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Community Spotlight: Boys & Girls Club of Grand Rapids – Steil Club

December 3, 2019 Leave a comment

Today I visited with Patrick Placzkowski, Angie Stumpo and Taylor Crison with Boys & Girls Club Grand Rapids – Steil Club (B&G Club).

Patrick, Angie, & Taylor.

What really impacted me about my visit was touring the space on Straight Street in Grand Rapids where roughly 80 kids aged 6-18 meet every weekday after school.

These kids will receive snacks, dinner, and interaction with adults who care about them.

Many of these kids may not have positive interactions with adults.

The staff and volunteers of B&G Club are telling these kids on a consistent basis that they matter.

They have inherent value.

A Vision to Assure Kids That Success is Within Reach.

B&G Club states on its website that:


its Vision is “to provide a world class Camp and Club Experience that assures success is within reach of every young person who enters our doors, with all members on track to graduate from high school with a plan for the future, demonstrating good character and citizenship, and living a healthy lifestyle.”

Relationships Change lives.

I had originally met Patrick and Angie at a luncheon held at Mel Trotter Ministries, another community partner along with B&G Club serving the most vulnerable in our community.

I love this quote that is often spoken of at Mel Trotter Ministries – “People don’t become homeless when they run out of money. They become homeless when they run out of relationships.”

That is our job.

Being those relationships for the most vulnerable.

Not just “one-way relationships” but truly reaching out in community in a sustainable way.

Keep up the good work Patrick, Angie, Taylor and Team at B&G Club! B&G Club would love to partner with you if you want to learn more about the work they are doing in our community. I encourage you to check out their website.

Questions? Comments?

email: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

New Rent Control Law is Trending in Places like California & Oregon, but is it a Proper Response to an Affordable Housing Crisis?

November 25, 2019 Leave a comment

Last month California announced that in order to combat a staggering growth in homelessness it will implement rent control laws effective January 1, 2020.

Ghent, Belgium

According to Market Watch:

The law limits rent increases to 5% each year plus inflation until Jan. 1, 2030. It bans landlords from evicting people for no reason, meaning they could not kick people out so they can raise the rent for a new tenant. And while the law doesn’t take effect until Jan. 1, it would apply to rent increases on or after March 15, 2019, to prevent landlords from raising rents just before the caps go into place.

Michigan’s Affordable Housing Crisis

California’s new law, as well as Oregon’s passage of the Rent Control Bill, and demands for other measures in Boston, is in response to an Affordable Housing Crisis that we have been experiencing across the U.S.

In fact, over two years ago a Rent Control Bill was introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives- you can check out my post on that here

That Bill made no traction. It died in the Local Government Committee.

The Bill was most certainly a response to Michigan’s Affordable Housing Crisis.

It has been several yeas since the Grand Rapids Chamber hosted an Issue Summit on the Housing Crisis in Grand Rapids.

The Summit brought speakers representing many community stakeholders, including representatives from Grand Rapids Urban League,Rockford ConstructionICCFMSHDA, and many local non-profits, including Mel Trotter MinistriesHQHeartside Ministries, on the lack of affordable housing, what is as Mayor Bliss emphasized, admittedly, “a complex issue”.

I have previously offered my own perspective, both as a lawyer representing real estate developers/investors, and as Board Chairman at Mel Trotter Ministries.

Private and Public Community Stakeholders Doing Their Part

A few years have gone by since Kent County was first acknowledged to have an affordable housing crisis. The crisis is still present. There many community stakeholders that are actively playing a role in being part of the solution: providing housing for the most vulnerable. I think of a company like Urbaneer and Bruce Thompson and applaud Bruce for his work. We need more companies like Urbaneer – providing innovative solutions to a housing crisis.

I also think of the non-profit sector – organizations like ICCF and Mel Trotter Ministries finding unique ways through social enterprise to house the most vulnerable.

Kent County has provided several unique tools, including the Eviction Prevention Program.

I don’t think rent control is the answer.

I believe we all have a role to play.

We should all ask ourselves: Am I working to build a better community?

E-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

For the benefit of all stakeholders – Pushing the Needle Forward on Business as a Force for Good.

August 22, 2019 Leave a comment

Good afternoon, all. I hope you all have been enjoying the summer. I took this photo this morning as the sun was rising over downtown Grand Rapids.

Just a few days ago Business Roundtable announced the release of a new Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation signed by 181 CEOs who commit to lead their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders.”

Thanks to Jeff Van Winkle for bringing this to my attention. You can check out the link to the Business Roundtable webiste and the announcement: https://lnkd.in/eYSTrxg

It is exciting to see the general acknowledgment and support for the idea that business exists for a purpose more than simply profit.

This is not a new thing, particularly in West Michigan.

West Michigan is truly a unique place where business and philanthropy intersect unlike any other place.  Giving of time, talents and treasure to worthy causes is embedded in the culture of this community.

We know of many businesses that have established core mission statements of social good as something beyond profit for quite some time. I look to Cascade Engineering, as one example. Check out the Blog of Fred Keller, Founder of Cascade – titled “Purpose & Profit”

Some groups are skeptical that this statement will lead to any real change – case in point Corporate America Says “Sorry” via @npquarterly

However, I am hopeful that this statement pushes the ball forward on business for good in the State of Michigan.

BCorps?

Last year the State House tantalized social entrepreneurs, once again, with the possibility of benefit corporations (“Bcorps”) becoming a viable legal option to do business in the State of Michigan.

House Bills 5867, 5868 & 5869 were introduced on April 24, 2018, that would allow BCorps to be formed under Michigan Law.

There was never any movement on those bills and they died in committee.

Back almost two years ago the legislature proposed similar legislation which also died in committee (are you recognizing a pattern?). For a review of the Former BCorp Bills, the House Fiscal Agency issued a Fiscal Analysis, check it out here. 

The Analysis provides good background on what the legislation would do. This is helpful for those who are not overly familiar with BCorps in general.

Education on the “why” for BCorps.

Interested groups and local politicians have been educating the public on why BCorp laws would be a good thing for our state.

State Rep Hank Vaupe gave a discussion to a local chamber group on B-Corps two Septembers ago:

As Rep. Vaupe indicated “benefit corporations provide an opportunity for businesses to use the markets, rather than traditional charity giving, to advance their philanthropic missions.”

Michigan is behind the ball.

Over the last several years Michigan legislators have repeatedly introduced BCorp legislation – to no avail.

Check out this handout from Rep Barnett almost 10 years ago in support of the BCorp legislation he proposed in September 2010.

I found particularly interesting the very last section – it provides some comment on why some Michigan businesses may have been averse to the introduction of BCorp legislation. Feel free to read it and reach your own conclusions.

Michigan now ranks as one of the vast minority of states that has not enacted benefit corporation legislation.

Check out the Benefit Corporation website for a state by state legislative analysis.

I hope Michigan can continue to make progress and recognize business as a force for good.

Questions? Comments?

Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Connect with me on Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Real Estate Law Update: Bill Would Impose Stricter Requirements on Recording a Construction Lien

Good afternoon, all. I hope you all are enjoying the beginning of summer.

Summer is here.

Residential Builders – check out this House Bill 4695 introduced on June 11, 2019.

This Bill would impose stricter requirements on licensed builders prior to recording a Construction Lien.

According to the Bill, a Contractor:

SHALL DISPLAY THE CONTRACTOR’S LICENSE AND, IF THE CONTRACTOR IS AN INDIVIDUAL, THE CONTRACTOR’S PERSONAL IDENTIFICATION, CONSISTING OF AN OPERATOR’S LICENSE, CHAUFFEUR’S LICENSE, OR PERSONAL IDENTIFICATION CARD ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE, WHEN RECORDING A CLAIM OF LIEN UNDER SECTION 111. IF THE CLAIM OF LIEN IS NOT PRESENTED IN PERSON, THE CONTRACTOR SHALL ATTACH TO THE CLAIM OF LIEN COPIES OF THE CONTRACTOR’S LICENSE AND PERSONAL IDENTIFICATION.

Violating this law would result in a stiff penalty – criminal sanctions – punishable by a misdemeanor.

The the intent of this Bill would seem to encourage contractors to make sure their licensing is in order and would therefore discourage contractors from filing liens without lawful cause. Simply put, if a Lien doesn’t have a photo ID and proper licensing attached to it, then it wouldn’t be valid.

In reality, this extra hurdle could be an impediment from contractors who otherwise are entitled to payment from having perfected valid liens.

The Bill was sent to the committee on Regulatory Reform.

My sense is that this Bill does not come out of committee without some significant amendments. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Questions? Comments?

e-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Michigan Business Law Update: Bill Would Allow Single Member LLCs To Evict Tenants without Legal Representation

Lake Macatawa, Holland, Michigan

Happy Wednesday, all. I took this photo back on Mother’s Day. Looking forward to spending more time enjoying Michigan summers. Summer is approaching!

Last December it looked like Landlords were going to finally be able to represent their LLCs under limited circumstances when evicting tenants. Check out my prior post here

That Bill, after undergoing some changes, died in committee.

Well, it is back!

On April 25, 2019 the law that would allow some LLCs to evict tenants in limited circumstances has revived as House Bill 4509 

History Behind the Bill…

As background, a common scenario in my legal practice:

Investor purchases property in an LLC. Investor locates a tenant. Tenant falls behind in rent. Investor hires attorney to evict Tenant.

Why hold real estate in an LLC?

Most of my investor clients own investment real estate in a Limited Liability Company.

This is for liability protection.

Once a limited liability company comes into existence, limited liability applies, and a member or manager is not liable for the acts, debts, or obligations of the company. “Duray Dev., LLC v. Perrin, 288 Mich. App. 143, 151 (2010).

Why not hold real estate in an LLC?

Some investment property owners decide not to do so. The primary driving reason from my experience is cost.

Cost associated with setting up the LLC; and

Cost associated with hiring an attorney and evicting non-paying tenants.

Some landlords don’t want to hire an attorney to evict a tenant.

Under current Michigan law, since an LLC is a separate legal person independent of the actual owners of the LLC, unless such owner is a licensed attorney, an owner of an LLC cannot file a lawsuit on behalf of the LLC.

To do so would be the unauthorized practice of law.

You can practice law on your own behalf – just not on behalf of someone else.

Although, the saying goes – he who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.

House Bill 4509 – Would Allow LLCs to Evict without Legal Representation.

House Bill 4509 was introduced in April 2019 and referred to the judiciary committee.

The Bill would allow owners of a single-member LLC (or a married couple under certain conditions) to file their own eviction actions on behalf of the LLC without the need for legal representation.

If the Landlord is seeking money damages, the amount, not including taxable costs, must be under the small claims Court maximum.

I commented in the past that I would be surprised if this bill passes, although other states have similar laws.

The prior version of the Bill came out of the committee on law and justice and a substitute bill was referred for a second reading.  The Bill was passed by the House and sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee over a year ago and it eventually died.

The Major Difference in the Substitute Bill

The major revision that came out of the committee affects property managers.

The Bill as introduced would have allowed property managers or agents to represent the LLC under certain circumstances – e.g. – having personal knowledge of the relevant facts related to the Property and tenancy.

That language was removed from the first version of the bill.

Under the substitute bill, Property Managers or other Agents would not be allowed to represent the LLC.

Further, this is a “burden shifting” mechanism in the substitute bill – the law would place the burden on the LLC owner to prove he or she is in compliance with the statute. That makes sense – since the legislature would be creating an exception to the rule – only lawyers practice law.

It will be interested to see if this Bill stands a chance.

Questions? Comments?

e-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Standing in the Gap for Those in Need: My Review of HillBilly Elegy

I just finished reading a book called “Hillbilly Elegy” by JD Vance.

What I liked about this book:

So many striking themes from my own family of origin:

poverty, dysfunctional family relationships, addiction, alcoholism, abuse, vulnerability.

It is also personally interesting to me that, like me, JD Vance also ended up graduating from high school, then college, then law school and became a lawyer, beating the odds of those family members that raised him (or failed to raise him).

For those who grew up in middle/upper class families, it is an eye-opening insight into a large segment of our culture lives.

Two key take away points for me from this book:

  1. People Become Homeless Due To Lack of Community.

At Mel Trotter Ministries, we often point to the quote in this photo as one of the primary factors for homelessness.

JD’s book confirmed that fact to me, in his own experiences.

In short, if its because of a lack of community that people tend to enter into homelessness, community needs to be part of what gets them out.

We need to do a better job of being community to the most vulnerable people in our own community, wherever that is.

2. Do Not Underestimate the Impact You can Make in a Child’s Life.

For the last 5 years I have spent every Thursday during the school year mentoring an elementary school-aged boy.

These boys, in large part, suffer from the same tragedies:
poverty, dysfunctional family relationships, addiction, alcoholism, abuse, vulnerability.

I can’t think of a better use of my time – one hour a week than spending it telling a kid that he is valued – he has what it takes – who may not hear that from any other place.

As a kid, I remember being desperate to hear such words from an adult.

“You have What it Takes”

Imagine if all of the struggling students in our local communities had adults who were consistently showing up in their lives telling them:

“You have What it Takes”

My call to you, go be that person in the life of some vulnerable kid today.

Questions? Comments?

E-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Community Spotlight: Next Step of West Michigan – walking alongside the most vulnerable

March 27, 2019 1 comment

Yesterday I visited with Jonathan Peerboom – Program and Development Director of Next Step of West Michigan (Next Step) – a faith-based nonprofit employing people coming out of prison or rehab and providing them with a community of support that will help them integrate into the workforce, regain hope and empower themselves to create a better future.

Jonathan Peerboom, Program and Development Director, Next Step of West Michigan

John’s Story.

What really impacted me about my visit was meeting “John” and hearing his story.

John is an employee of Next Step. John was putting together crates and stopped to talk with me and greeted me with a huge smile and an enthusiastic handshake.

Like many of us, John has experienced many struggles and hardships over his life, starting with a traumatic childhood which caused ripple effects throughout his adult life. John ended up spending 10 years in prison.

As many of us know, the barrier to employment and re-entry into society after a felony conviction and extended prison sentence is often times insurmountable.

When society is telling the Johns of this world that they have nothing to offer this world, that they are only valued if they have the right looks, status, job, house, money, family, etc… Next Step is telling those, like John, like me once as a kid, the opposite.

John has inherent value.

He is worthy to be loved because he is a person, made in the image of God.

Next Step gave John a job – the integrity of working for a living – and through words and acts tells John that is loved and inherently valued. Now, John, 7 years removed from prison, is a changed man.

A Sustainable Non-profit.

Next Step states on its website that
it is “a nonprofit that aims to make a real impact in the lives of its employees, while maintaining a financial model anchored in sustainability.”

Approximately 85% of its revenue is through a delivery of services or goods. The remaining 15% are investment gifts that fund administration costs, provide for new initiatives and increase capacity.

Next Step operates like a social enterprise – it has a self-sustaining business model that employees

Relationships Change lives.

Yesterday after meeting with Jonathan at Next Step, we traveled not too far down Division for luncheon held at Mel Trotter Ministries, another community partner along with Next Step serving the most vulnerable in our community.

I love this quote that is often spoken of at Mel Trotter Ministries – “People don’t become homeless when they run out of money. They become homeless when they run out of relationships.”

That is our job.

Being those relationships for the most vulnerable.

Not just “one-way relationships” but truly reaching out in community in a sustainable way.

Keep up the good work Jonathan and Team at Next Step! Next Step would love to partner with you if you want to learn more about the work they are doing in our community. I encourage you to check out their website or email Jonathan

Questions? Comments?

email: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka