Southwest Partnership Housing Committee
8.9.18 Meeting Minutes

Diana Geis, Chair (Barre Circle)
Sonia Eddy (Poppleton)
George Kleb (Bon Secours)
Suzanne Welch (CPDC)
Daniel Rodenburg (Union Square)
Nancy McCormick (Mt Clare)
Jake Booher
Jonathan Law
Nicole Orr
Kintira Barbaur
Carrie Basniszewski
Troy Wilson
Linda Loubert
Kimberly Sheridan
Andrea Coccia Mickens
Monica Purnell
Eric Rice
Nathan Micken
Fritzz Pon
Cythia Tensley
Pia Watkins
Lou Packett
Melody McCreary
Tony Scott

1) Introductions. Tony Scott is now working with Michael Seipp at SWP.

2) New licensing law for multi-family licensing and single and two-family unit homes licensing.

Councilmember John Bullock (District 9) introduced Councilmember Bill Henry(District 4) (Bill.Henry@baltimorecity.gov). John Bullock is chairman of the Housing Committee. They both share a deep interest in housing. Councilmember Bill Henry introduced the new bill, City Council Bill 18-0185, which calls for licensing and registration of all rental properties. Basically, the bill licenses one and two-bedroom units for the first time but also changes the licensing requirements for all rental properties in the City. In Baltimore, you can find affordable housing, but it is in very poor unsafe condition. The reasoning behind the bill is to protect and preserve other housing in the community from being or becoming substandard housing. The legislation establishes three tiers of licensing depending on how well the property is maintained. If you have repeated violations, the landlord’s license could be revoked. Councilmember Henry said that he needs members of the community to report issues to aid with enforcement. There is a non-owner occupied registry that will require properties to be registered to be licensed. If you already must do a Section 8 inspection, you can submit that inspection report instead of a private inspection report. The check list is on the HABC website.

There will be no additional fee for the license. The registry has a fee. Landlords will need to pay for the inspection to get the licenses. Inspections will be tiered based upon condition. The license must be obtained before Jan. 1, 2019. Everyone will be issued a two-year license at first. In fall of 2020, depending on the condition of the property you would be eligible for a 3-year, 2-year or 1-year license. Vacant lots are not covered in the violation process. Inspection fees will be with the inspection. The inspectors will be licensed home inspectors from the State and the management company will contact them to arrange the inspections. The landlord pays them whatever they charge. One non-profit is looking to turn this into a jobs program. The bill changes the process for the multifamily operators (like for Hollins House). Under the previous program, the City did the inspections and did not charge an inspection fee. The multifamily property now must contract for the same private home inspectors. The City inspectors will do audit and quality control behind private inspections.

Are there any protections from landlords raising rents in a retaliatory fashion due to complaints? There is nothing currently in place to prevent rapid rises in rents due to reinvestment in the properties.

Why is the time limit to comply only 4 months? The answer is that it was just a function of the timing for passage of the bill to fit the process into a calendar year. What has the City have in place for tenants displaced by rent increases? As this process proceeds, if problems arise, the City Council may provide an extension if all landlords are engaged and the inspections aren’t getting done.

Attendees commented that decent safe housing is a good idea. What about enforcing some of the existing regulations rather than adding new ones and raising the cost with the cost of the licensing and private home inspectors. Won’t this result in taxes going up to preserve more affordable housing? Why can’t the process just rely on tenants to report problems. The problem is that type of process doesn’t protect all tenants.

Councilman Bullock has a bill that raise about $13 million a year for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Henry thinks a couple of million should be available at maybe forgivable grants to help small landlord bring properties up to code.

If you are in areas where landlords are over charging, is there a way to somehow put a cap on what rent can be charged until the area improves. No. He doesn’t think the City Council is working on rent control for Baltimore. He is not sure that the market is strong enough to warrant rent control. Over 30% of the housing units in Baltimore City are subsidized in some way. This raises the issue of putting more money of the City’s money into more subsidized units. For Baltimore metropolitan area (including the surrounding counties), $90,000 is the Area Median Income (AMI). Families of 4 earning $54,000 are at 60% AMI. Baltimore City’s median income is $50,000.

What about the landlord who decides to abandon the property, and there becomes a vacant building problem? There needs to be more State support for Baltimore’s vacant building problem. There is an idea of forming a CDC to fix them up, but there needs to be money to make this work. There may be a way to leverage foundation or preservation funding to help renovate the vacant properties.

One landlord commented that they support the legislation but said the Jan. 1, 2019 date is a problem. People don’t know enough about compliance. No mailing has come out to make people aware of this, even for a landlord with multiple properties. He indicated that HABC stated that they have already done a mailing. Councilmember Henry asked to be provided with names of emails of who hasn’t been notified.

What do we do if someone signed up as a homestead property, but it turns out that the property is rented out. The state maintains the data base and the City has no control over it.

A FAQ and Baltimore City Rental License Inspection Form will be scanned and distributed to the SWP Housing Committee. The Baltimore City office of SDAT needs to take on enforcement. He encouraged us to write our State representative.

What is the City going to do about the over the counter taxes at tax sales? Is the City going to work with investors to get these properties? He asks that the questioner follow up with an email.

Michael asked that there are issues that since 2001 the City will not use eminent domain unless it benefits large developers. The current answer is that there are two tools- tax sale and receivership. If we wanted to pursue eminent domain, we need to convince our Council people.

3) Review of July Minutes. The July minutes were approved.

4) Tax Sales/Auctions. The Mt. Clare Community Association has been documenting a landlord that purchased properties and documenting his behavior for renovating without building permits. HABC is now making him bring the properties up to code. He also owns Pigtown properties that weren’t registered.

The bad news on the 202 tax sale certificates not put out for public auction, the city attorneys removed them from the process altogether and didn’t put them back in the tax sale. They cannot sell the certificates now. We wanted them out of the auction and assigned to SWP. What they thought was that SWP wanted them removed from the tax sale. There is a slim chance that they can be put back in the sale. John Bullock was made aware of what happened. There are now 23 properties in Mt. Clare that will go to Homes Free USA initially and then go to smaller developers to redevelop.

We are still waiting on a date for the Franklin Square.

5) CORE Submissions. $8.5 million total was submitted. These covered the Pigtown, Mt. Clare and Frankin Square Homeownership Zones, Habitat for Humanity (Saratoga and Mount), Bruce Street (300 block), W. Baltimore Street (1100 block demo, and acquisition of 1108,06 and 22 and Lord Baltimore Theatre) and acquisition and renovation of 1506,08,21,23,25, and 27 of West Baltimore St. for a mixed-use development.

6) SWP Palooza. Saturday, September 29th from 3-7 pm followed by a movie night. Michael wants Housing Committee to promote its efforts. SWP wants to highlight its projects and have neighborhoods with tables. Use it as a volunteer recruitment opportunity. Elected officials will be present.

7) HABC Survey (Due August 15th) http://www.surveymonkey.com/r/habc. Pleased fill out the survey.

8) Old Business. No old business.

9) New Business. None.

a) EPA is taking public comments on asbestos usage in roofing to try to be less restrictive to allow it to be allowable for new construction and allow existing asbestos roofing to stay in place. We are encouraged to comment and write to the EPA.

Notes by Suzanne Welch