comes to the blockchain disruption either. There will be a need for education in order to transition from the current standard analog norms into the digital space for high value assets such as real estate. Blockchain technology introduces smart contracts on its platform. This allows assets like real estate to be tokenized, and be traded in the same vain as cryptocurrencies, like bitcoin and others. You will be able track all information on real estate,......
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The Americans with Disabilities Act for Landlords And Property Managers

The Americans with Disabilities Act, commonly known as “ADA” is a federal civil-rights law protecting the rights of people with disabilities. The ADA places guidelines for access to: Employment State and local government programs, services and buildings Access to places of public accommodation such as businesses, transportation, and non-profit service providers Telecommunications George Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990; standing left to right Reverend Harold Wilkie, Sandra Parrino of the National Council on Disability; seated left to right, Evan Kemp, Chairman of the Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission, George Bush, Justin Dart, Chairman of the ‘s Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities. Washington DC, USA, 26 July 1990. (Photo by Fotosearch/Getty Images). The scope of the law is fairly broad and addresses many of the obstacles affecting the participation of people with disabilities within society. Many of the ADA’s civil rights protections parallel the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the protections it established for racial, religious minorities and women. Occasionally, management companies may be faced with a lawsuit for non-compliance with ADA laws.  These compliance problems are usually preventable as many times they result from violations which stem from the lack of proper guidelines, policies, procedures, and/or practices regarding accessibility. Implementing current policies can go a long way toward avoiding the expense associated with ADA lawsuits. As owners, landlords, managers, and tenants can be jointly and severally liable in the event of non-compliance. Making it important to ensure you have safe practices in place to address......
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Not All Tenant Screening is Created Equally

You can’t always predict who will be a good tenant, but past behavior often indicates future behavior. Whether you’re a landlord, a property manager, or a real estate agent, you should be doing everything in your power to protect yourself from the hassle of dealing with bad tenants and bringing unwanted tenants into your community as they can be can be both time-consuming and financially destructive. Tenant screening can be handled in a few different ways, and one screening process is not always as successful as another. Making your decision solely on price can be a mistake, as many companies bypass certain steps in order to keep prices low. Here are some things you should know before deciding how to handle screening in the future.   Many companies advertise no on-site inspection for their tenant screening; however, you should know that these inspections are required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. While these companies can offer some valuable information about your tenant’s past, they are not providing full credit reports. Instead, these companies access public data to compile an independent score that only partially represents your tenant’s history. These companies tend to offer the cheapest prices, but at the expense of legality and comprehensive information. Many companies require the tenant to initiate the transaction. While this practice isn’t inherently problematic, it can cause certain problems. For one, because it requires tenant initiation, time can become an issue. In this scenario, the property manager loses some of the control. In some instances it also prevents ......
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LEASING TIPS AND DON'T FORGET TO FOLLOW UP!

LEASING TIPS AND DON'T FORGET TO FOLLOW UP!
  Leasing Tips & How To Follow Up’s: With so many online, social media, and other software’s out there now, how do you keep up with it all? Start out by keeping an inbox folder on your email identified as Online Leads. You will have all ILS and email leads centralized for reference if needed. One of the largest parts of your online presence will be how and where your community is presented. The largest part of your leasing tool kit is your People, Product, and Perception. Even down to the vendor who hosted a resident or staff party or luncheon.  You get your leads via email, or by looking on your ILS sites. First things first, enter them into your system. Don't wait!!! Again, I repeat DON'T WAIT! Enter them as a prospect by their online or email requests you will potentially know what their name is, their email, phone number, what size apartment they are looking for in addition to their price range. If their phone number is listed, guess what… they want you to call them! Call them from your office phone and not your cell. It takes out the confusion and prevents liabilities.    Smile when You Dial!  Smiling when you are dialing a phone number or answering a call, puts you in the mood to consult! Smile when you dial that phone number. At this point your greatest priority is to schedule a time for the prospective resident to see your community! Remember you are in control of th......
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Tiny housing making big impact on combating homelessness in America

The fight to end homelessness in this country is a massive undertaking. About 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness each year, according to the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. Alleviating this problem in a meaningful way will surely require a multi-faceted effort involving federal, state and local governments, non-profits and the private sector. Here's one possible component of the solution to this giant issue: tiny homes. Across the U.S., organizations are using tiny houses and apartment homes, which typically range from 100 square feet to 500 square feet, to provide shelter for the homeless. For instance, the nonprofit American Family Housing recently opened Potter's Lane, a 16-unit community in Midway City, Calif., to house homeless vets. The property features 480-square-foot apartment homes made from energy-efficient shipping containers. Across the country, in Newfield, N.Y., the nonprofit Second Wind Cottages, relying heavily on donated materials and volunteer labor, built a community of 12 tiny homes that house homeless men. Residents pay rent as they are able to help defray the community's operating expenses. Other examples of similar communities include the Tiny House Village in Seattle and the Community First! Village in Austin, Texas. Advocates of these developments note that they are comparatively cheap to build, and constructions costs often are further mitigated through the use of materials and labor supplied for free by area businesses and residents. Can the multifamily industry incorporate tiny apartment homes for the homeless into their communities? It's certainly something to think about. With its ample resources and......
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Fair housing future? Colorado court hints at direction of fair housing laws in Trump era

Aside from a few negative comments made last year during the presidential campaign, there has been very little indication of where Secretary Ben Carson and the Trump administration will take federal fair housing policy in the future. A recent decision by the US District Court in Denver, Colorado, however, indicates that, regardless of what the Trump administration does, courts and state legislatures may step in to pick up the slack in fair housing enforcement. In Smith v. Avanti (Civil Action No. 16-cv-00091-RM-MJW), Judge Raymond Moore addressed fair housing claims asserted by a couple, one of whom is a transgender woman, seeking to rent a townhouse. The couple had two minor children. After meeting with the couple and touring the property, the owner notified them that she would not rent the townhouse to the couple, citing the couple’s “unique relationship” and possible noise caused by their children. In response, the Smiths filed a complaint, alleging that the owner violated provisions of the Fair Housing Act (FHAct) that prohibit discrimination on the basis of familial status and sex, and under Colorado’s fair housing law, which also prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and familial status. In his decision, issued on April 5, 2017, Judge Moore concluded that under Tenth Circuit precedent, the FHAct’s prohibition on the basis of sex could not be read to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. As a result, discrimination based solely on a person’s status as a transgender person does not constitute discrimination on the basis of se......
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