What are practical ways to prevent tenants from losing their homes?
Since hundreds of tenants get eviction notices in Durham each month, we posed this question to those who attended the second session of Who Owns Durham. All of the suggested strategies — which ranged from providing better wages to locking in rent to “eat the rich” — were categorized into four themes: landlord accountability, civil justice, rent stabilization, and the improvement of financial well-being. Each theme formed the basis of the small-group discussions.
Change the laws
One group’s discussions on landlord accountability focused on laws that needed to be changed that would:
- incentivize smaller, local landlords to provide affordable units by giving tax credits,
- restrict the number of units for each property owner,
- assess fees and taxes for large, corporate, out-of-state owners,
- refuse to allow corporate owners to buy properties using other names.
Allison Young, a DataWorks summer intern, clearly summarized the group’s discussion of these proposed new laws:
If they are going to come in and are not based in Durham, they should have some financial requirement, e.g., giving money to the community so that some of that money comes to Durham and isn’t drained out to them.
Existing barriers to enact these changes also became evident.
Who are the landlords?
In order to hold landlords accountable, community groups need to know who they are. With the proportion of properties owned by out-of-state corporations increasing in Durham, that has become more challenging.
Cortland Partners, for example, owns six apartment complexes in the Raleigh-Durham metro area and almost 51,000 units nationally. However, none of the properties in this area have been legally filed under the corporate name, but rather as separate LLCs. (Note: Cortland has its main headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, but also has material sourcing and development offices in London and Shanghai.)
Researching the ownership of apartment buildings and gaining a greater understanding of state regulations related to landlords, are the first steps towards maintaining a balance in corporate and local property ownership and raising awareness for tenants. Community members who are interested in participating in research pods on these topics are encouraged to contact DataWorks at 919.660.7286.
This is part one of a four-part series that summarizes key take-aways from the June 25th strategy session of ‘Who Owns Durham.’