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Proposal would give renters new rights

Bad landlords would have rent withheld

May 19, 2009

Cudahy — - Cudahy - A consultant hired by the city is proposing nine programs that aim to increase home ownership in the city and strengthen citywide inspections of rental properties, including one that would allow renters to withhold their rent from landlords who aren't maintaining their properties.

"Cudahy has an excessive amount of rental units, and thus the number of rental units needs to be reduced," said former Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian in his report to Cudahy's Community Development Authority. "At the same time, Cudahy must articulate the legislative intent for the Inspection Department to do its job; the city must also provide the Inspection Department with staffing needed to fulfill the department's mission."

CDA Chairwoman Sara Eberhardy said the panel must decide if it wants to retain Antaramian's services for the implementation phase of a housing authority, which entails creating a budget for the programs and determining where funding would come from.

Antaramian is charging $74,000 for his services to assist the CDA in implementing the nine programs, which would come from the city's tax-incremental financing district.

A TIF district allows municipalities to borrow money for improvements to a blighted or environmentally damaged site. When a TIF district is created, the money borrowed is repaid with increased property taxes generated through development.

Property taxes are frozen at their initial level, while taxes on the increased value, or increment, are used to repay the debt.

Because implementing all nine programs simultaneously would be difficult for the CDA to tackle, Antaramian ranked three top programs the CDA should focus on: a rehabilitation loans program, a neighborhood inspection program and a rent-withholding program.

The rehabilitation loans program would help homeowners make improvements to their properties that they may not be able to afford, Eberhardy said. The neighborhood inspection program would be similar to the Care for Cudahy program, which monitors properties in the city to ensure that they are up to city codes. Right now, the Care for Cudahy program is understaffed and under-budgeted.

"It's not living up to its expectations," Eberhardy said.

The rent-withholding program would allow city officials to collect rent from tenants who reside in homes where landlords are not properly maintaining their properties. Landlords would only be able to collect the rent from the city once improvements have been made. The program also would make it easier for city officials to serve citations to landlords who live outside Cudahy. They likely would receive the citations when they come to City Hall to collect their rents, Eberhardy said.

She said landlords likely will not be thrilled about the rent-withholding program, but it will encourage all landlords to maintain their properties.

"That's the goal," she said.

Next Step

WHAT: Members of the Community Development Authority will discuss and possibly take action on whether they should enter into a new contract with John Antaramian and implement programs to increase home ownership and citywide inspection of rental properties.

WHEN: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 9

WHERE: City Hall, 5050 S. Lake Drive

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