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Capitol Conference Advocacy Hits Critical Apartment Concerns

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On March 8 and 9 NAA will host its annual Capitol Conference and bring before Congress some of our most important issues. I say some because there are of course many, many concerns about which we would love to bend a Representative or Senator’s ear. To really be effective, however, we have to hone in on a couple of topics. This year those issues are reform of the Section 8 program, enabling a right-to-cure period for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and reform and reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Here is how we arrived at this particular list and why you should care.

Selecting issues for Lobby Day is complicated. First, you must identify topics that are of actual concern to the industry. Second, it’s preferable for the issues to come with a specific “ask” or request to take action. “You should support apartment housing” is great but “You should support apartment housing by sponsoring this legislation” is better. It gives Members of Congress a specific action and allows us to track whether or not they agreed to our request. Finally, speaking to issues that are moving in Congress makes us timely and more likely to be on the radar.

All three of the 2016 Capitol Conference issues hit close to home for a significant portion of NAA members. For example, many members interact with the Section 8 program in some way, either by choice or by local mandate. The program, while critical to affordable housing, can be extremely burdensome for owners and reform is something on which the apartment industry has been working for over a decade. There is bipartisan legislation on the table that mitigates some of these burdens. The House of Representatives has already passed the bill with NAA’s support. We need to thank them and prod the Senate to take action. This benefits owners who participate in Section 8 now and in the future.

Compliance with the ADA is a central part of every apartment owner’s regulatory life. As our members strive to create and maintain accessible communities, they encounter complex even conflicting guidance. As well, there are differing opinions on compliant design and construction standards as well as the role of proven alternative methods of achieving accessibility goals. This results in lots of litigation. A growing trend is litigation initiated purely for financial gain and not to increase accessibility. Our view is that the focus ought to be on curing design or construction defects not generating settlement fees. To that end, we support bipartisan legislation to allow for up to 120 days to cure an alleged ADA violation before litigation can be initiated.

According to the National Severe Storms Laboratory, flooding causes more damage and takes more lives than any other kind of severe weather-related event. Losses average $5 billion per year. Multifamily structures face significant, unique challenges when it comes to mitigating for flood damage. And, while most multifamily mortgages require flood insurance coverage, there is a lack of affordable, private coverage in the marketplace. As a result, the NFIP is critical to managing risk and protecting multifamily investments. The program expires in September of 2017 and is in need of reform to ensure its long-term financial viability, increase its effectiveness for multifamily owners and reduce exposure for the taxpayer.

Though expiration of the NFIP is 18 months off, the Congressional calendar between now and then is not our friend. Being an election year, we essentially lose the latter half of 2016 for any real legislating. Likewise, next year a new Congress and Administration will be getting settled which also will cost at least the first few months of the year. There is bipartisan, bicameral legislation on the table right now that we need to support to keep the ball rolling on NFIP reform and reauthorization.

Greg can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

 

 

 

December 2017

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Sometimes it is nice to just connect with others to help out in a pinch. This is just what AACSC did in light of the hurricanes in Puerto Rico and Florida. I must begin by thanking a very special member, Bonnie Stern, and Steve Shaw, who is a Board Member and Rotarian. Bonnie’s idea was born at the library, who said that even reading something to take your mind off of the devastation can be a good thing. She could not be more correct and now boxes and boxes of books, many for children, are headed to a new home. Thank you Bonnie, Steve and the Rotarians for helping us connect. And a BIG thank you to Sylvia Hopper from Friends of Signal Hill Library for the offer—it is a great way to give back.

As we end the year, this is also the best time to talk about how you are going to approach 2018. What are your goals, what NEW things do you want to achieve and how will you be a better owner, manager or supervisor at the end of 2018 than you are today? Moving forward in your career takes time and thought. I love a good journey, but I have always had in mind the direction I want to go. As the Cheshire Cat said, “If you don’t know which way you want to go, then it doesn’t much matter which road you take.” Well said, but you are still following a path—the question now is “to where”?

One determining factor to consider is this: do you want to attend live classes or do you want to take online classes? This is where our NAA Visto Courses can help you even when you cannot attend a live course. In fact, I mention this now because you can receive 20 percent off of online courses when you go to www.GoWithVisto.org. Use the code AFF20 to get your 20 percent discount. Buy one course or buy in bulk and start enhancing your career today. The offer can also be found in the NAA Units magazine.

But the final entry to this year is unfortunately not ending with a bang, that is, unless the words Rent Control are being uttered. We don’t know how this will end but we do know that this is not in the best interest of our tenants. Too bad that the tenant groups are sending an uninformed message. So it is up to us to make sure that our tenants know that a rent control ordinance will not help them but will do just the opposite. It is our responsibility as multi-family owners to protect our industry. NOW is the time to get involved, to support this industry — YOUR industry, YOUR investment and YOUR retirement. 2018 will be a year in which our industry will correctly inform and educate about the realities of and the cost of rent control. My wish for 2018 is that we bring EVERY OWNER to the table to fight this fight. It is not for others to do, but for each of us to contribute to the industry we love.

I wish you peace for the holidays, safety for your loved ones in their travels and the spirit of grace and understanding for those who are not as fortunate.

A Thanksgiving

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Over the years, I’ve seen Thanksgiving celebrated in a number of different ways. The Thanksgiving holiday was pretty traditional at our house when I was growing up. My parents or my aunt and uncle would host dinner, and between our two families plus grandparents, it was a pretty full house.

The dynamics changed when all the kids started to get married. There were new faces at dinner, and along with them came new foods and traditions. Things changed even further when friends joined and the meaning of Thanksgiving expanded beyond our close knit family. It also expanded past being just about the traditional meal and a nice visit when some friends would stop by after they had been to the local homeless mission to serve Thanksgiving dinner to people who were struggling in ways that we never had to.

I’ve come to see Thanksgiving as all of these things. It gives everyone a chance to give thanks for all that they have, whether it’s family, friends or food. It also gives us all a chance to give thanks by extending our hands to others.

Can we embrace this idea of being generous and giving to others as land lords? I think so. I think it’s just as important for us to be generous business people as it is for any local business. In fact, we have the opportunity to make our giving more personal than most businesses, if we direct our efforts toward our tenants.

However you choose to do it, I think you’re doing a wonderful thing any time you make the effort to give back to your community. That’s a tradition we should never change. To me, the Thanksgiving holiday is the low-stress holiday. It’s a day about family, friends and community with minimal commercialism. It’s my favorite holiday.

Regulatory Bills Affecting New and Existing Housing

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On April 5 your Association leadership joined with leaders of other independent California NAA affiliates to meet with their legislators in Sacramento to discuss several important bills of special interest to owners and managers of residential rental housing. The largely unspoken underlying theme, of course, is what legislative action may be taken to address the obvious and growing California “housing crisis”—too few homes for too many people with too few private or public resources to address current needs as well as a gigantic backlog of unmet need. The repeal of the redevelopment law—both cursed and praised—left a huge billion dollar hole in tax pro ceeds dedicated to construct and improve low and moderate income housing. The disappearance of that sustainable source of funding has fostered a number of proposals for replacement, some modest and others bold. It also has generated a call from some quarters for more and severe regulation of ren tal housing. It is with that backdrop that your leader ship approached this year’s Lobby Day in Sacramento.

Legislators and their staff members were very cordial in making limited time available to address these important issues both in generality and specificity. We grouped to oppose several regulatory bills affecting both new and existing housing in juxtaposition with funding measures deserving of support notwithstanding their effect on taxes—a tough sell! As one might expect, we received mixed signals on the tax issue but largely favorable reactions on bills that we opposed.

At the top of bills to oppose was AB 1506 (Bloom), which would repeal the Costa-Hawkins Act, a significant 22-year old housing measure that excluded from rent control single-family homes and all developments built after 1995 (or earlier if a rent control ordinance exempted new construction from a specific point in time), while giving owners of existing housing stock in rent controlled communities the right to establish initial and subsequent rental rates. That 1995 Act was approved by the Legislature to put the brakes on local governments’ overreaching and strict rent control ordinances that were spreading throughout the State and negatively impacting the economy and the housing industry. Its repeal would usher in a new wave of local ordinances adopting the strictest forms of price and rent controls. The result would be catastrophic.

Following a similar regulatory trend are measures that would require inclusionary housing for moderate, low and very low income levels in all new develop ments. These include in varying degrees of specificity and detail: AB 1505 (Bloom), AB 915 (Ting) and SB 277 (Bradford). In many respects, the in clusionary housing requirements imposed on new construction are more onerous than a typical rent control ordinance because they require deed restricted occupancies based on income for up to 55 years or more.

In total, the regulatory approach to the housing shortage by keeping rental rates artificially below market necessarily reduces the income stream for improvements, maintenance and repair of existing units while, at the same time, negatively affecting the investment and development of much needed rental housing.

Money, money, money. Where to get the funds necessary to address all of California’s many needs? State funding priorities are like shifting sands in the desert.

Thanks to Proposition 98 and the education community, K-12 education funding takes the lion’s share right off the top of each year’s state budget. Everything else scrambles for second- or third-fiddle with barely more than a half of a loaf left. At this writing, the Senate is poised to vote and send to the Assembly a multi-billion dollar transportation mea sure to “fix” degraded highways and roadways through out the State. It constitutes a huge funding boost on top of an already very expensive State Department of Transportation. Where does housing fit in?

Without question, California needs more housing.

According to a recent report from the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee, California has a housing shortage—we simply are not building enough homes to keep up with the high demand. This is particularly true for low-income rental units while middle-income households are priced out of buying homes. Over regulation, high development and permitting costs and a lack of consistent public funding have contributed to California’s housing shortage.

SB 3 and ACA 11 will help address California’s housing problems.

SB 3 (Beall) would authorize issuance of bonds in the amount of $3 billion to finance various existing housing programs. Bonds add more debt and are costly one-time affairs, not long-term sustainable, but certainly satisfy a near-term need.

ACA 11 (Caballero) would impose a 0.25 percent tax on all retailers to be placed in a newly created “California Middle Class Affordable Housing and Homeless Shelter Account” in the State General Fund for the support of local and state programs that assist in the development or acquisition of housing.

We support these bills not only because their passage will lead to a much needed boon in housing development, but also because these bills focus on building homes through bond and sales tax money instead of targeting the rental housing industry for regulation such as rent control and just cause for tenancy.

The State must continue to address the housing shortage problem through investing in affordable home development and rehabilitation, rental and homeownership assistance and community development. Targeting our industry with more regulations and eliminating rental property owner rights and protections such as under the Costa-Hawkins Act and Ellis Act will serve to drive up costs, force rental property owners out of business and reduce incentives to build, maintain and invest in more badly needed housing.

Our industry representatives did an outstanding job presenting compelling reasons to oppose AB 1506 and AB 1505 (Bloom), AB 915 (Ting) and SB 277 (Bradford) and support SB 3 (Beall) and ACA 11 (Caballero).

Long Beach 2015 Smoke Free Apartment Results

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In August 2015, the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services Tobacco Education Program completed a telephone survey to determine the number of smoke free apartments in the City. This survey was a follow up to the 2008 Smoke Free Apartment survey.

 

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