My Point of View, By Ebenezer Howe III — ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE
Of all the issues plaguing us, how many are the result of our fixing?
Case in point — the housing shortage. Not all that many years ago, I remember seeing many articles and/or letters to the editor on changes to the local rental housing code or maybe it is called an ordinance at the city level. This was a push to create an inspection and licensing system. The intent was to provide a better quality standard for rental property in Albert Lea. There must have been a feeling of those driving the push that Albert Lea had a bunch of slumlord owners, and this would produce more quality in the rental housing available in the city. I am sure there were, and maybe still are, some landlords who do not provide much quality in their rental units. One thing I remember of that fight between landlords, renters and the folks suggesting ways to make improvements in regulations, was resistance to any form of tracking poor tenants. By poor tenants, I mean those who destroyed or damaged the rental property and/or were consistently late paying rent. This part of the argument never was in the paper that I recall. I learned about it from an acquaintance who had some rental units. The landlords wanted the city to maintain a tenant registry for monitoring the good and bad characters. At the time there were, and still are, laws regulating tenant monitoring services, but they are a fee-based service. Since the landlords were going to have to pay a new licensing fee, they thought it fair that the city should provide the tenant monitoring service. Landlords lost that battle.
We rented for under two years after marriage — first was a basement apartment, then the first floor of a house converted to a duplex with a common basement for laundry. It would take 5 to 10 minutes to clean the washer and dryer before daring to use them after the upstairs tenant had used them. By the number of visits from the landlord to the upstairs folks, I believe they were habitually late with the rent. These two items in my life’s experience have made me wonder why someone would ever take on being a landlord.
I ran across The Landlord-Tenant Handbook when attempting research on rental housing. This handbook was broken into four sections: Entering into the agreement, four pages covering 10 topics; during the tenancy, four pages covering four topics (repair problems took 2 1/2 pages); ending the tenancy, two pages covering three topics; and other important laws, seven pages covering 15 topics. The bulk of dates of the laws referenced in the handbook were 1992, some 1993 and a couple 1994. Then there was one in 1973 and one in 1932. So regulation of rental housing has been around a long time with some major changes and revisions done in the 1990s. Add to these city ordinances, which can’t be less stringent, and is it any wonder why there may be a housing shortage? Not being an entrepreneur-type guy, I have no idea why someone would enter the rental housing game. I would also think that rental housing would have more risks if you were in the lending business.
Around a month ago, day care shortage, possibly caused by over-regulation, was the theme of several newspaper articles, locally and in the Twin Cities, along with radio programs from MPR.
I found this item in Minnesota Department of Human Services under Child care programs. Fix-it-ticket — “Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, licensors are required to issue a fix-it ticket for eligible violations that do not imminently endanger the health, safety or rights of children in care.” The fix-it-ticket is to be repaired/resolved within 48 hours, excluding weekends and holidays.
Here are three of the listed infractions: 1. Toys have damage that is cosmetic in nature (e.g., a missing doorknob from a dramatic play kitchen set) and is not hazardous to children. 2. There are nonhazardous ripples in a rug. 3. The license is not posted in a prominent place.
I do not see the above reaching a level of 48-hour urgency. Yes, I see this kind of regulation being the tipping point that could force day care providers to just throw in the towel and call it quits.
In both of these cases, the consequences of over-regulation produced more harm than good.
Alden resident Ebenezer Howe is chairman of the Freeborn County Republican Party. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of the local party members.