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Who Wins and Loses with Supreme Court’s Gerrymandering Case

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The use of the “Disparate Impact” theory to enforce fair housing compliance in California

 

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April 2017

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16,422 steps—that’s how many, give or take a few, that I walked on our National Apartment Association (NAA) Lobby Day. Also attending were long-time AACSC member Malcolm Bennett, our California Rental Housing Association (CalRHA) President Larry Cannizzaro, other CalRHA members and more than 3,000 multi - family housing partners from across the nation.

The goal was to reach all 535 Congressional members either in person or by leaving our materials behind with senior staff or whomever was available in their office. Of course, the day we lobbied on the Hill was that same day that the discussion to make changes in our Health Care was beginning to heat up so many were back and forth to the floor to vote or were in meetings, so we took our meetings with the members where we could—in the hall, outside Committee Rooms, walking… it didn’t matter where, but one way or the other we were going to get our message out that housing matters, that appropriate Tax Reform was indeed important and that we needed to extend Flood Insurance across the states.

If you have never been to Lobby Day, either on the National level or within your state, I will dare to say that as a multifamily housing provider it is in your best interest that you, at the very least, let your voice be heard. Yes, I said it again.

There is nothing like beginning your day early in the morning in the very crisp air of Washington D.C. and all that entails. Senators, Congressmen and women, staffers, interns, and security personnel fill the halls of the marble buildings like the Rayburn, Longworth and Canon. Once you enter that door, the world outside is left behind and your world becomes different somehow. You are there to fulfill a purpose, not for yourself, but for each of you who own property and provide housing, who are selfless in your willingness to give back to your residents and community and provide a place to live, only asking to be fairly compensated for the privilege.

You want your message to resonate with each elected member. Your goal is to say the “perfect” thing that will help them understand how important this visit is to our industry. When you leave you can only hope that you told your story in a sincere and powerful way. Yes, they “get it”—then, it is on to the next appoint ment, down the elevator and into the tunnels that connect one building to the next. By the end of the day, you are familiar with the maze of tunnels and where to find the cafeteria where you can take a little time to reflect on how the day is going. Maybe it is time to change shoes, but soon enough it is time to move on.

By the end of the day you gather together with everyone else from across the country to say “Good job,” and “How did your meetings go today;” “Great,” is the reply. Each person leaves with a sense of accomplishment, a hug for friends you made along the way and a “travel safe back home and see you at the next meeting.” But no meeting as important as the ones you just left behind.

As I said my goodbyes, I decided to walk the final leg back to the hotel. Within just a few minutes I found myself passing another group of women in red along the side of the Capitol building for Women’s Day. It reminds me that each group who visits the Hill has their own purpose, goal and message. Then I arrive at my temporary home with 16,462 steps left behind in the ongoing effort to tell our own important message.

Multifamily owners matter. I will be back next year and the year after that until I know they “get it.” I do. Until then, thanks for the memories and be sure to support your PAC—remember that there are many who are walking the halls on your behalf and that they are the front line soldiers who go to bat for those who may not be able to walk those 16,462 steps. Your contribution makes that passion to support our industry an easy walk as each year we begin again with a crisp walk into those marble halls on your behalf.

More Affordable Housing

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Housing providers have always been better Aadvocates for tenants than the so called tenants rights groups. Sound counterintuitive? Not really if you think it through.

The majority of housing providers rely on rental income to fund their retirements. You wouldn’t want to be at war with the individuals who fund your way of paying your bills, would you? Is it in the best interest of tenants’ rights groups for housing providers and tenants to be at war with each other? Very possibly.

If housing providers—yes, all you retirees know who you are—are made out to be bad guys, that ignites the kind of “good guy vs. bad guy” emotion that leads to successful fund raising. Is beating the “bad guys” their only issue? Fortunately no. Tenant advocates are trying as hard as housing providers to stimulate the construction of more affordable housing. Maybe their problem is a marketing problem.

Building more housing isn’t as emotional an issue as beating down the “bad landlord.” Take away that emotional appeal and you lose donations and maybe your job. If their real value, which is to advocate for the construction of more housing, isn’t emotional enough to sustain their fund raising, then maybe it’s time to redefine their mission. Is there anything to be proud of in finding below market housing for a needy tenant by defunding the retirement income of a housing provider who spent a lifetime fixing leaky plumbing and repairing old roofs in order to have money to live on down the road? Not if you’re being honest with yourself.

Housing providers, for better or for worse, do have a sort of marital bond with tenants. One partner’s job is to make a good home for the other to live in. The other’s job is to treat their home with respect and pay the rent. It’s a fair exchange. When things are going well, it’s an easy relationship. When things aren’t going so well, that’s when the strength of the relationship begins to show.

The problems are usually financial. The housing provider may fall on hard times and not keep the property in the shape they normally would. For the tenant who finds themselves in a financial jam, one of their first pleas for help is to their housing provider. Most of the time, the problem on both sides gets resolved, but a major reason for this is their reasonable business relationship. Take that away with adversarial rules like REAP and Rent Control, and that bond is forever broken.

Let’s not let that happen! It’s in tenants’ and housing providers’ best interests to maintain a fair relationship. Tenants’ rights organizations won’t like it. They can’t profit by it. When you understand that, it makes all the sense in the world for housing providers and tenants to stick together.

Meaningful Reform of ADA Access Laws

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The first significant reform to the State’s disability access laws, authored by Senator Richard Roth was signed into law in April. Senator Roth’s bipartisan measure, SB 269, was written to protect California’s small businesses and the disabled community.

“This is a major victory for all Californians,” stated Senator Roth. “SB 269 is a common-sense solution that will guarantee access for disabled Californians by providing small business with the tools and resources necessary to comply with state and federal disability access regulations. I am glad the Governor agrees with the critical need for this reform, and I am proud to have delivered this victory for California’s small businesses and dis ability community.”

Over the past decade, the Legislature has attempted to write meaningful reform ADA access laws and regulations. The most recent and substantial measure was SB 1186 (a 2012 measure that was signed into law). While SB 1186 created important policies regarding certified access specialists (CASPs) and compliance notification requirements, there were significant barriers to ensuring small businesses to having the necessary resources and tools to maintain compliance with federal and state dis ability access laws. As a result, many businesses found themselves out of compliance with the laws. This created a difficult situation for the disabled community from having full and equal access to facilities and services.

SB 269 establishes a presumption that certain “technical violations” are presumed to not cause a person difficulty, discomfort or embarrassment for the purpose of an award of minimum statutory damages in a construction-related accessibility claim, where the defendant is a small business and the defendant has corrected, within 15 days of the service of a summon and complaint asserting a construction related accessibility claim or receipt of a written notice, whichever is earlier, all of the technical violations that are the basis of the claim and the claim is based on one or more of the following violations:

  • Interior signs, other than directional signs or signs that identify the location of accessible elements or facilities or features, when all of those elements, facilities or features are accessible.
  • The lack of exterior signs other than park ing signs and directional signs (including, signs that indicate the location of accessible pathways or en trance and exit doors when not all pathways, entrance and exit doors are accessible).
  • The order in which parking signs are placed or the exact location or wording of parking signs, provided that the sign is clearly visible and indicates the location of accessible parking and van accessible parking.
  • The color of parking signs provided that the color of the background contrasts with the color of information on the sign.
  • The color of parking lot striping, provided that it exists and provides sufficient contrast with the surface upon which it is applied and is reason ably visible.
  • Faded, chipped, damaged or deteriorated paint in otherwise fully compliant parking spaces and passenger access aisles in parking lots, provided that it indicates the required dimensions of a parking space or access aisle in a manner that is reasonably visible or;
  • The presence or condition of detectable warning surfaces on ramps, except where the ramp is part of a pedestrian path of travel that intersects with a vehicular lane or other hazardous area.


The bill states that the above presumption affects the plaintiff’s burden of proof and is rebuttable by a preponderance of the evidence showing that the plaintiff did, in fact, experience difficulty, dis com fort or embarrassment on the particular occasion as a result of one or more of the technical violations listed above.

Finally, the bill protects certain businesses from liability for minimum statutory damages in construction-related accessibility claims made during the 120-day period after the business obtains an inspection of its premises by a CASP.

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

PRHIP Registration Due 12/31/15

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The deadline for PRHIP applications is December 31st, 2015.

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