Room for optimism with Y’town Tenant’s Council


Room for optimism with Y’town Tenant’s Council

Over the past year, the city of Youngstown has made some noteworthy strides in cracking down on irresponsible, negligent and blight-inviting landlords within its borders. Much of that success can be attributed to the focused and aggressive work of the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. and ACTION, a Youngstown-based activist group for social justice.

Three months ago, for example, legislation proposed by the groups to more stringently regulate land-installment contracts for home sales that have been proliferating in Youngstown won unanimous approval by City Council.

In too many of those arrangements documented by ACTION and YNDC, the buyers have been victimized by predatory lending practices and lackluster or nonexistent responses to legitimate property complaints.

ADVOCACY FOR ALL RENTERS

Now, the Alliance for Congregational Transformation of Our Neighborhoods is hoping to build upon that momentum through creation of the Youngstown Tenant’s Council, a group designed to enhance the quality of life for renters of all properties – including apartments – within the city limits.

“With the pushes from ACTION and the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. over the last year, we’ve seen a lot of tenants getting involved again,” Mary Krupa, founder of the council, said in a front-page story published in The Vindicator earlier this week.

It is indeed heartening to see renters in the city organizing and taking a stand for the rights guaranteed them in state law and city ordinances. We look for swift growth and robust participation in the council.

One of the first priorities of the new group must be educating all tenant members of their statutory rights and responsibilities.

For example, landlords cannot legally discriminate based on nine categories: color, disability, familial status, national origin, race, religion, sex, ancestry or military status. Landlords also must ensure the premises they rent meet all health and safety codes and have functioning plumbing and heating.

From the outset, however, the new council must not be viewed as an organized attack dog on landlords with free rein to badger and disrespect them without due cause.

RESPONSIBLE LANDLORDS

After all, many landlords in the city are very responsive to tenants’ needs and rights. Indeed part of the education component for the new citywide council must include a unit on the legitimate rights of landlords .

To be sure, mutual respect of each group’s rights and understanding of each group’s responsibility must lie at the foundation of all landlord-tenant agreements.

Tenant groups have succeeded elsewhere in the state and nation at public housing developments, private condominium units and elite gated communities. There’s no reason why the Youngstown Tenant’s Council cannot yield similar successes here.

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