Longmont Council and Mayoral Candidates

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  • Longmont Council and Mayor Candidate Questions

Many candidates have expressed a desire to increase the amount of affordable housing in Longmont.  Expenses have recently gone up considerably for landlords and property managers who provide much of the affordable housing (both subsidized and unsubsidized) in the city.  How do you plan to address affordability taking these challenges into account? 

MAYORAL CANDIDATES

Tim Waters.  We’ve already addressed a small part of the need through the Inclusionary Housing ordinance and the percentage of newly constructed apartments that may be offered as permanently affordable.  For developers who opt to pay the fee-in-lieu, funding becomes available for rental assistance, deposits, etc.  The much larger challenge is assisting the 53% of renters who report spending more than 33% of their income on rent and other housing related costs.  Continuing the City’s work with tenants needing, and landlords who are willing, to accept housing vouchers is a timely approach. I understand the concerns of property owners/landlords when considering tenants needing vouchers to cover rental costs, but this is one of the few options the city enjoys for working with both landlords and potential tenants.  Ultimately, costs will adjust when our supply of rental housing matches or exceeds the growth of households in Longmont.

Gregory Harris. I oppose any increase in the required allocation of 12% in the current Longmont affordability ordinance.  I oppose any increases is the costs of water or any kind of fees.

Joan Peck.  Our Inclusionary housing ordinance includes new developments, single family housing, townhouses, condos, apartment buildings, etc., to have 12% of the development permanently affordable.  Variances, fee waivers, lot widths, tax credits and other incentives are offered to offset some of the costs of the development.  There’s not much we can do with housing built before the ordinance was put in place. It seems market value drives the prices.

AT-LARGE CANDIDATES

Aren Rodriquez We cannot simply build ourselves out of affordability issues with the current city codes. It will take a combination of creativity, flexibility, and adaptive reuse of underutilized properties. These strategies will not be effective without revisiting portions of the city code. The first of which is building design standards. This section of the Land Development Code has a large influence on what can and cannot be built in the city of Longmont. The city also needs to be proactive in partnering with the right type of developers who can deliver the type of non-standard products and have the vision to revitalize buildings not currently used for residential purposes.

Jeremy Dejuan Johnson. There are many ways to control this issue and one is trying to increase the inventory for Longmont also a more streamline process of getting projects completed. Also taking a better approach of the policy that controls the landlord and rental properties

Sean McCoy. I believe that affordable housing is not just the purchase of a home, but also the rental of a home that an individual can reasonably afford.  This also branches over into the unhoused, specifically shelters for these individuals, as well as substance abuse counseling and clean usage. I think we as a community really need to make sure that we take care of these individuals by providing free sharps and needle drop off as well as clean needle handouts in order to keep not only these people healthy, but also most importantly our community and children healthy and safe. Needles are found each day in parks throughout the city and I want to make sure this is a safe place; a city you would raise your children in as I have mine. 

I think that we need to think outside the box in how we deal with landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities. I know the city had something like this in the past, but after talking to a few landlords they feel it has fallen off the radar. So I propose we hire a real-estate rental expert who will create a lease agreement that is not required but can be accessed and which we encourage landlords to use that will be a useful guide to a fair and equitable agreement between the two parties. I think that the employee(s) would help tenants and landlords work out their differences and mediate between them. They would be responsible for holding a monthly landlord ethics course, a half day seminar that would help landlords understand how quickly they need to repair or replace items like refrigerators and such. They would be a clearinghouse of resources. They could help property owners who currently are or are thinking about turning their basements, attics, above the garage spaces as well as other spaces into apartments. We should help them navigate getting the required meters put into place for Electricity, Water, and Gas. We may need to develop a program that allows them to pay off those meters over a 10-year period, as the cost of this can be expensive. In doing this we bring people into compliance and thus bring in new affordable housing into the market without building for the sake of building new. This approach does not hurt construction contractors, realtors, or any other certified trades business.

Tallis Salamatian.  I think Longmont needs more Attainable housing, not necessarily more affordable housing. Affordable housing is great for the lowest earning segment of our population but I envision a more prosperous city that has good paying jobs and a higher rate of home ownership. If we as a society want to address inequality, the most effective way is to increase home ownership, and that isn’t going to be done through rent controlled or rent subsidies.  While Affordable housing is a critical part of our city’s housing calculus, I believe that increasing the amount of Attainable housing will alleviate pressure on the limited stock of Affordable housing. By reducing the pressure on the limited Affordable housing stock the quality of Affordable living options increases.  I understand the perspective of landlords. My father was a contractor and owned several rentals in low-income areas, many of the tenants were Section 8. Often, when the people moved out, the repairs cost much more than the damage deposit. With the price of materials as high as they are I don’t doubt that landlords are being pinched.

Shiquita Yarbourgh.   Affordable housing is a nation-wide problem. No one solution will be able to alleviate the issue. That is why we need to look at many facets from increasing the inventory, to continuing to ensure economic opportunity for individuals (improving their ability to pay rents). I am a proponent of the regional housing strategy and efforts to increase access to housing.  As with all issues, it’s also important that I hear from all impacted. I would want to hear from landlords and property managers about policies or programs that would support them in continuing to offer affordable housing. With the number of affordable housing vouchers declining in Longmont because of a lack of available units, landlords must be part of the conversation.

WARD 2 CANDIDATE MARCIA MARTIN

Increasing the inventory of affordable housing in Longmont is not a desire, it’s an imperative. I support a full-court press to increase housing accessible to residents earning at or below 100% AMI.  During the Pandemic I used new methods of outreach to my constituents, and I earned that renters are often unaware of the sources of assistance that are available from the city and county. I have convinced the City Manager that the city website is impossible to navigate, especially from a phone, and that the city’s face-to-face outreach to low-income renters is wildly inadequate. They are learning this for themselves as they have difficulty in placing the money and benefits that came to Longmont as COVID-19 relief rental assistance. If the city’s support services are more effective at keeping tenants from falling behind, the cost and risk to landlords is reduced. When tenants are not behind, they are more likely to communicate with their landlords and not create nasty surprises when their house of cards collapses.

I am working with Susan Spaulding and others to provide a service center and clearing-house for small-scale landlords (5 units or less) to reduce the risk and cost of renting to tenants possessing Housing Choice (and other) Vouchers. Small landlords, who are not covered by new Source of Income Legislation, are hesitant to accept vouchers because they fear renting to people with less than perfect tenant history, because they fear the red-tape and confusion of dealing with HUD and the VA. Especially since the City has taken on the administration of the Longmont Housing Authority, we have expertise to share. The city can also provide a source of applicants that can help ensure that small landlords don’t have units standing empty because they don’t know how to get matched up with tenants.  This is a win-win because it will expand availability of low-end rentals, but will also lower costs and risks for small landlords.

Throughout this past year, landlords and property managers in Longmont have been working closely with tenants to keep them housed and get the rent paid, but there are some instances where the tenant is not communicative and does not pay rent. In normal times, if this were the case, we would be able to post a 10-day demand for compliance.  This is not permitted under the current moratorium.  What do you think is the best way to help landlords and tenants in this situation?

MAYORAL CANDIDATES

Tim Waters.  I believe the City’s current approach, working with both tenants and landlords through the City’s mediation services, is a reasonable and (for the most part) constructive process.

Gregory Harris.  I support ending the current moratorium. Prohibitions on evictions are government interference in the free market. If the Federal or State governments believe that tenants are having problems paying rent, they should assist the individuals. The problems of COVID should not be cured on the backs of real estate owners and property managers. This is a hidden tax and should not be how the government is run.

Joan Peck.  The first path should be mediation with Susan Spaulding who works with tenants and landlords/property managers/owners of rental units. There is money for rental assistance.  Both sides need to be heard, an agreement made with a timeline for the tenant to either continue living in the unit or find another place to live.  If the rent is being raised or back rent because of the pandemic is being sought, then mediation and some kind of payment schedule should be in place with a written agreement created by a lawyer.

AT-LARGE CANDIDATES

Aren Rodriquez It is my belief that the city has a good mediation program through Community Services. Utilizing this and other city offered programs provides tenants facing economic difficulties many resources to work through these difficult times. It is in the best interest of the city, the landlord, and the tenant to try to keep folks in housing. At the end of the day, you can’t force people to be communicative or pay their rent.

Jeremy Dejuan Johnson. So, I understand people have had a difficult time paying their rent during COVID, so turning our backs on fellow Americans in a time of need so formulating a tax break for the owners for the rent that wasn’t paid ,some kind of payback program for the rent that was missed if they decided to stay in the units. But those have to approved and mandated by the city and attorney.

Sean McCoy. I understand the frustration of property owners / managers that are trying to figure out what is going on with tenants who ignore their attempts to communicate with them and are not paying rent. This is a problem that will have to be dealt with after we come out of all of these Covid troubles. I believe that the city is bound by the same imposed emergence rules and regulations that the national and state governments have put into place. I think that there are some state funds and federal funds that could be accessed by tenants, as well as many small operator landlords and even property management companies who may need a little help and guidance in procuring these dollars. I propose that the city hire a real-estate rental expert, a city staff member, who can help guide and connect tenants, landlords and property management companies to the appropriate grants/funds so they can continue to operate as we struggle through these uncharted waters. 

Friday the 27th of August, the US Supreme Court ruled in a 6 to 3 decision to end the CDC’s eviction moratorium. I see that landlords and property management companies have a personal or institutional ethical and moral dilemma to grapple with. Do they throw people out who have not been paying rent in the middle of a resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic? A pandemic that has already taken the lives of over 600 thousand Americans. I am specifically referring to the new Delta variant that is spiking. Or, do they choose to keep the people in their rental units.I do not have an answer for this new situation. I guess, when I get elected to council I will have to deal with the fallout of their ethical and moral decision. 

Tallis Salamatian.  Most landlords have mortgages of their own, so the eviction moratorium has hit them hard. I know that if this situation had happened to my family when we owned rentals, and if more than a couple properties weren’t bringing in revenue, it wouldn’t take long until we would be insolvent.  I believe in personal responsibility, if someone can’t make the minimal effort to communicate, then it is hard to justify offering leniency. While plenty of people are experiencing difficulties, communication is key to getting through difficult situations.

Shiquita Yarbourgh.   This is where additional public/private partnerships can be leveraged to work with landlords and tenants. This includes everything from the City’s volunteer mediation services, area nonprofits who provide support and services to those who may be struggling, and continuing to promote stop-gap solutions through our partners for tenants.

WARD 2 CANDIDATE MARCIA MARTIN

During the pandemic I connected much more than before with housing-precarious tenants, and learned how many are unaware of how to get help, and fearful of communicating with their landlords. As I mentioned above, I am already engaged in working to change this, by improving city processes, creating new programs, and reaching the precariat more effectively. I personally advise my constituents to approach their landlords, make payment plans, and be proactive in seeking assistance from government and nonprofits.

I am a landlord myself, and I understand the associated costs very well. I do not support further extension of eviction moratoria. I do believe that Longmont’s more effective distribution of rental assistance can help ease the transition. I also believe that increasing wages in the new economy will make catching up easier for many renters. I urge landlords to be patient and to create repayment plans with tenants who can provide proof of income. I hope few will choose eviction just because of the strains from periods of nonpayment. Everyone loses when we play musical apartments, changing one tenant with a problematic payment history for another, creating expense for all parties in the process. Much better to keep people housed. Longmont already offers free mediation to help work these matters out, and as I wrote above I am working to expand that program.