By Heiner Giese, AASEW Legal Counsel
First, an important correction to my January report: I had said that Emergency Rent Assistance funds were likely to run out this spring but Connor Goggans of Milwaukee County Housing Division advises that funds should be available through summer. Here is his info on the situation:
SDC/City of Milwaukee and Community Advocates/County of Milwaukee have enough ERA 2 to last thru at least most of the summer, and it is very possible County will last a bit longer than that.
Further, despite ERA, Milwaukee County will always maintain our own Eviction Prevention Program for those with rent assistance.
Of course, this is not enough, as it does not serve most renters in Milwaukee County without rent assistance … but for landlords with rent assistance households, eviction prevention financial assistance will remain an option through that program.
This will be paired with our long-awaited landlord engagement programming and financial incentives that will finally get off the ground this year (we were able to see that we hire dedicated staff for landlord engagement again this year, but are scaling the effort and have a framework for a team, instead of just one person).
Second, the City’s ZND Committee (Zoning, Neighborhoods, and Development) has again delayed any action on a proposed ordinance to require all rental properties to carry insurance.
I appeared at a hearing on January 31 to point out the flaws in this proposal. The Dept. of Neighborhood Services had reservations because of administrative costs.
Another drawback for the City is that Milwaukee would have to purchase insurance coverage for the approximately 300 rental units (non public housing) which it owns and manages.
Third, DNS (Department of Neighborhood Services) Commissioner Erica Roberts presented the outline of a pilot program to do targeted inspections for substantial health or safety issues in rentals in sub-neighborhoods of the 53206 zip code.
This would be legal if the inspections are limited but the cost of $400,000 to hire two inspectors and clerical help could not be charged to owners. However, some money could be raised from noncompliance fees.
Fourth, the meetings with the County Court’s eviction diversion liaisons are starting up again in February. We are looking at ways to promote early mediation.
Gov. Evers will surely have a number of housing provisions in his budget proposal being announced mid-February. The Republican leadership in the Assembly and Senate is seeking input from owners and tenant advocates on issues which might get bipartisan support. We’ll keep you advised of these developments.
The big news was The White House Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights announced in late January. A fact sheet can be found here. It sets forth five “Principles”:
- Safe, Quality, Accessible, and Affordable Housing
- Clear and Fair Leases
- Education, Enforcement, and Enhancement of Renter Rights: Federal, state, and local governments should do all they can to ensure renters know their rights and to protect renters from unlawful discrimination and exclusion.
- The Right to Organize: Renters should have the freedom to organize.
- Eviction Prevention, Diversion, and Relief: Renters should be able to access resources that help them avoid eviction, ensure the legal process during an eviction proceeding is fair, and avoid future housing instability.
Various federal agencies such as Consumer Protection or the FTC will study and “promote renter protections” and set “limits on egregious rent increases.”
On the topic of evictions they propose that 30 days notice should be given for nonpayment and that “eviction case filings should immediately be sealed.” Tenants should have the right to counsel in all evictions. HUD is already awarding $20M in 2023 for that purpose.