What is proposed in Residents First?
What code enforcement efforts need to be addressed
Expand the Rental Registration base to include public housing - owned properties and identify and require RAD conversion properties.
The Problem: Rental Registration does not cover units owned by the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority. Also-CMHA units which have been transferred to private ownership through the RAD program should be covered. Are they? Sally Martin O'Toole comments suggest that the status of rental registration for CMHA is unclear. "they have been a good actor for us we've been working with them especially on let's say things and they've been very very cooperative and very compliant."
CLASH offers three recommendations:
Disclose any documents supporting the "working relationship between CMHA and City of Cleveland regarding housing and health code enforcement.
Make CMHA units subject to Rental Registration and Certificate of occupancy.
Create a non profit organization to manage relocation of displaced tenant households
The problem: Cleveland lacks emergency safety net for families displaced by lead hazards. Every year Building and Housing brings in more revenue than it spends. The excess goes to the General Fund that supports all the city agencies. When asked about retaining revenue, Director Martin-O'Toole called the concept a "hot potato" and Council member Kris Harsh says that changing the City charter to permit B&H to retain revenue is a "decades old debate."
CLASH offers three recommendations
Residents First ordinance should create nonprofit organization to administer city funds that can be used for displacement assistance. Funding sources would be a portion of fines paid by landlords for non-compliance with housing code violations. The existing public private partnership, LSCC, could be used for this purpose if this program were controlled by the City and subject to Ohio's public records requirements. Alternatively LSCC could volunarily donate funds to the city-controlled non-profit.
Department of Community Development should implement a Housing Assistance Task Force of city-funded housing agencies to develop relocation resources for families displaced by code enforcement. This legislation has already passed in ordinance 747-19...but was never implemented. Contracts between DCD and CDCs can be amended to include specific services to be provided as a part of a City Contract.
Strengthen enforcement efforts on properties with Lead Hazard Control Orders (LHCOs).
The problem. There are currently XXX properties in Cleveland with outstanding LHCO. Many are vacant, vandalized and poisoning the surrounding he properties. Others could be rehabbed if they can be transferred to responsible owners.So far the city has only taken baby steps to "crack down" on owners of LHCO properties.
Increase the penalties for owners who fail to comply with LHCOs. Right now there is no penalty for non compliance and no incentives to get work done promptly
Cleveland Law Department create a plan to initiate civil nuisance actions against properties which have outstanding LHCOs.
Department of Community Development should reach out to residents of LHCO properties to offer relocation assistance to renters in LHCO properties. This function could be carried out by CDC's which receive funding from the Department of Community Development.
Department of Community Development provide training to CDCs and local entrepreneurs to become receivers who can manage nuisance properties. Chicago does it.
Expand resident participation in code enforcement
The problem: It is ironic that tenants have not been directly involved in plans for Residents First legislation. In a webinar held by CSU on September 23, 2023, Director Martin-O'Toole disclosed that "I'm also convening a realtor roundtable again something I had done for many years in South Euclid I talked to my good friend...Akil Hamid who is now the the president of the National Association of Realtors and he's a realtor that has been on the Southeast side of Cleveland." Later in response to a question about tenant involvement in the planning process, the Director name checked Phil Star "he's always very vocal for tenants" and stated that "Zach Germanek has one of our main people on the group as well has really represented a number of tenants, especially in the Slavic Village area. She also cited "all the work we've been doing with the moreland's group in Shaker Square on the city has filed for receivership actions in that area on apartment buildings with derelict owners we've been meeting with tenants regularly so our belief is that this package of legislation is going to benefit tenants quite directly...." (edited for clarity from webinar transcript)
Building and Housing should convene regular meetings with tenants in the same way that they hold regular meetings with the real estate industry.
Building and Housing should expand tenant complaint process to permit online complaint process by text or email. Tenant filing a virtual complaint should receive copies of notices to landlords including copies of violation notices related to their rental unit or common areas in their buildings.
Violation notices sent to landlords and copied to tenants should include the guidance in Codified Ordinance Section 240.9 which requires the use of lead safe practices in remediating code complaints.
Applications for Lead Safe Certification should include documentation that a tenant has been given Lead Disclosure information required in Codified Ordinance Section 240.6.
Building and Housing should create a reliable way for tenants and homeseekers to identify the status of a rental property including rental registration, lead safe certification, occupancy status, and local agent in charge. This information should be available online, in person, and by mail.