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Lansing to hire Housing Ombudsman

Posted at 10:51 AM, Mar 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-22 15:44:03-04

The Greater Lansing Housing Coalition receives upwards of 80 calls a day just about housing issues.

"The calls we get are unlicensed landlords and where the property has mold, lead paint, leaky roofs," explained Executive Director, Julie Powers. "I had a call the other day with an overrun of vermin and as it turns out the rental license had lapsed."

40% of the housing units in Lansing are rentals. And, Powers said that's what most of the calls are about, the landlord/tenant relationship.

"We have folks who don't necessarily know what they're getting into and there are a ton of bad actors out there," Powers explained. "I know that there are great landlords. I'm not talking about them. But, there are some really bad characters out there in this town and they're repeat, repeat offenders."

The Mayor said it's the city's most vulnerable getting pushed around.

"People at the low end of the economy can be taken advantage of. And, they're already spending an inordinate amount of their income on housing. That's statistically proven and then, what are their options?" He said. "You know, so they're being exploited."

That's why Mayor Bernero plans to create a Housing Ombudsman position to help connect tenants to the resources they need.

"Ultimately what it means is we're gonna keep people in their homes. We're gonna improve their situation. We're gonna stop them from being evicted unfairly and hopefully prevent some homelessness. And, give people avenues where they can fight back and hopefully resolve some disputes," the Mayor said.

It's a step Powers said will improve the bigger issue of housing in the region overall.

"We need to do better and this is part of that process of doing better," she said.

The Housing Ombudsman's job description hasn't been worked out just yet. It could be an organization or just one person.

The Mayor plans to discuss it in further detail during his State of the City Address Tuesday night.

It will be up to City Council to approve the position.