As published in the Grand Rapids Press on October 8, 2011.
As landlord, investor, and property developer in Grand Rapids for more than thirty years, I am pleased to see a proposal for single-family rental inspections in Grand Rapids. This policy will support the work of many residents and organizations that have restored the neighborhoods of our city. I strongly feel that these are the right policies at the right time.
Certifying single-family rental units is smart idea for the following reasons:
First, quality housing is not only good for tenants, but good for the neighborhood. The argument that this policy will make housing less affordable, put landlords out of business, and cause more foreclosure is not data-based. Quality housing lowers vacancy rates and enhances the stability of neighborhoods. The proposed inspection fee averages to $5.50 a month. If this fee is unaffordable to any landlord they are in the wrong business. If a property requires extensive work to bring it into compliance, then this policy is fulfilling its goal.
Second, it is clear to me that certifying single-family rental units will create equity in the market. Why should my multi-unit properties be subject to inspection and not the single-family rental next door? Everyone should adhere to the same standards. Kentwood and Wyoming already have similar ordinances. We need to end the special exemptions for single-family rental units in Grand Rapids in order to protect our citizens from unscrupulous landlords that take advantage of this loophole.
Lastly, these policies support the preservation and improvement of our neighborhoods. Quality housing is an essential part of a neighborhood’s success. This policy has been needed for decades, but due to the dramatic increase in single-family rental units in the last three years, this ordinance will support neighborhoods that have seen foreclosures threaten their stability. A strong housing stock maintains property values, improves quality of life, and makes our neighborhoods attractive to young professionals – which then support the City of Grand Rapids.
The paradox of the Rental Property Owners Association’s (ROPA) argument opposing the ordinance is that they repeatedly state that there are good landlords maintaining their properties (I would consider myself one), but the main reason not to enact these policies is the inspections are too costly or it will cost them too much to bring it up to code. That does not make sense.
Some rental property owners have advised me to invest in single-family rentals so that I can stay “under the radar” of the inspections department. This is counter to those who wish to maintain a quality housing stock in Grand Rapids. A basic standard for rental housing that protects the health and safety of our citizens is essential for a vibrant and thriving community.
City staff, local agencies and charitable organizations have worked diligently to produce new ordinances that reflect our current reality and they deserve to be commended. For the RPOA to call these concerned citizens a “special interest group” is laughable!
The City Commission needs to enact this ordinance ASAP in order to keep Grand Rapids on its path to sustainability.