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Posts Tagged ‘affordable housing’

Real Estate Investors & Property Managers Should Avoid These Pitfalls: DOJ and Landlord Settle Allegations of Family Discrimination.

September 8, 2017 Leave a comment

I’ve said it before, owning and managing real estate is challenging. Particularly residential real estate.

I hear it from my Property Owner and Property Manager clients. I experience it when I am involved in negotiating in landlord/tenant disputes.

2017-08-10 08.14.57-1

 

 

Some of the pitfalls property owners have to watch out for are illustrated in a Wednesday, September 6  Department of Justice Press Release.

The Department of Justice issued a press release today concerning a lawsuit settlement reached with a Landlord and Tenant over Discrimination Charges brought by the Federal Government. You can review that press release here.

 

 

According to the press release, the Federal government alleged in its complaint filed in March 2017 that “in March 2014 defendant Appleby told a woman seeking an apartment for herself, her husband and their one-year-old child that the apartment buildings were “adult only.

The complaint also alleged that defendants advertised their apartments as being in “adult buildings.

Not good.

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability.

As stated by Acting Assistant Attorney General John M. Gore, of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Fair Housing Act prohibits apartment owners and managers from denying housing to families because they have children…We will continue to vigorously enforce the Fair Housing Act’s prohibition of discrimination against families with children.

 

I’m speculating, but maybe the landlord didn’t know the law.

I wonder, did the landlord/property owner ever consult with legal counsel on its practices?

On a personal level, this type of practice of discriminating against families is unfortunate, especially considering we are in an affordable housing crisis.

In Kent County Michigan, it is reported that 2,098 school-aged kids are reported homeless.

 

 

There are some lessons to be learned for landlords, property owners, managers, and real estate investors.

Two takeaways from this news headline:

1. It is worth engaging legal counsel. 

Issues arise. When in doubt, e-mail or call your attorney.

 

2. Residential Real Estate Investment is highly regulated.

If you are a landlord leasing out “residential” property as opposed to purely commercial property (business tenant), you are under much more stringent regulations. You must comply with Federal laws, like the Fair Housing Act and state laws, like the Michigan Truth in Renting Act, and Landlord Tenant Relationship Act. Make sure you are operating lawfully.

 

Questions? Comments?

email: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

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Community Revitalization To Include Downtown Grocery Stores: Update on The Urban Food Initiative.

August 1, 2017 Leave a comment

Yesterday I read a story about a Detroiter, Raphael Wright who plans on opening a “mission-driven supermarket” in downtown Detroit. Check out the article on NextCity.

Raphael’s idea is sparked by a much needed grocery option in Detroit- particularly for low-income residents.

I love this idea.

A few years back I took my family to New York City. We loved the walk-ability of City life – that you could walk down a block to a grocery store and get all of your household needs.

food-healthy-vegetables-potatoesI love downtown Grand Rapids.

 

If Grand Rapids wants to encourage urban living, it needs a downtown grocery store.

In February, House Bill 4207 was introduced in the Michigan house. Known as the “Urban Food Initiative” it would provide incentives for community revitalization that would include a downtown Grocery Store.

 

 

Specifically, HB 4207 would make “Urban Food Initiatives” allowable to receive funds under the Michigan Community Revitalization Program

 

An update since my last post, in May, the Trade and Commerce Committee recommended a substitute bill, check here.

The Bill substitute changed the name,  Urban Food Initiatives, to “NEIGHBORHOOD AND COMMERCIAL CORRIDOR FOOD INITIATIVE”  – thereby broadening the applicability of these community revitalization incentives –  I have bracketed the additional language:

Property that will be used primarily as a retail supermarket, grocery store, produce market or delicatessen that is located in a downtown [OR IN A DEVELOPMENT AREA AS DEFINED IN SECTION 2 OF 3 THE CORRIDOR IMPROVEMENT AUTHORITY ACT] area…that offers unprocessed USDA inspected meat and poultry products or meat products that carry the USDA organic seal, fresh fruit and vegetables, and dairy products for sale to the public.”

The other substantive revision to the substitute bill would require that at least 5% of community revitalization incentives be awarded to these initiatives. Check out the Bill Analysis from the House Fiscal Agency, for more information.

 

Clearly having available and healthy food options in a downtown are necessary to City living, particularly for low-income residents. Check out a previous article from Next City about the Food Revolution in Detroit.

A downtown grocery store is necessary if a City wants to attract urban living – it is also necessary to provide healthy food options for those living downtown without readily available transportation.

 

 

I think particularly of the under-employed and the homeless who receive services from organizations like Mel Trotter Ministries. Grand Rapids has a need for affordable housing for the most vulnerable in our society. It would be great to see grocery options as well.

I am looking forward to tracking the progress of this bill. I am also encouraged by the many businesses in West Michigan taking serious their responsibility as community stakeholders and asking the question: “How am I building a better community?

e-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

More Updates on Michigan’s Affordable Housing Crisis

June 2, 2017 1 comment

Today is a beautiful day in downtown Grand Rapids. The photo below actually from yesterday. There is something about the sun that just puts me in a good mood.

A few days ago I did not have a sunny disposition. I was in court during a landlord/tenant docket. I’ll be honest – it was a depressing scene.  Many of the people in the courtroom were in a sad condition – one lady was visibly intoxicated.IMG_1570

Grand Rapids’ Housing Crisis

This morning I read an article on how the Rental Housing Market Leads to Homelessness in Grand Rapids

Clearly, Grand Rapids, and other parts of the State and Nation have an affordable housing crisis. I have previously offered my own perspective, both as a lawyer representing real estate developers/investors, and as Board Chairman at Mel Trotter Ministries.

A Community Problem – requires Community Collaboration

Recently Mel Trotter Ministries announced that it was partnering with 3:11 Youth Housing and the NAACP to provide housing for homeless males ages 18-24.

This effort could not have happened without collaboration between community stakeholders. It also couldn’t have happened without real estate owners willing to put “purpose above profit”.

There are other examples of social enterprises taking action to address affordable housing. One community partner is Pastor Jim Davis and his company “Purpose Properties

“The mission of Purpose Properties is to “raise enough money from local foundations and philanthropists to buy market-rate and affordable rental properties in the city.”

It will take all community stakeholders to do their part – businesses, churches, government, and non-profits.

The question we should all ask ourselves: Am I working to build a better community?
Legal Updates – Bills and Lawsuits.

 

A few months back I wrote about a Michigan House Bill introduced that would repeal Michigan’s prohibition on rent control. This Bill seemed to be a “gut response” to the affordable housing crisis that we are facing in Michigan and all across the United States.

Other local governments across the U.S. are exploring legislative avenues to address the housing crisis.

A few days ago, Representative Stephanie Chang introduced a few other Bills on Affordable Housing.

On May 31, 2017 House Bill 4686 was introduced that would allow local government  to “adopt an ordinance to limit the rent paid by senior citizens and individuals with a disability to 50% of their household incomes.”

Tie-barred to that Bill was House Bill 4687  which would prohibit local government from enacting, maintaining, or enforcing “an ordinance or resolution that would have the effect of  controlling the amount of rent charged for leasing private resident.”

Representative Chang also spoke on the issue of Affordable Housing at a Detroit Housing Summit a few days ago at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.

 

DOJ sues City of Jacksonville for refusing to allow development of permanent supportive housing for individuals with disabilities.

You can check out the press release from yesterday – Where Cities Can Get in Trouble with Fair Housing Laws

Yesterday, the Department of Justice issued a Press Release concerning an agreement it reached with the City of Jacksonville, Florida. Apparently, the DOJ sued the City concerning “allegations that the city violated the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act when it refused to all ow the development of permanent supportive housing for individuals with disabilities in its Springfield neighborhood.”

As part of the settlement, the City has agreed to “establish a $1.5 million grant to develop permanent supportive housing in the city for people with disabilities.”

 

e-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

 

 

Recent Michigan House Bill Would Repeal Prohibition on Rent Control – A Response to the Affordable Housing Crisis?

April 13, 2017 Leave a comment

2017-03-07 15.13.50

On March 30, 2017 House Bill 4456 was introduced. The Bill would repeal Michigan’s prohibition on Rent Control.

The Bill was presumably proposed in response to the affordable housing crisis in Michigan and all across the United States. Other local governments across the U.S. are exploring legislative avenues to address the housing crisis.

 

 

According to Representative Chang, who introduced the Bill, the current rent control prohibition “makes it increasingly difficult for seniors and some families to find affordable housing, or to stay in the apartments they’ve lived in for many years.”
Representative Chang was apparently referring to the affordable housing crisis in Detroit. From all accounts, Grand Rapids is facing an affordable housing crisis as well.

 

Grand Rapids Housing Crisis

As many of you may know, a few months back 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 616 DevelopmentGrand Rapids Urban League,Rockford ConstructionICCFMSHDA, and many local non-profits, including Mel Trotter MinistriesHQHeartside Ministries, on this 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.

 

Is there an Answer found in Social Enterprise?

A few months back, Jim Harger with MLive posted a thorough article on the affordable housing crisis.

One community partner highlighted was Pastor Jim Davis and his company “Purpose Properties

“The mission of Purpose Properties is to “raise enough money from local foundations and philanthropists to buy market-rate and affordable rental properties in the city.”

According to Jim Harger’s article:

Purpose Properties plans to charge market rates for its properties to those who can afford them and use their profits to subsidize the rents of those who cannot afford market rates.”

We need more businesses and community stakeholders to approach our community problems like Jim Davis and Purpose Properties.

 

Community Partners Collaborating

Recently Mel Trotter Ministries announced that it was partnering with 3:11 Youth Housing to provide housing for homeless males 18-24.

As Mayor Bliss stated at the Housing Summit – the affordable housing crisis presents a complex issue.

It will take all community stakeholders to do their part – businesses, churches, government, and non-profits.

 

The question we should all ask ourselves: Am I working to build a better community?

 

e-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Reflections from the Past-Board Chair at Mel Trotter Ministries.

March 28, 2017 Leave a comment

On Wednesday my year-long term as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Mel Trotter Ministries came to an end.

It truly has been my honor to serve. As I reflect on my year of service, I wamel-trotter-ministries-1122_20111229171415_320_240nted to share a few thoughts.

Who was Mel Trotter?

On Tuesdays throughout the year, Mel Trotter Ministries (“MTM”) hosts Meet The Mission Luncheons. On the back table after the luncheon you can find a book that we gift to our luncheon guests courtesy of Kregel Publishing titled “Man with a Mission.” It is the story of Mel Trotter.

MTM has been demonstrating the compassion of Jesus Christ to the homeless, hungry and hurting in West Michigan for over 117 years. What you may not know is that Mel Trotter was an actual man who lived and started the City Rescue Mission in Grand Rapids- the Rescue Mission that would one day bear his name.

You may also not know that Mel Trotter was an alcoholic, abusive man who squandered his paychecks on gambling rather than provide for his family.

Mel Trotter was intent on taking his own life one cold night when a companion directed him to the Pacific Garden Rescue Mission in Chicago, Illinois.

It was there that Mel Trotter encountered Jesus Christ. He surrendered his life to a Savior who loved him as he was.

Mel Trotter would go on to live a radically changed life. In 1900 Mel Trotter became the first executive director of the City Rescue Mission in Grand Rapids. He started and oversaw 68 other Rescue Missions across the country.

The transforming work that Christ has done in this one man’s life is the foundation of Mel Trotter Ministries.

MTM Today: Serving with Humility.

When I am asked about where I believe Mel Trotter Ministries’ is headed the first word that comes to mind is humility. I am reminded of Philippians Chapter 2:3-4, where Paul tells us to: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself.”

MTM’s leadership team is, more than ever, committed to serve in humility. MTM has always endeavored to come along side our guests in humility to meet them where they are. But more than ever, MTM is striving to humbly seek out our community partners for the common goal of serving the homeless, hungry, and hurting in our community. As Dennis Van Kampen often says: “we can’t do this work alone.

A great example can be seen from MLive’s article from a few hours ago. MTM has identified a need in our community – homeless male youths. It is no secret that Kent County has an Affordable Housing Crisis.

In response to this need, MTM is partnering with local organizations to provide affordable housing to homeless young men. Echoing Dennis’ words – We can’t do this work alone.

My Call to Younger Leaders. We Need You.

At Mel Trotter Ministries, we are always looking for volunteers. We need people who have a heart for the hungry, homeless and hurting in West Michigan.  As we seek to end homelessness in West Michigan, one life at a time, it is a large task and we cannot do it alone.

This is my call to everyone, but particularly our next generation of leaders – millennials and beyond.

Ask yourself:

How can I serve?

Millennials – I’m reminded of the Bible – 1 Timothy 4:12 –

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers

The fact remains – the millennial and younger generations are our future leaders.

Now is the perfect time to get plugged into one of the many opportunities to serve and lead.

Please take this as your personal invitation from me –

Take the initiative.

Get engaged.

Just show up.

 

e-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Fintech Update: Disruption for Good. The OCC’s Remarks Yesterday to Fintech Innovators at LendIt USA in New York

Yesterday, 2015-11-26-13-04-02Thomas J. Curry, Comptroller of the Currency gave remarks about Fintech Innovation at LendIT USA (The Worlds Biggest Show in Lending and Fintech) Conference in New York. You can read Mr. Curry’s remarks here.

Mr. Curry praised the innovative Fintech Companies who “have fueled healthy competition to modernize and improve how the nation’s financial services needs are met.

What I personally like is Mr. Curry’s emphasis on the opportunity Fintech has to reach the vulnerable in our communities.

According to Mr. Curry:

” Financial inclusion…brings those who are unbanked and underbanked into the fold, and too many of those individuals are concentrated in low- and moderate-income communities that are often the most vulnerable to financial difficulty and predatory practices.”

“What’s encouraging about (Fintech)is that there’s good data from the FDIC and others that suggest these communities that have been left out of the traditional system have higher adoption rates for new services that capitalize on emerging and mobile technologies”

 

****UPDATED

Check out the article by Crowdfund Insider  reporting on Curry’s address: “We Will Be Issuing Charters to Fintech Companies

 

Why Fintech Intrigues me – Purpose Driven.

I’ve previously talked about why fintech is so intriguing.

a. taking a risk doing something different;

b. disrupting business as usual;

c. for the good of others.

That’s social entrepreneurship at its finest.

Given the hot water that big banks continue to find themselves in, it isn’t surprising that a consumer friendly alternative is attractive, particularly to the vulnerable communities.

Questions? Comments?

e-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Real Estate Law and Affordable Housing Issues: Lawsuit Alleges Landlords Discriminating Against Families.

Here’s a profound truth those in the real estate industry will readily acknowledge:

Owning and Managing Real Estate is challenging.

I hear it from my Property Owner/Manager clients. I experience it when I am in court litigating or negotiating landlord/tenant disputes.2017-02-04-08-16-38-2

Here’s another profound truth:

In many parts of the country, including Grand Rapids, Michigan, we have an affordable housing crisis.

Some of the pitfalls property owners should be mindful of are illustrated in a recent Department of Justice Press Release.

The Department of Justice issued a press release today concerning a lawsuit  filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington “alleging that the owners and manager of three Edmonds, Washington apartment buildings refused to rent their apartments to families with children, in violation of the Fair Housing Acts.”

(The complaint is an allegation of unlawful conduct. The allegations must still be proven in federal court.)

According to the press release, the Federal government alleged in its complaint that the “in March 2014, defendant Appleby told a woman seeking an apartment for herself, her husband, and their one year old child that the apartment buildings were “adult only” and therefore not available to her family. The complaint also alleges that at various other times from April 2014 to November 2015, defendants advertised their available apartments as being restricted to adults only

Not good.

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability.

As stated by Attorney Annette L. Hayes of the Western District of Washington
. ““Many families already face challenges finding affordable housing, and they should not also have to deal with unlawful discrimination.””

“Particularly in our tight housing market, landlords must follow the law and make units available without discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability or familial status.

The lawsuit makes allegations that must be proven in court. However, I wonder, did this Landlord consult with legal counsel on renting practices before posting advertisements for rent?

There are some lessons to be learned for landlords, property owners, managers, and real estate investors.

Two takeaways from this news headline:

1. Before renting, it is worth engaging legal counsel. 

Issues arise. When in doubt, e-mail or call your attorney.

2. Residential Real Estate Investment is highly regulated.

If you are a landlord leasing out “residential” property as opposed to purely commercial property (business tenant), you are under some stringent regulations. To be sure, these rules are there to protect consumers. You must comply with Federal laws, like the Fair Housing Act and state laws, like the Michigan Truth in Renting Act. Make sure you are operating lawfully. Make sure your lease is lawful.

 

Questions? Comments?

email: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka