With student landlord out of the way, City Council to cast eye on other large landlords

City Councilor Tito Jackson (Roxbury) wants to take a look at the role large landlords are playing in forcing longtime residents out of the city.

On Wednesday, Jackson will ask fellow councilors for a hearing to consider "displacement, community stability and neighborhood preservation."

In his hearing request, Jackson writes:

The foreclosure crisis and the surge of residential housing conversion by corporate landlords backed by investors are causing displacement and community instability.

Corporate landlords and investors have a great interest in making tremendous profit from buying bank-owned housing stock and being absentee owners.

In effect, these absentee owners - such as City Realty - who are disconnected from the community, force neighboring long-term homeowners out of their homes, raise rent prices to unreasonable amounts, and ignore their duty to repair uninhabitable conditions

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Hello Tito Jackson.

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Hello Tito Jackson.
You just landed on my political radar sir.
That's quite an interesting proposition.

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What proposition?

He has made no proposal at all. All he's doing is whining. Hey, it's great that he'd like to do something to help people out, but if you don't come up with some type of way to approach the problem, all you are is a whiner.
Besides, that his job - come up with answers to problems.
So far, he's done nothing.

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Inspectional Services

The Boston Globe series made is clear that the major part of the problem rests on Inspectional Services and their total and complete lack of competency. They don't inspect when they should and when they do there's no follow up. They even lack a computerized system and still use paper records!

I like Tito but the solution isn't hearings, it's cleaning house in Inspectional Services and putting them on the fast track to standardized, searchable, computerized system. Once that's complete re-work the laws so that a landlord loses the right to rent after X violations in Y years.

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You have no idea how

You have no idea how backwards and incompetent many ISD employees are. There are employees there who are entrenched and untouchable.

A modernization of ISD would require the mayor to go in and clean house. Can't figure out the new system? Bye! Can't be bothered with using it? Bye!

As far as I know, though, the inspectors are pretty much above being bribed. I wouldn't argue if someone had evidence of a different reality, but from what I saw it was pretty much impossible to bribe one of these guys.

ETA: I'm not disagreeing with BostonDog, I think an overhaul is needed and is long overdue. I thought perhaps that was why the mayor brought in Bryan Glascock as commissioner of that department, but obviously that didn't work out. But, given the culture in that department, combined with 20 years of a technophobe as mayor, an overhaul isn't as simple as buying a few computer terminals and installing some software. There is also the added need to digitize any archival materials, which would require a significant investment on the part of the city--something which doesn't go over that well.

Nope.

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It's possible to raise awareness on an issue without having a nice, neat solution to present to you on a silver platter. That's not the way the world works.

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Um, it's a PROPOSAL for a

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Um, it's a PROPOSAL for a HEARING. You know, a meeting where folks discuss problems and possible solutions to them? At least he's doing something other than complaining on the internet.

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He's filed an order for

He's filed an order for hearing on the matter. That's called a first step. The Council has limited actual power, this is one of the few things they can do initially to bring attention to something. Legislation doesn't come out of nowhere without some hearings etc. first.

Tito Jackson investigating landlords..

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Kudos! Tito. More City Council members need to do something about that issue, but absentee landlords who don't invest some of their profits/rent yearly back into their buildings and to adhere to the policies and MGL's. Instead, there are no inspections, no accountability, and tenants have to tolerate crumbling and disrepair ed living conditions. Btw, courts are not on the tenants side. Keep up the good work Tito!

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It's lingering fall out from the recession.

The piles of poorly secured slob loans were bundled into mortgage backed securities and the implosion of those is what killed things like Lehman Bros.

So many of the big upstream banks left holding these bags began to work with their counterpart bag holders in the huge corporate real estate world to start buying these foreclosures up by the bucket load through the auction process in order to clear balance sheets and make these properties perform.

While I can't say with any certainty, I'd bet this was a massive transfer of wealth and is a major fulcrum for all the luxury cheer leading in these parts.

section 8

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the discussion should also include section 8 and how that program isn't working for the neighborhoods heavily section 8'd. the program needs a work or education component to get people off section 8 at some point in their lives. Over the last five years the hated corporate landlords have bought up foreclosures that used to be owner occupied and are now renting them back to section 8 occupants to collect the guaranteed rent every month! I used to own a condo in Dorchester - in a 15 unit building. In 2007 there were 9 of 15 owner occupied and I sold last week there were 4 owned occupied.....landlords charge what the market will pay...and section 8 is affecting the market.

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Serious question: are you

Serious question: are you saying that Section 8 drives up rents? I've never heard that charge about the program before.

If I were a landlord, I would think long and hard about renting to a Section 8 tenant. I'm not saying that they're all bad, but once you put up your hand you've got to take whomever comes through the door. There was a landlord with a few houses in my neighborhood who rented to Section 8 tenants. The good tenants never lasted long in those buildings, leaving the neighborhood with people who really didn't care. For him, I think the big benefit was not needing to put a dime back into the houses.

Yes section 8 increases demand

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If section 8 were eliminated all those enrolled with limited resources couldn't afford to rent an apartment on their own and would decrease demand....Some would leave the area...Some would move in with friends but most wouldn't be renting an apartment thus decreasing demand in the less expensive areas currently able to be covered by a section 8 voucher. This would create some social issues but rents in areas highly section 8 may become lower.

THIS WRAPPED UP IN ONE WORD IS CALLED GENTRIFICATION!!

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They're are trying to take us out of the communities because of all wealthy folks who work in Boston, but have to commute an hour daily because as of now and for a while Boston neighborhoods such as grove hall have been undesirable to them. With all of this new development people who have been in these communities for years people are being moved out to the Charlestown projects. And more "affluent" (white) people are trying to move back into Boston because most of the crime is getting shipped out to Brighton and Charlestown and with all of this new development in Boston these people who now commute for an hour from their lovely homes in Taunton or wherever will now be the only ones able to afford the rent in Boston. THEYRE MOVING US OUT AND MOVING IN. FOR THEIR CONVENIENCE.

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I'm a bit confused about something

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You wrote

And more "affluent" (white) people are trying to move back into Boston because most of the crime is getting shipped out to Brighton and Charlestown

Haven't Brighton and Charlestown been a part of Boston since 1874?

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Cambridge will

accept them as the city motto is"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Taunton isn't so lovely. Many

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Taunton isn't so lovely. Many affluent people of different races already live in Boston. Crime has been shipped out? There has always been crime in Charlestown, Brighton and other parts of Boston, I wouldn't say it was shipped anywhere. A lot of people moved to the suburbs to get more bang for their buck and pay less, not bc they are wealthier.

Contrarian

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Don't we want foreclosed homes to be purchased and filled, even if it is with renters paying rent to a corporation? Isn't that superior to vacant housing?

As for the sweeping generalizations:

"Force neighboring long-term homeowners out of their homes" - How's that work? Are these evil corporations putting guns to homeowners' heads, making offers they can't refuse?

"Raise rent prices to unreasonable amounts" - Landlords charge what the market will bear. You don't set rents so high no one will move in. If the rent is too high, the landlord will lower it. That's the free market.

"Ignore their duty to repair uninhabitable conditions" - This is a problem for landlords big and small, best remedied through more inspections and renters speaking up for themselves.

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If only it were so simple.

The number of distressed multi family properties bundled into mortgage backed securities was unprecedented and large money center banks like Bank of America needed lots of taxpayer support in the form of federal reserve guided 'stimulus'.

This averted a broader disaster but it meant windfalls for real estate speculators with enough cash to buy buildings by the bucket load in wham bam thank you bank foreclosure sales and related devices that made the properties orders of magnitude cheaper than what the touted regular joe or small business person could ever dream of getting.

These speculators got lots of back door subsidies as those marginalized neighborhoods began to spike in value so they also enjoyed asset value growth that wasn't blessing your basic West Roxbury homeowner.

So the usual trite market platitudes might apply if the system wasn't so riotously rigged and gamed as any trite anti market lefty platitude would surely tell you.

]i]"Force neighboring long

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]i]"Force neighboring long-term homeowners out of their homes" - How's that work? Are these evil corporations putting guns to homeowners' heads, making offers they can't refuse?[/i]

When their formerly family/professional-filled 'hood becomes a student ghetto around them due to developers and off-site landlords, long-term homeowners start wondering how long they can put up with it.

This is what's happening to my little corner of Mission Hill. Out of six owner-occupied multi-apartment buildings around us, three have been sold to developers and packed with students, and one empty lot has been turned into a 3-apartment (12-occupant) building.

I agree, something needs to be done

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I agree with Mr. Jackson that something needs to be done. As someone who is leaving Boston after 7 years due to increasing rents and no real upkeep, he's on track.
I do think, however, that the Housing Authority has had such limited power over the past decades that nothing short of seizing property from some of these landlords will shake them up. Especially the "slum lords" who make their money on the revolving student base in the city.

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Leaving Boston

Sadly, I may be right behind you. Still, the cost-benefit analysis for me is ending up being a wash with having to get a car and increase commuter rail fares....

This city has fallen...

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...to the wealthy elites who want everything handed to them on a silver platter. The working class is gone, and that suits the upper class just fine since they hate that demographic. The "elites" (call them yuppies or whatever suits you best) don't really care what happens to everyone else as long as the all have their private roof decks and personal parking spaces (even if they have to take street parking away from other residents to get it). And if anyone reading this is feeling remotely offended, I'm probably talking about you.

What?

What do you want? Rent controls? Banning not-already-Boston residents from moving into the city of Boston? Raising taxes on the wealthy and eliminating the taxes on anyone who can show proof they where born within the city limits? You can force builders to only sell below-market priced housing but this won't solve the capacity problem.

Income inequality is a real problem but there is only so much the city government can do within our legal framework. What's your solution? (My solution is better public transportation and density requirements but it still won't prevent prices from going up if people are willing to pay.)

A lot of 'long-time' residents have gotten rich when they decided to sell their property to developers or "yuppies". Go yell at them. When the "yuppies" move in they pay a good deal of taxes and use far fewer services (schools, assistance programs, etc) which is why from an economic point of view they benefit the city as a whole. Socially they are wash.

There seems to be feeling that it's possible to have desirable neighborhoods, short commutes, and guaranteed low rents. Sorry, you only get to pick two.

(For the record I'm a non-yuppie who lives in Medford and knows there is no easy solutions.)

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Well thanks for your tired

Well thanks for your tired contribution that has been repeated hundreds of times before by boring people without a clue and accomplishes absolutely jack shit.

Ok, whatever...

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And thank you for you tired contribution of rudeness and aggression that has been repeated hundreds of times before by boring people without a clue and accomplishes absolutely jack shit.

Bingo

Well put. These are complicated issues and stamping your foot and whining won't solve anything.

A lot of people seem to feel they are owed a low cost apartment somewhere closer to downtown than Roslindale or Hyde Park. Maybe if/when the various second tier universities go under due to competition from online colleges, we'll all be living the dream of low cost housing.

Like they have in Buffalo and Detroit.

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On that note:

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We could institute rent control. It has worked wonders for affordability and housing quality in New York City!

/oh wait

Really? I said all of that?

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I said that people are owed low cost housing? I simply made comments regarding the working class in Boston, or lack thereof. If you feel the need to read into that, then please...carry on.

I hate to play this card

but where do you live?

I live in Roslindale and see plenty of working class folks living here, on my street as well as in Hyde Park and the parts of West Roxbury off of Washington St. Are these people all on unemployment? As far as I can tell we have all types of lower income people from taxi driving immigrants to Section 8 residents to landscaping crew guys, line chefs and cleaning/service people. I don't know if they are all the verge of being priced out of town, but somehow I don't think the people who live around the American Legion Hwy/Hyde Park Ave region are being displaced by yuppies or 'rich' people. My house costs basically the same as it did when we bought it 11 years ago FYI so I don't really see some sinister cabal at work on the middle class housing front either.

When you make vague generalizations like 'The working class is gone, and that suits the upper class just fine since they hate that demographic' don't get offended when people make incorrect assumptions about what your point might be. Honestly that sounds more like Cambridge than Boston on paper.

In a manner of speaking

Your constant insistence that people are somehow owed housing that they can afford in the neighborhoods that they started out in does come off as saying much the same thing.

Here's a solution councilors

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Tell the entire city - here's the deal - (I'm making up the numbers - I'll leave it to them and our friends at the BRA to fill in numbers that are more realistic if these aren't)

1) Tell the entire city we are rezoning such that if fully built out, the city's housing units will increase by 20%.
2) Each neighborhood through local meetings/neighborhood assn. etc. can have input on where the increased density will go obviously subject to final city legislative/agency approval.
3) If you don't come up with a growth plan - the city will do it for you.
4) This process will be revisited every 5-10 years such that there is always room for about 20% growth within the private sector and every damned tiny project doesn't need to go in front of the zoning board or the BRA.

Then step back and let the private sector take over. If there's demand/profit - they will build and supply will be a check on prices. Right now there is such a limit on building in affordable areas it's like threading a needle with mittens on trying to get anything done around here.

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Not A Bad Idea But...

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It needs more work outside the private sector as well. You can build up areas like Brighton or Roslindale or other outlying areas that are considered not dense enough. But such construction needs to be done hand in hand with improved transit for those areas. If the transit is not already in the works as buildings are going up, then it will lag behind the need. Already those areas are under-served by quality transit.

Oh God...

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Now you've gone and opened a can of worms!

(and for the record I agree with you - now if only the powers that be would agree with us!)

But some neighborhoods are desirable

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But some neighborhoods are desirable only because of their lack of density. If you started building five story buildings all over West Roxbury, no one would want to live there.

Planning solves all

If you put them in the right locations, there isn't an issue. Just drive down Centre St. and you'll see most of the buildings are 1-2 stories high. Make a few into 3-4 story buildings with apartments above stores and you've added tons of inventory without cutting down trees and knocking down single family homes. If anything it will improve the 'downtown' district by supporting more restaurants and shops.

Same thing in Roslindale. Putting four apartments where the gas station used to be is adding inventory without impacting anyone other than the one neighbor who complained about shade on her garden (from a building to the NE of her lot).

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Problem solved!

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If you started building five story buildings all over West Roxbury, no one would want to live there.

Well then, no developer is going to ever build those five story buildings then! They wouldn't last long if they tried, if "no one would want to live there" then they wouldn't make any money!

Or is this a case of "nobody goes there, it's too crowded?"

Anyway, as others have detailed, the best way to go about it is to put the five (or more) story buildings close to good transit nodes. So, let's get some serious amount of housing and retail built near Forest Hills, one of the premier bus and train stations in all of New England! And as Vaughn said, let's put housing over retail. Boston's strangely ubiquitous one-story commercial blocks represent a huge amount of wasted opportunity, space that could be turned into much needed housing units without tearing down any existing homes or trees.

In the old days it went without saying. All the older neighborhoods of Boston, including the Back Bay, have housing-over-retail. The phenomenon of single-story retail seems to have popped up in the late nineteenth century, and I feel that it was originally intended to be a temporary situation -- one that turned permanent as zoning kicked in and made redevelopment impossible.

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Not true!

I live in Roslindale and have a decent car so I don't see this quality transit problem. If you're saying we should add another lane to Centre St. to improve traffic flow, I guess that would be a good idea though.

All joking aside, could those local self-powered trains be added on the Needham line from Forrest Hills to West Roxbury? That would be a great addition to the commuter rail or bus to Forrest Hills option, especially if it ran on Saturday and Sunday.

Hopefully next month

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I plan to be at an informal/unofficial community meeting with appropriate city officials to discuss this next month - I can assure you it will come up. Not sure where it will go from there.

Nowhere...

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That's where it will go. Unless, that is, you have dumped money at at their feet. Then, and only then, will you get the results you seek.

Neighborhood Preservation

In Boston, that seems to mean "making some token concessions to long-time residents, so long as they don't solve the real problem".

The real problem being overpriced housing, and a long-term policy of making the city unattractive to families with byzantine school assignment processes and closing/consolidating schools in selected areas of the city.

It's always a good thing when

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It's always a good thing when schools get better. If they do get better in Boston, that will raise housing prices. The solution might be in restricting who can actually buy properties in Boston, or at least limiting the number of properties that non MA residents can own.

Would a restriction on the

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Would a restriction on the purchasing of residential properties in the Boston area to people who actually have residency status in the country or jobs in the state be feasible? It would certainly slow down some of the speculative buy-to-rent that goes on. There's increasingly a number of people all over the world who buy properties in in cities like Boston not to live in, just to rent out. Some sort of restrictions on the number of residential properties that non-residents could own might be a start.

A lot of other cities in America, and countries are much further along in discussing the practice of buy to rent. There's certainly something to be said for localities protecting their resources to try to satisfy some of the local demand first.

The point is that there is

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The point is that there is already so much demand, and prices are already so high, why not put in some limitations to allow some local demand to be filled before allowing non-residents of the state to buy apartments to make a profit? Do you really think that Boston real estate values would lose a tremendous amount of value if we merely put some restrictions in place to allow people with more local ties and who actually live and work in the area to have more of a chance of buying something close to their work?

This is not to say there's an exact restriction or amount yet, just that Boston real estate doesn't need a tremendous amount of demand from far away places to retain much of its value.

Look at some other international cities or cities in other parts of America to see what has happened when there's been few restrictions on people without ties to the area buying properties to rent.

Questions and Observations

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A few years ago I attended a city sponsored seminar for small time landlords. I own one rental unit. Only two people attended. The presenter and I.

The presenter was not surprised only one person showed up. He said that over the past several years the number of small time landlords have declined.

Anyone have thoughts of why that is the case?

I believe that a large number of small time landlords might result in better maintained properties since the landlords could not hide behind campaign contributions and and businesses fronting for them. Would the city benefit by providing incentives to small time landlords?

Another aspect is the fact that the city, theoretically or at least when the BRA is not involved, earns more taxes from rental properties since the property tax exemption is not applied. Is there is a subtle push to put more housing stock into a rental mode?

As for gentrification when I was poor I hated gentrification. Then I discovered I don't have to be poor. Earning a BA helped that along. I will never be rich but I managed to find a job that earns a decent pay.

Finally who are all the people who can afford the rents and mortgages that are "above market." I put that in quotes since market seems to imply one price and yet there is a whole other market that is not equal.

Are they Arab sheiks or Russian oligarchs? Are the seemingly ever expanding private colleges part of the problem? They can build towers of cellular babble all they want but they still are pushing undergrad and graduate students into non-student housing, driving up rates and pushing out residents who do not have parents who can pay their way.

this is the most un-american

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this is the most un-american thing I have heard all day. why should landlords that use private money have to subsidize the public housing effort?