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September 24, 2018

Speakers: Crackdown On Landlords Is Hurting Families


OSWEGO, NY – The city’s recent efforts to crack down on landlords whose properties are in need of repair due to severe code violations, or are delinquent in their taxes or water bills came under fire Monday night.

Valerie Donovan shares her concerns about the repercussions of the city's efforts to crack down on landlords.

Valerie Donovan shares her concerns about the repercussions of the city’s efforts to crack down on landlords.

At the council’s public session, two speakers pointed out while the initiative was well-intentioned, it was having unwanted repercussions.

Valerie Donovan is a teacher in the city school district.

She said she applauds the city’s efforts to crack down on landlord code violations. However, those efforts have had some undesirable ramifications, she added.

“I do not feel it is being done in a responsible, compassionate way,” she told the council. “Is there a plan to help the families that currently are or will be homeless?”

A family she is very familiar with became homeless following the first wave of crackdowns. They have been seen walking in the pouring rain with a ‘tent’ over their shoulders, she said of the mother, father and their young children.

The young student falls asleep in class and asks for food throughout the school day, she said.

Displaced families are referred to an area hotel, five miles away from any gas station or grocery store, she said.

“They pay their rent. They are the victims,” she said. “I know this is not your intent.”

She urged the city to offer some sort of emergency services.

Sue Matthews, a Scriba resident who owns property in Oswego, asked the councilors if they knew something like this would happen, before they voted.

If someone is being evicted, they must receive 30 days notice, she said.

Mayor Billy Barlow pointed out that blight housing can be seen in just about every corner of the Port City. The focus on stricter code enforcement, he said, will help clean up Oswego.

There hasn’t been any real code enforcement in many years, he said, adding that now the city is “clamping down” on negligent landlords.

“We’ve made some minor legislative changes in our code up to this point,” he said.

Historically, the negligent landlords would ignore the letters sent out by the city citing the problems – “In a sense, no cooperation from the landlords,” he said.

The city is looking to “enforce the minimum housing standards, not Mayor Barlow’s housing standards, not the city code housing standards – but the NYS Housing Standards,” he said. “We’re looking to hold landlords accountable to the bare minimum.”

The city doesn’t evict people, the mayor said.

“The notion that we show up and tell tenants to leave is just not true,” he said.

Mayor Barlow said he has been on some code inspections and seen firsthand just how bad some places are.

The only time someone is displaced, “which has been extremely minimal to this point,” the only time is if a person’s life, health or safety is in eminent threat, he explained.

“It’s mostly for tenants’ rights. It’s not fair to the tenants … who get charged $400, $500, $600, $700, $800 or $900 a month in rent to live in some conditions that do not meet the minimum safety housing standards in New York State,” the mayor continued.

The only time you get a response from some landlords is when you hit them in the pocketbook, he said.

Displacing families is a last resort the mayor said, adding that the city will continue to make improvements and make the system better.

7 Responses “Speakers: Crackdown On Landlords Is Hurting Families”

  1. Otter Ohnmacht
    October 25, 2016 at 3:39 am

    Have the displaced families move in with their slumlords. Solved. Happy Thanksgiving “Swega.

  2. sickofshit
    October 25, 2016 at 8:16 am

    How about the city makes the landlords pay for hotels for the families to stay In. Or maybe people should ask the mayor himself to live with him. Oh and by the way the mayor gave people five days to move out of one of the homes. So the notion you go and I tell people to leave there houses in less than a 30 days is exactly what happens.

  3. October 25, 2016 at 8:55 am

    Better yet, let the slumlords pay the displaced tenants’ first and security for their next apartment.

  4. October 25, 2016 at 9:53 am

    I was just told last week by my daughter that her friend is moving in with her because she can no longer live in the conditions in which Wahrendorf’s property (next to sub shop) is. She mentions a hole so big in the bathroom floor that her kittens got trapped in it. Doors that don’t shut properly, sheet rock and other repair supplies have been sitting in her apartment for as long as she has been there and never has any of the repairs been made. I remember back in the 80’s crying after looking at 2 of Mr. Waterbury’s properties, thinking I was going to have to live in something so disgusting.

  5. Mookie
    October 25, 2016 at 10:55 am

    Two things to look at:

    Yes there is a slum lord issue and I am quite pleased to see Mayor Barlow taking action about it. These landlords disgust me with the conditions of some of the rentals they collect from.

    The other is the families that dwell in these apartments like many others in Oswego are poor. Most likely getting PA, HUD, SNAP, WIC….the whole bowl of alphabet soup. But if the parents are not responsible, Ms. Donovan, the landlord nor the city is to blame. I’ll bet the hungry student gets free/reduced breakfast or lunch and if not they should. Falling asleep in class? Parents need to step up. If you are truly that concerned Ms. Donovan, have your Principal Hotline the state and get DSS involved.

  6. October 25, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    FYI: So easy to throw stones, until you walk in the poor’s shoes. As for the motel that is that far from stores, that under the jurisdiction of Social Services. Has anyone considered that no other motels/hotels will take these folks in??? Ask Mr. Broadwell, or Atom Avery, or one of several Oswego motels if they will? The poor are not all that desireable.

    This is a monster can of worms. Landlords should not be able to evict less than 30 days, but if the place is this unsafe, then the City is closing them down. IF these folks are on PA/HUD, they are not in these apartments because HUD (and hopefully, PA) are inspecting them. Those living in these conditions are almost certainly the working poor. And that is a national crisis! Not just an Oswego problem. To work and to have to be in worse accommodations than those on ‘services,’ is a crime. America should be ashamed.

    I don’t wonder how these horrible places get rented. I know. At 24 I was unemployed, and I lived with 24 people in a rooming house rather than one of several apartments on West Second Street (two buildings of which have been knocked down, thank God!). The mid-1970s had what might be considered a Depression, so jobs in Oswego were scarce, even with a skill.And hard to move with no money at all to move with. Catch-22.

    One ‘apartment’ was one room with some unit that held the stove on top, fridge on bottom, all metal with sink and cupboards, severly broken linoleum (don’t want to think what it was made of). My unemployment only allowed for me to pay rent and around $7.00 a month for food…around $35.00 today…so it was the best I could afford, living with 20 college students, and a few others in lower level employment. At least I had more money for food when we pooled our funds!

    The working poor or the working laid off, it’s tough out there. Worse, many of these folks damage the apartments into these horrible conditions, and I think many landlords give up because they don’t pay the last month’s rent and then there is NO damage deposit to hold them accountable. HUD occasionally pays, but rarely to the extent of the damage. And to the best of my knowledge, PA does not. So these ‘high rents’ may also be in order to recover some of the damages that are done to the apartments.

    Just sayin’!

  7. somewhat grateful
    October 25, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    I like Em”s suggestion. I also think that the repeat offender slum lords should not be allowed Renter Permits after a certain amount of complaints. They will either clean up there act or run out of rental properties. Then the City can focus on the Drug Dealers/land lords that manage to keep the rental property up to Code but are still breaking law’s and City Ordinance’s. Those of you that are lucky enough to have a good landlord or live among good neighbors should be very grateful.

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