Sunday, December 20, 2015

Inconsistent, Overreaching Housing Authority Inspections Lead Real Estate Investors To Stop Renting To Section 8 Tenants, Say Some Columbus-Area Landlords

In Columbus, Ohio, The Columbus Dispatch reports:
  • Some Columbus-area landlords say inconsistent and overreaching inspections of Section 8 rentals are scaring away property owners.

    “We’ve seen (Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority) inspectors and the culture in general deteriorate,” said local property manager Peter Lohmann. “The goal is to have low-income folks have a safe place to live.

    “They’re scaring away quality landlords. Inspectors are too empowered.”

    The housing authority administers the Section 8 housing-voucher program that subsidizes rents for low-income residents in privately owned housing.

    So far this year, 339 landlords have joined the program while 442 have left, said Ron Lebsock, the authority’s senior vice president of housing programs. He said those numbers don’t concern him.

    “I think it’s normal attrition where people come and go out of the program,” Lebsock said. “I don’t think it’s dissatisfaction.”

    But Betsy Liska, president of the Ohio Landlord Association, said there are inconsistencies among inspectors, and that and other problems are causing some property owners to opt out of low-income housing.

    “It’s getting really difficult for my investors to continue with Section 8 because of problems to get (housing authority) people to call us back,” said Mitch Deminski, whose Solutions for Real Estate owns or manages as many as 40 Section 8 units in town, about half in the Linden area.

    Eleven housing organizations formed the Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio this year with a goal of adding 27,000 affordable apartments in the area in the next decade.

    Amy Klaben, executive director of the nonprofit developer Homeport, which is part of the alliance, said she would be concerned if landlords are opting out.

    “As rents are rising, it would mean fewer options for people in our community,” Klaben said. “ And it would make the housing need greater.”

    The alliance said 54,000 households in central Ohio lack safe and affordable housing.

    Bryan Brown, the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority’s chief operating officer, said the agency has performed more than 20,000 inspections this year. Of those, 65 percent of properties passed the first time.

    Authority officials have participated in a meeting with the Ohio Landlord Association once this year to address questions and are willing to do so again, he said. “We try to maintain good communication with our valued landlord partners,” Brown said.

    But Liska said that too often one inspector finds one problem while the next finds another.

    Deminski said one inspector found 16 things that needed to be fixed at a house his company manages in South Linden. The next inspector found an additional 13. Now, the owner doesn’t want to deal with Section 8 anymore and “the place is still empty,” Deminski said.

    Liska said that she owns two properties where tenants use Section 8 vouchers. “I just understand that this is part of it,” she said of the discrepancies in inspections. “I just go with it.”

    Lohmann, who manages rental properties, said he doesn’t own any Section 8 units and has no plans to do so. “I never would be, based on clients’ experiences,” he said.

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