Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Westchester Legislature’s new chair looks to play landlord via Section 8 legislation

Posted on January 18, 2010
by ltpbazzo| 2 Comments | Edit
Newly minted Westchester County Board of Legislators Chairman Ken Jenkins, the wingman of the liberal wing of county Democrats, will, according to my sources, resurrect Tuesday night (19) at the county board meeting what everyone thought was a dead issue: “Source of Income” legislation.
In a nutshell, this law would force landlords to accept low-income Section 8 applicants whether the landlord wants to or not. Below is a reprint of my column on this topic first published April 2009, plus a letter to the editor of NCN that same month. Both address the dangerous impact of this legislation.
As you can read more about in my column that will appear in this week’s Jan. 20 NCN on page 10 (“In My Opinion”), Ken Jenkins is tone deaf to the message voters sent to county government in last November’s election. This legislation is just another example of that tone deafness.
[Reprinted from North County News, April 2009]
IN MY OPINION: County has landlords in its sights
By Anthony Bazzo
The Westchester County government is at it again.
It has already proven it is full of cooking experts, as in the no-trans-fat law. It has already proven its members are dietitians (see the new calorie-count law). And it is full of expert gardeners as illustrated by the new no-phosphorous law for fertilizer. We also know the government is expert in the art of bloated government and deflected blame. It is now going to show us it is an expert landlord. On the agenda is a new piece of legislation dealing with source of income. What lawmakers wish to legislate is that landlords cannot refuse to rent to people because of where their rent payments come from.

The stated goal of the legislation is to prevent people who receive disability income, alimony, Social Security and Section 8 housing allowances from being denied available rental housing. Doesn’t that sound so caring, going after those “bigoted” landlords who only want people who can pay rent to live in their units. The only problem with this is, after reading all nine pages of this legislation, what the government is really trying to do is force control of private property by making itself a de facto partner in the rental property without contributing one dime of its own in the effort.

You see, the government relies on a report by the Associations of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) that states that Section 8 recipients have fewer housing options than those not on Section 8. They do not like the fact that poor people cannot afford to live in Scarsdale. This is the same ACORN that has been accused, and in some cases found guilty, of voter fraud. This is the group some legislators are relying on for expert information.

This does not include Mike Kaplowitz or George Oros. I have talked to Legislator Kaplowitz from District 4 and Legislator Oros from District 1, and this is what they have to say:
Mike Kaplowitz: “I am opposed. Although I do not condone/approve of discrimination in any form, I feel that regarding this particular proposed law, a homeowner should have the right to choose who they rent to and who they entrust with their property. Further, there has been no tangible study/proof that this has been a problem to the extent that requires legislation. For any unused Section 8 vouchers, I know the Business and Realty organization has offered to voluntarily work with landlords to find available housing. Also, it is arguable whether this legislation is even constitutional, though it is certainly anti-American. Lastly, my office has received numerous e-mails and calls from constituents, all asking that I not support this proposed local law.”
George Oros: “I am a huge baseball fan, so my quote about the source of income legislation is drawn from an old baseball story. Bob Gibson had pitched himself into trouble. His catcher, Tim McCarver, started out to the mound for a chat. Gibson glared at McCarver and said, “Get back behind the plate. The only thing you know about pitching is you can’t hit it.” The only thing the county board knows about running a small business is they can’t do it. This law is also another one of those unintended consequences because ultimately it will result in less affordable housing as responsible landlords decide to abandon the business. Hasn’t our county done enough harm to small business already?”
What you are supposed to believe by this legislation is that landlords are discriminating against people because of their color or national origin, or even legal status. This could not be further from the truth. The reality is if you accept Section 8 housing, the government tells you how your rental unit must meet certain codes, all of which you must comply with at your own cost with horrendous fines if you don’t. If the tenant does not like you and makes a false claim against you, you are guilty in the government’s eye until proven innocent. Also, if the tenant proves to be disruptive, it is a very painful and costly process to evict them. It would be less painful to extract your own tooth without Novocain. Finally, landlords can’t even use their own leases but must use Section 8 leases without suitable protections. There are already numerous federal, state and county laws barring discrimination based on race, gender, religion, etc. So this becomes a redundant law, something the county loves to do.

Finally, being forced to rent to Section 8 applicants could force landlords to deny affordable housing to non-Section 8 tenants who, as working families, barely make more money than Section 8 permits. What the county is trying to do is force the landlords into accepting government as their partner. All money that comes from the government comes with strings attached, and there are landlords who don’t want that money or the strings that come with it. This is pretty simple: If a landlord wishes to rent his property to Section 8 tenants, it should be his choice and he should not be compelled to do so by the government. And that is what this legislation attempts to do. I hope Mike and George’s position will carry the day.
This is my opinion. You may beg to differ.
[Reprinted from North County News of April 2009]
Letter to the Editor of NCN
Volpe opposes Westchester County rental options for Landlords
To the Editor:
I would like to take this opportunity to expand on last week’s “In My Opinion” column dealing with the proposed “source of income” legislation before the Westchester County Legislature. This legislation would force landlords who don’t want county-controlled tenants to actually open their rentals to Section 8 or assisted living programs. Understand this– the inference here is choice. I am a participating landlord to these programs. However this law forces a landlord to open up a rental that is not part of this program and possibly force this person to comply even though he/she may not want to.

Not only am I a taxpayer, I am a business owner and a landlord. I currently house both private tenants and also Section 8 participants. I know first hand the rules and regulations, taxes, fees and surcharges imposed by County government on all ends of private ownership. If the legislation is being passed because the legislators feel there is discrimination going on then let me ease their concerns. This legislation is redundant and there are laws already in place to prevent discrimination. The laws currently on the books prevent racial, religious, or gender discrimination of any kind. When one reads through the codes you will find heavy penalties should you engage in such a practice. There are constant multi-layer government inspections to make sure you adhere to all the codes. County government already has it’s hands into my pockets and properties. I do not feel that being compelled to rent and use their leases and regulations is warranted if I choose not to. Legislator Kaplowitz from nearby Yorktown has already stated their is no need for this law. I agree.

In closing: this is the kind of intrusive and redundant laws Westchester County government continues to pass onto us as taxpayers. Enough is enough!

Domenic Volpe
Owner, Domenic’s Cleaners

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