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Great Job Pittsburgh REIA – We won

Great Job Pittsburgh REIA – We won

I am so proud of you Pittsburgh REIA.  Many of you called the mayors office to express your opposition and by my count 15 of you took time out of your Monday to speak out against this proposed law.   Guess what, we won !!!!

Landlords and Real Estate Investors of Pittsburgh REIA help turn the tide against proposed city ordinance

See below from the Post Gazzette

Julia Rendleman/Post-Gazette

It was standing room only at a Pittsburgh City Council meeting Monday night where public comments were heard on the proposed $65 annual fee on landlords per rental unit.

Proposed landlord fee would bring $1.6 million to city coffers

Kenneth Weir held up a wad of cash.

“There’s a lot of heavy hitters in here,” said Mr. Weir, a rental property owner from Lincoln Place. “I’ll throw in $100 to any of these heavy hitters that want to take this to court. … That’s where this ultimately has to go.”

Mr. Weir was one of scores of rental property owners, tenants and others who packed a standing-room-only Pittsburgh City Council public hearing Monday night on Mayor Bill Peduto’s plan to launch a rental property registration program.

Eighty-five people signed up to speak, according to the city clerk’s office, with 65 listed in opposition to the plan, which would require owners of rental properties to register with the city and pay a yearly fee of $65 per unit. A long line of other speakers were not registered but got a minute to air their concerns at the end.

A similar but more expansive ordinance died in a 2008 court battle between the city and the Apartment Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh, and several speakers, including John Kostelac, president of the North Huntingdon-based Landlord Service Bureau, pledged to launch a new legal offensive if the council passes the mayor’s plan.

The city wants names, address, telephone numbers, email addresses and other contact information for all owners or the owners’ designated “responsible local agents” and for any lien holder or people authorized to collect rent.

The mayor and his staff have said it is necessary to keep better tabs on owners of problem properties, adding that the fee would cover the administrative cost of processing the registrations.

Hotels, motels, bed-and-breakfast establishments, public-housing units, university dormitories, certified rehabilitation facilities and long-term medical care facilities are exempt.

The city expects to collect about $1.6 million in 2015 from the program, though some speakers Monday night questioned the city’s math. Caroline West, representing Shadyside Properties and Franklin West, said about 45,000 rental units would be subject to the ordinance, which would generate about $2.9 million a year.

There were myriad arguments against the program, including that it unfairly targets working-class and lower-income tenants, who would bear the burden through increased rents, and exempted deep-pocketed nonprofits.

Some speakers contended it would drive away investment in city neighborhoods and disproportionately fall on large rental property owners, several of whom said the new program would cost them tens of thousands of dollars a year and drive down property values.

Others wanted the city to focus on problem landlords, not the vast majority who they contend maintain their properties properly and follow the rules.

Some supported the idea of a rental registration program but questioned the amount of the fee and wanted more language calling for better enforcement of property codes.

“This seems like a tax without any value added at this time,” said Cathy Mitchell, president of the South Side Community Council.

A few speakers defended the plan, though they were decidedly in the minority Monday night.

“One of our biggest problems is absentee landlords,” said Brad Palmisano, who was representing the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association. “I understand and respect everyone who doesn’t want to pay an extra tax. … Those of us who live in these communities, we need help. … The effort involved in trying to track down absentee landlords is significant.”

Kevin Acklin, Mr. Peduto’s chief of staff, said the city is not contemplating a cap on the amount landlords would have to pay.

“We think the fee charged is commensurate with the staff work we need to administer this new program,” he said. “We’ll listen to what council has to say. We’ll listen to what the apartment owners have to say.”

Several council members — the only one absent Monday night was Ricky Burgess — said they had reservations about the mayor’s plan.

“I think there’s a solution someplace, but I’m not sure it’s front of us,” said Councilwoman Deb Gross.

Councilman Daniel Lavelle promised council would take its time with the measure and do its “due diligence.”

“There are some flaws with this legislation as currently written,” Mr. Lavelle said.

Councilman Dan Gilman, Mr. Peduto’s former aide, rejected the idea that irresponsible landlords were a minor problem.

“The No. 1 issue that comes into our office every day … is bad properties. … the majority of which are not owner-occupied,” Mr. Gilman said. “This city has a major, major, major issue with property management on some properties … It has absolutely destroyed some neighborhoods in the city.”

Robert Zullo: rzullo@post-gazette.com, 412-263-3909 or on Twitter @rczullo.

(December 2014 Newsletter)

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