I am writing on behalf of the members of the Rockford Apartment Association regarding our concerns with the regulations being proposed as a justification for home rule powers. The Rockford Apartment Association is a not-for-profit organization that provides education to investors in property management. Our group consists of approximately 150 members who operate between 3,500 and 4,000 units. We estimate our members contribute $3,000,000 in annual property tax payments and generate $24,000,000 in annual economic activity. We represent about 20 percent of the total housing units in the city. The housing industry as a whole generates more than $100,000,000 in annual economic activity.
The proposals being made to increase regulations on the housing industry are intended to address problems in specific areas and on a number of investors whom the city contends habitually violate current laws regarding housing. It is our opinion that these laws will have a negative impact on investors citywide, and that they are an inappropriate response to the problem. The problems that exist are due to ineffective public policy already in place. Before looking for expanded powers, we believe government should examine the current regulation and identify areas for improvement
Apartment rentals have declined as mortgages have become easier to obtain. This is the case across the country. In a declining market, there is no opportunity to pass the increased cost of government regulation to the customer. Many other businesses benefit from the economic activity of the apartment industry. We believe that the negative economic impact of these proposals does not justify the intended benefit, and we question whether these proposals would even be effective at all.
The following list of items are intended to offer an alternative point of view to the one held by the proponents of home rule. We hope that as the debate on this subject continues, a more thorough examination of the problems listed below will occur. Our group has worked on these issues before the home rule initiative began, and we intend to continue to pursue a resolution whether home rule is passed or not. If you would like any additional information, please contact the Apartment Association by e-mail through our Web site at www.rockfordapartmentassoc.com or I can be reached at 243-2924.
Rockford Apartment Association
Home Rule and Housing Issues
1) Seize and tear down property
Neighborhoods are about people first. The behavior of people is the cause of crime, noise, and garbage that make a neighborhood unappealing. Rundown and abandoned property is the result of the perception that investment in the property will not show a return. Tearing down abandoned homes quicker does not address the reasons why the property has been abandoned.
2) Additional regulation needed to improve neighborhoods
Rental property is already regulated in regard to property standards and management practices. It is problems with current regulation that discourage investment in blighted areas. Changes should be made to existing laws to address these issues without the need for additional powers. These items include laws involving garbage collection, towing of cars, and restrictions on an owners ability to quickly and cost effectively remove a tenant whose behavior is a detriment to the neighborhood.
3) Additional fines needed to regulate property owners
Public policy needs to recognize that the activity of renting property involves granting control of the property in exchange for a monthly payment. Punitive actions against owners whose control over the property is limited by law do not address the party responsible for the problem. Public policy should be formed with the intent of creating a sense of accountability for the tenant.
4) The need for housing inspections
Additional regulation such as housing inspections to address problem areas would affect property citywide. It is not necessary to impose additional regulation and the increased expense in areas where problems do not exist.
5) Governments focus on regulation, not cooperation
Policy-makers need to recognize that government is an integral part of the housing business. Laws need to focus on creating an environment where clean, well-run property is likely to succeed. There are many people who try to invest in problem areas with the best of intentions but fail because of the current system. Increased fines and regulation will not address that issue.
6) Good bye crack house?
Drug houses should be addressed by focusing on removing the tenants quickly because of the nuisance problems caused by the residents. Waiting until there is a drug raid and then seizing the property from the owner takes months, is unfair to the owner who was most likely not involved, and just moves the problem from location to location.
7) Give property owners the power to effect change
The county should address lease violation evictions separate from evictions for non-payment of rent. The inability to pay is usually due to loss of employment or medical problems. Lease violations are willful acts and should quickly be addressed. This one change could have the most significant effect on drug houses and other quality of-life-issues.
From the Dec. 21-27, 2005, issue