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Surge in renters hurts metro neighborhoods

The impact of renters replacing fully invested owners in Twin Cities neighborhoods gets a look from Randy Furst at the Strib: “That dramatic shift away from homeownership in [Brenda] Steinberg's Como neighborhood reflects a broader phenomenon in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Investors are turning single-family homes into rentals to take advantage of a tight rental market. Foreclosures and changes in tax laws have also resulted in fewer owner-occupied homes. Housing experts say the resulting drop-off in single-family homeownership can destabilize neighborhoods, as absentee landlords and their renters are less likely to keep up their properties, let alone join a neighborhood watch group. In Minneapolis and St. Paul, the percentage of single-family homes that are not homesteaded has more than doubled — rising from single digits in 2002 to 19 percent this year, records from each city show.”
Another Minnesotan has done well in Manhattan. Sara Glassman of the Strib reports: “A 1938 Schiaparelli white matelasse silk gown printed in wood grain with a matching jacket and leaf-shaped button is on loan from the University of Minnesota's Goldstein Museum of Design to the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute exhibit ‘Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations.’ According to Goldstein assistant curator Jean McElvain, the Met found the dress through the museum's relatively new digital database project, which catalogs the collection and makes it widely available online. The Met has included the dress in a section dedicated to the surrealist tendencies of featured designers Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada.” I require a translation of everything she just said.

One last round of recall roundup then we move on … I sort of promise. The Chicago Tribune reports: “There may be no more appropriate metaphor for the impact of Wisconsin's combustible recall election for governor than what happened to Democratic challenger Tom Barrett moments after he publicly conceded defeat to Republican incumbent Scott Walker. Barrett, the Milwaukee mayor, delivered the news to supporters at a downtown hotel Tuesday night, stepped off the stage and was slapped in the face by a woman distraught by his loss. Slap in the face. Kick in the pants. Cold shower. Insert gloomy cliche of choice here. … Joseph Slater, a labor law expert at the University of Toledo ... pointed to his own state of Ohio, where Republicans who control state government also pushed through tough curbs last year on public employee unions. In November, Ohio voters overturned the GOP changes and restored union rights in a statewide referendum. The difference, as Slater explained it, is that Wisconsin law doesn't allow for narrow-issue referendums, forcing unions to go for the nuclear option and try to oust Walker instead. ‘You can dislike the union bill and still like Scott Walker for other reasons,’ Slater said.”

At CBS News, Phil Hirschkorn reports: “Mike McCabe, who tracks campaign spending for the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, predicts that when all the donations have been reported, the candidates and independent groups will have spent between $75 [million] and $80 million on this race. By comparison, in the 2010 Wisconsin gubernatorial race featuring the same two candidates, the total spending was $37.4 million, according to Wisconsin Democracy Campaign (WDC), an independent campaign funding watchdog. And there was only $6 million in spending by outside groups, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. The spike in outside spending began last year, in the first round of recall elections, when 9 of the 33 Wisconsin state senators fought for their jobs. Outside groups spent $44 million. With three weeks to go, as of May 21, the last disclosure deadline before recall election day, Walker had raised $30.5 million, while Tom Barrett had raised $3.9 million, according to public disclosure reports tallied by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.”

Craig Gilbert at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes: “Walker's big victory wasn't attributable only to the intensity of his gung-ho GOP base. His winning coalition was bigger than that. For example:
37% of Walker voters Tuesday were self-described moderates, according to the exit polls.
23% belonged to union households.
20% had a favorable opinion of public-employee unions.
9% disapproved of the changes Walker made to collective bargaining.
And as has been widely noted, 17% were Obama supporters — voters who said they support the Democratic president over GOP challenger Mitt Romney.”

At FoxNews, Douglas Schoen says: “It is clear now that the initial wave of the exit poll showing Obama with an 11-point lead is almost certainly an exaggeration. Indeed, the weighted numbers showed his margin coming down to 7 points. In that the exit poll for the gubernatorial race ...  underestimated Walker’s margin of victory between 5 and 9 points so too, I would suggest, there was a similar exaggeration in the presidential race. If we then assume, for the sake of argument, that the exit polls similarly exaggerated Obama’s lead over Romney, Obama’s initial 11-point lead that the exit polls showed would drop to between 2 and 6 points. This would then put Obama’s actual lead in Wisconsin in line with the Real Clear Politics average of about 5 for Wisconsin. Extrapolating nationally from these trends, it is probably a safe conclusion to say that, if anything, the Wisconsin election demonstrates that the national vote between Romney and Obama is very close to the statistical tie many of the polls are now showing.”

Dan Eggen at The Washington Post writes: “[M]any Democrats and campaign watchdog groups see the Badger State matchup as a test run of sorts for November, when super PACs and other interest groups could spend $1 billion or more on political ads and organizing efforts in races for the White House and Congress. The outcome also has prompted hand-wringing on the left over whether pro-Democratic groups, which traditionally focus on ground-game organizing rather than advertising, will need to rethink their strategy. ‘The Wisconsin results should serve as a wake-up call for Democrats: On-the-ground organizing is critically important, but it must be coupled with an aggressive air campaign,’ said Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. ‘The election is about who you are for — big corporations, Big Oil, and millionaires or the middle class. Without robust air cover, the voice of the middle class will be silenced.’ ”

MPR’s Tom Scheck asks what effect the Walker win will have on Minnesota’s GOP? “One of the big questions of Minnesota's 2012 legislative session was whether the Republican majority in the Legislature would ask voters to decide whether unions could require all workers to belong to a union and pay dues. Lawmakers never voted on the question, in large part due to concerns that the state's labor unions would spend millions to defeat the proposal and those who helped put it on the ballot. But supporters of the so-called ‘Right to Work’ amendment say Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's victory in Tuesday's recall election should give them the courage to follow through with the plans. ‘If you say you're going to do something and you stick to it and do it and it works, you will be rewarded in politics,’ State Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, said of Walker's victory.”

The Strib, which prefers to believe it was the recall and not Scott Walker’s policies that divided Wisconsin, editorializes: “The recall attempt itself also skewed Tuesday’s results in Walker’s favor. Exit polls showed that 60 percent of voters agree with this editorial board (“Wrongheaded recall in Wisconsin,” June 3) that recall elections should be reserved for cases of significant malfeasance or criminal misconduct by elected officials. They should be the ­direct-­democracy equivalent of impeachment, not a minority party’s response to a hard-fought policy dispute. … To his credit, Walker seemed keenly aware of that reality as he thanked supporters Tuesday night. He spoke not as a triumphal candidate but as a governor with a lot of work to do. He seemed to acknowledge that he moved too abruptly last year to curtail public-employee union power. Now, he said, he wants to bring the state’s two parties together — over brats, burgers and Wisconsin beer — to search for bipartisan consensus on a way forward. That aim, announced with a dash of humility and respect for his political opponents, is the right one for election-weary Wisconsin. It’s also what the nation needs — though it may not be what those who thrive on partisan conflict want to hear.” So see, Mr. Walker really is a nice fellow. He didn’t really mean to do any of that mean stuff, and since we can read his heart we know he’ll be different from now on … . (Also, oddly, the Strib’s original headline for the editorial it mentions was, “Wrongheaded recall divides Wisconsin.”) An inadvertent oversight, I'm sure.

Here’s another thought on the Strib and its thinking.

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Comments (9)

Stop treating renters like second-class citizens

Not every renter is renting rather than owning due to lack of personal responsibility. There are many reasons people rent, and always have been.

But as long as restrictive leases and lack of legal protections continue to make renters feel like they're only "occupants" instead of people living in a home they love, it will be hard to get them to behave more respectfully towards the property they are living in.

It won't work 100% of the time on 100% of the people (what policy ever does?), but if you stop treating renters like second class citizens, they'll stop acting like second class citizens. And as the proportion of renters to homeowners continues to rise, this concept becomes increasingly important.

Second-class citizens

I’ll second Pat Berg’s comment. I’ve owned a single-family detached home, I’ve owned a condo (the concept of owning “space” may be legal, but on a practical level, it leaves you with… nothing), and I’ve rented both houses and apartments.

I’ve been the same citizen in every case.

Neither owning nor renting my living space has had any effect on my political views or my tendency to stop and pick up trash while I’m out walking. It has, however, made a difference in how I view the place I live, and “occupant” is a lot less benign than “owner.” Renters are routinely treated, not only as second-class citizens, but often as potential, if not actual, felons, whether that’s justified or not.

As a planning commissioner in years past, I even received a letter from a fellow citizen of the city where I was living at the time, asserting that allowing rental housing was actually a plot to bring drug dealers into a portion of the city, because, “as everyone knows,” first come the rentals, then the apartments, then the slums, then the crime, then the drugs and gangs. The letter-writer described this as if it were a law of nature.

Economic bigotry is just as ugly and irrational as any other form of bigotry.

It's NOT Tenants Who Create Slums

As the history of "problem properties" clearly demonstrates, rental properties whose landlords do NOT allow their properties to become a "problem" for their neighborhoods and local law enforcement; who properly screen their tenants and keep their properties in good shape, and maintain reserves sufficient to clean up after the occasional problem tenant that got past their screening, generally do not have a negative impact on the neighborhoods in which those properties are located.

It is NOT the tenants, after all, who turn a property into a slum (although some tenants are very hard on their living spaces), but the landlords of those properties, many of whom are seeking to make an easy living off buying cheap rental properties, who fail to make needed repairs, allow properties to fall into disrepair (even with good tenants), and fail to screen their tenants adequately who are ultimately responsible for the neighborhood deterioration that so many people associate with rental properties.

Second-class--No!

The standard line on the housing crisis is too many people who shouldn't be homeowners tried to buy houses, and maybe the American Dream of homeownership isn't for everyone. Okay, that's a defensable argument. The question that bit of received wisdom raises is, where are people going to live? Ghettoes of apartments in suburban complexes?

Owning property is not a qualification for citizenship. Local governments should stop treating it that way.

Can't we all get along?

Says the governor who won't consider restoring bargaining rights for state workers after gutting them. I guess I also missed the part where the law said that recall elections should only be used for tossing out criminals. A bit of history for you all about recall elections in Wisconsin - George Petak was a state senator from Racine, WI and after he first opposed a Brewers stadium tax he switched sides at the last minute to provide the deciding vote to pass the tax in 1995, he was subsequently recalled and the Democrats took over the state senate.

Getting along in Wisconsin

I agree--his call for harmony is more than a little disingenous. I suspect he would have see no need to talk about playing nice if his minions still controlled the state Senate.

As far as using the recall only to toss out criminals--maybe this one was just premature?

Skip the "air campaign"

By air campaign, I assume that means television and to a lesser extent radio. Being the most expensive way to get your message out, how about leaving that medium to those that can vastly out spend you?

I've floated this idea before, and there's little chance it would be adopted. Mass media corporations wouldn't be too keen on committing the journalism necessary to inform on candidates' views and policy positions if they weren't buying air time. If the public only heard one party's pitch on television, would they seek out other campaign information if informed that there were such? If they wouldn't bother, well then I guess we would get the government we deserve.

Other reasons

My townhouse association by laws limit rentals to 10% of all units in the association, because once you exceed that level, banks then view ALL units in the association as "investment" properties, which brings with it very different, more expensive, mortgage terms (including, no FHA qualified loans). Current owners could also potentially find themselves in breach of their own mortgage terms.

I can't say for certain, but it seems reasonable that banks may take similar views of city neighborhoods if rental properties exceed certain levels within that neighborhood.

No mystery in Wisconsin, and landlords are the problem.

The recall has very little impact on anyone else in the country. Liberal ambivalence, a lame candidate, and MIA white house skewed the whole thing in Walkers direction.

Landlords i.e. property owners, are responsible for keeping up properties and managing tenants. Cities need to have more aggressive tools, i.e. forfeiture laws to leverage property owners.

And I agree with those who want treat renters like normal people. If give people a sense of investment in their homes and communities they'll respond whether they're renting or mortgaging.