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From Northeastern University the National Information Network has an. Urban confrontation. Each of us have had experiences where by compelling the landlord and the tenant to sit down together in the presence of other more or less neutral tenants and landlords and hacking out some of this problem at least relieve some of the frustration. It may not cure all the problems but so much tension builds up when the poor person calls his landlord calls him again to make a repair calls them again winds up banging his head against the wall. Then the landlord asked Well they're destructive he throws garbage out of the window. The frustration builds up to the point where in a way you have to forgive is throwing the garbage out of the window he is so frustrated with his inability to get things done that he throws it out. He kicks a hole in the wall. He knows that the rich man can call his landlord and say look at down here and fix that leak.
But the poor man he just can't do it he has no clout he has no leverage to get it done. This week on urban confrontation Richard. Courtney executive director of the Boston Red review board Alexander McNeil president rental housing association and Larry Sherman Ehrman Boston area Congressman Dennis Ross. Discussing. The housing hassle. Landlords vs.. And. Here is your host. Every major American city has adopted a housing code a law stating the minimum health and sanitary standards a building must have before it can be rented. Yet in the ghettos of every American metropolis the codes seem to be flagrantly violated seem to be well are they. And if so why are they. Why aren't the codes in force technically the Department of Housing and Urban Development can curtail federal funds to a city if the housing code isn't
enforced in compliance with that city's federal workable program for development so again the question why are they enforced and why doesn't HUD intervene to get the codes and forced Richard Borden executive director of the rent review board here in Boston. One reason the codes aren't fully enforced in Boston is because a landlord who is in violation of the codes is subject to criminal action. Now the courts we don't have a housing court we don't have a court which deals exclusively with code and housing problems and as a result the courts are reluctant to bring a landlord in for a criminal charge when he's when he's in violation of the housing codes. Laurie Sherman representing the tenants on the program being in violation of the housing codes and especially as you mention in the ghetto areas where we have been organizing for quite a while. To me represents a criminal act. If you can see the conditions that people have to live in the abominable
subhuman conditions. This to me is a criminal act and should be adjudicated such. But traditionally the courts in this country stemming from English common law have been established to protect certain interests. And they haven't changed their aree and station are they very slowly changing their orientation. But still these massive code violations especially in the get away are use continue without debate. You represent the landlords in this protest of a bill are sure and paints a rather bleak picture of landlord exploitation. What do you say about this there could be a group of landlords and we know the recent group of Liam alleged that. Involved in this I want to make it clear to begin with they're not members of our association. I am president of the rental housing association circulation of the Greater Boston real estate board because we would take strict action on that within our own organization. We feel very badly that we do not
have a housing court. We can't understand Mr. Sherman some of the other groups why we can't do something to establish this housing court. But then thirdly there's another little item that some of these properties are in abominable condition and we really look have to look to see how this happened if they were completely blighted property and has not been rehab so forth and so on if we can't find the owner. Sometimes it's the city itself that owns it. It's awfully hard to have to say to them but let's have code enforcement within your own building. I don't think program should be taken into consideration to speed up in the rehabilitation of some of these and getting developers in to rehab them and bring them up to code. And then. For us to continue to make the landlord continue to keep the building in the proper cold but also to have some kind of protection when we do get in the tenants once in a while who are very very destructive. I never you know what's really incredible went on when Lloyd wants to evict a
tenant and he takes from the court. I don't see the court giving the wind too much trouble in being able to evict that tenant. But when a tenant brings a landlord to court for violation of a housing call I don't see the court putting too much pressure on that landlord to alleviate the condition. Well Larry I know I want to just answer this that I is a landlord and I don't know many of this group of landlords who would behave this way and have such. Poor property and poor buildings. All because I got all these same landlords use the lease that is put out by the rental housing association. I mean you can in a sense whitewash it go and wash your hands of a problem knowing what you don't know and I would not try to do this either. We deal with those who are in code violations. They should be prosecuted they should be things done with this is why we in our own organization has asked for a housing court shows we are on the yes absolutely there should be a housing court what are you doing about it in a sense to turn them in to see that there are
violations which threaten in a sense our society because they create friction with certain sections of society that will eventually perhaps blow up why aren't you protecting yourself by seeing that your bad apples are gotten out of your apple barrel. Well to begin with a lot of these bad apples who are not you know I group we have no jurisdiction whatsoever over these people. But you know them you know them you can I don't know I don't know yet or you could write a letter to Richard Horton over here representing the government he could get after them but would that be seen as ratting on your own. No it certainly would not. I think this several of the landlords and women goup insubordinate know that we have seen in the experience of his own committee. It's the same ones in the majority of the rent review board over and over again that has had the most complaints am I not right there all right is supported representing the government enforcing agency in this program. The agency for which I work is a voluntary. Board which brings together landlords and tenants when there is a specific problem now very often we
find we have no real law we can't do anything. This board that I work for we can't really do anything but very often will bring in a landlord who has allowed disgraceful conditions to get to exist and we find that sometimes the ego pressure the embarrassment that bringing some of these conditions into the open provokes. It's not like I like you I'll ask you one question just to clear the air here with the group. Have you found any at any time who have not who are members of a group known under right jurisdiction who have not been fully cooperative and where we have not taken action ourselves and would you not say as a whole that you also PAB were 99 100 percent pure. I don't know it's I don't think it's of any real value I think that generally generally Al's group is a very good group it's the real IT or a group everybody across the country knows real towards a different from plain ol real estate man. But it's really your cop out for Mr. McNeil to say well my
group is a good group and the rest of them are bad bad when once I you know like I'm not I don't like you know not saying that either Laurie Fine or what I'm saying is this. We have a situation with one of the largest probably the largest landlords in the city of Boston. All right and I'm sure Grice not a member of AG Right across the country there are many who aren't members of these groups using they own property and they have own property in the ghetto for years and years now they maybe divest themselves of their property because things are getting a little hot in summer land surface out of the city so they become philanthropist and try to buy respectability. All right but they still own some of this property. You sing now you go to the code the code enforcement people. They can't do their jobs you go to this agency that and you know what I mean when you go to the code enforcement people and they can't do their jobs. Why. Why all over the country to people like that Borton said in these radio programs and talk about the
failure of code enforcement but not talk about why the failure of carnivores when the laws are on the books very often most often the law the code inspectors are going out registering a violation will. Have an effect on the code. Very often in most cases the problem will be corrected but there are better ways. In my opinion instead of that the inspector going out and slapping a violation on a landlord giving him 5 days to repair it calling him into the commissioner's office giving him another 20 days to repair it taking him to court the court clerk rather than pressing a criminal case will give him another month to repair it. So it goes on and on and sooner or later the whole thing is forgotten. I think there is a vetting the law this is using legal means to do illegal and we get back to the old problem again the criminal courts are filled up with criminal cases I mean murders and rapes and everything else. They don't want to take the time to deal with landlord tenant problems I've heard. What about the last bio read out as investors you know your Reitman three times
under this window that we've been dealing with. Who was the largest land landlord in the city of Boston not a member of the rental housing association when that child gets bitten by a rat three times and forces us to go out to his synagogue and make an appeal to the Jewish community to place sanctions on this man who they consider an untouchable because nobody because he is allowed to circumvent the law because he's so powerful. Then there's something wrong you're right and I and I unfortunately it's the overcrowding of the courts that's one and second it's the just the attitude of the court. I personally as you know when done right I mean yeah it's like like yeah right. I personally feel that when a violation exists in a building. The tenant who is suffering that violation should have his rent reduced immediately. I think that's the way you get things fixed up when the landlords no longer getting the same all rent. He wants to get that violation fixed right away so he gets his rant again. Unfortunately the laws in Massachusetts don't permit this type of action but in many states it
does happen in New York it works this way I think I'd better nail you represent the landlord. You apparently have said throughout the first 15 years this program you're in favor of getting these violations noticed and the codes in force so you should be in favor of that proposal of the board just put. We absolutely are in fact we even supported the housing court I don't know just what happened and why it just says seem to disintegrate us all. Well what's happened if we're all in favor. Why isn't something being done I'm not so clear about a housing court I don't think that a housing court is the solution to the problem I feel that these want to be with Larry with a housing court you get a lot of fast direction would you not. And you'd be able to spin out some of these things where you say that you haven't nationalized your days Mr. Perry who wouldn't really be aware would some of the problems are you know sometimes people don't realize that certain things for example right now saying even if a building a brand new building that we may just incomplete there may be something happened that because of weather conditions may not be able to be repaired for several months. I mean
completely is always a stopgap but you have things called weather and what have you that you just can't build things. We are building of our own just the other day there we had a situation there where there was a back up from a city sewer situation which was not our fall at all was something involve the city there but it cost us several hundreds of dollars to go in and do it. There's many landlords in many cases right away who might not be able to do that financially. It strikes me as somewhat amusing if it weren't so tragic that the executive director of the right review board here of Boston sits across from me not more than three minutes ago Richard Borden says we're all in favor of a housing court. And I got the impression earlier you were all in favor of code enforcement and getting at these violators these landlords who are violating of the few rotten apples at the barrel. Now why don't we so. So why doesn't it happen he asks Now I ask you three gentlemen why doesn't it happen don't you people represent enough power in this room. The landlords the
tenants on the government to get this country and cities around the country myself. They are as in favor of a how is my situation. See if the Lynne Lowrance in the government agencies are in favor of a housing court then there should be a housing court fine. In my situation people living in such desperate conditions that we can't be bothered around organizing around getting a housing court what we have to do is provide housing for people immediately and it's at such a point with people living in such miserable conditions that they've taken action such as squatting which means that a building is rehabbed. These people living in terrible conditions they're walking the streets some of them they can't. There's no place to go. They are willing knowing the penalties of the law to move into that building and face the punishment just to get a place to a roof over their head at this point will take the law into their own hands and disregard property rights and everything else and I've heard Larry and it upset me that some of your people thought that
you could go out to suburbia and even come into our homes if we weren't in the APA Come on now Alec where this is done this is how they are it comes in all right. So what you're saying Larry has done things that are outside of the law well I work for the city government I certainly should represent the law. And I do and I believe in law enforcement without giving it the pejorative definitions that it's had recently. Larry has used the mechanisms which have been highly effective sometimes to take a picture of horrific conditions that exist in the slums and march with a picket sign that that has that photograph pinned to it in front of the wealthy home of a landlord who allows these conditions to exist is a very effective way of getting changes. You see Alec in taking that situation and I really I take offense at the fact that you're characterizing our squatting actions as going into people's homes and going squatting in their homes now that's a complete distortion. But in this situation I just want to tell you that we moved seven families into
a newly rehab building that was renting in the south end of Boston which is in the heart of the ghetto. For one studio apartments for one hundred seventy five dollars a month one bedroom apartments for two hundred twenty five dollars a month. We moved these people families these poor families into into this building. We sat down afterwards a negotiator with the landlord was able to get him to lower his rent to make a more character with the community he was still making a profit. We got the Boston Housing Authority that infamous organization to cut through the red tape and put these people on leased housing and by taking those extra legal measures we were able to force a situation that was a solution for seven people seven families as it takes and ends in violence to make the landlord responsive to negotiation is that this is another that what I say. Now I'd like to say that I think that when a frustration builds up to such a point and there is no outlet for this pressure
Larry and his people working for the tenants have to take some sort of action and so what they've done is go out into the community go to the houses of worship of the owners of this property stand in front of their houses and and draw public attention to the violators. Now I'm sure. Alec as the president of the rental housing association you too would like to see the bad apples pointed out I'm sure you too would like the public to know who the bad apples of the rental industry are and also to to disaffiliate them from your group. Well to begin with this bad apple is not a member of a group one of the loons that we're dealing with in one small ward in the city of Boston is at the assessed value of his property used 23 and a half million dollars in one small ward of 60000 people 23 and a half million dollars can you met him and how much how many units that is. He isn't a member of that organization and he can do whatever he wants. Well I will tell you no way then I really don't look at what I write and I say should here Larry because this
man's outside awful. If this man has broken laws like anybody I'm with you having the respect for the laws that we should see that he is punished. It's a marvelous i feel you know I like the even Law and Order. I'm not going to I'm not going to draw a distinction between the good landlords and the bad landlords You know it's always the argument 10 percent of the landlords are the bad landlords 90 percent of the good landlords managers I know 90 percent of the property and I don't like to ask but I'd like to ask Alex go ahead. I'd like to ask Alec McMillan opinion before I started working for the city for the establishment I was a vest a volunteer in a slum in New York. We were working with tenants on a particular street in the South East Bronx where the buildings were so rundown I sat very the tenants there would leave lights on down on the floor all night long to keep the rats away. Very often I'd sit in the people's apartment I'd see a rat dash across the apartment. It was terrible. We
tried to get the landlord to do something. We used meetings we used city government agencies we used conference tables. The guy wouldn't do a thing. Now finally. Well wait a minute you know the landlord. We knew the landlord we tried to get him and we he wouldn't even sit at the con table something but wait a minute. Without laws that in our health laws and code enforcement laws of these people can get away so continuously with these violation of organizing tenants for quite a long time. And the tenants for the most part that I'm working with to the point where they've tried rent receivership or rent strikes are legal. They are within the system. All right. They have not worked. The fact is that if the money at the rent money is put in escrow the landlord can borrow on that money. So it's not hurting the landlord economically if you are dealing with the landlord now and it Larry Larry if he has to go out and pay interest in borrowing money that's hurting him. Let me let me say another one other thing that there are certain obligations
when a bank gives out a mortgage for instance there are certain stipulations as I understand it within that mortgage that the landlord is responsible for such as getting fire insurance keeping his buildings up to code and so on and so forth. Why aren't the banks pulling the mortgages on these guys who are allowing these situations to happen the banks certainly on the one hand say that they're not going to give out any money for housing construction if there's a rent control law. And on the other hand will not pull a mortgage out of a guy who keeps his apartment into plausible conditions. Well that's within us Larry. The system that doesn't work in favor of the tenants. I know most lending institutions that I do business with and I also sit on the board of the bank. And if we find property is not being kept up the same in home ownership it's right in your mortgage that you should keep this property in good repair. The bank has the right and can and does many cases foreclose on it and the owner loses it just as a way an owner would lose a house so that I may know but how do I force made could be to
put pressure on the mortgage. Adam I don't want good morning Nic but I think Larry a lot of the property you're talking about to outside of this one very bad apple is a property that is already owned by the city or some other agencies in the supposed to be in the process of rehab is it not. No I'm talking about apartments that are privately owned. We've done a massive amount of research on the what banks hold the mortgages for walking landlords. All right and we found. In every single instance that the banks have not lived up to their responsibility in terms of lending institutions to force the landlords to live up to the mortgage to people ations those who may just tune into the program. Well you are hearing a discussion between the landlord of the tenant how the government enforcing agency surrounding the problem of houses I want here and the closing minutes of the program to get at
one very specific question gentleman cosily would come up with the problem of those bad apples those slumlords that do exist are not within the professional landlord associations. Now what I'd like to find out is how many bad apples are there how many slum lords are there and what percentage of the total real estate in urban areas is own by these individuals. There's less than what 3 to 5 percent somewhere down there I hear 10 percent usually not a lot of difference. So you're not only well I think if you have got women WAY WAY women and now the figures the last figures that I heard I don't know what the total amount of rental units are in the city of Boston under the 63000. Now the last figures that I heard were that 30 percent of the rental units in the city of Boston were sub standard 30 percent that's a pretty high figure. That's not just Boston it's like that in every city this is everywhere. All right is this is no national I'll tell you exactly what all this. Doesn't excuse the problem in the end a fact that has gone on for
many years doesn't get in a solid time all right so we expect this to be alleviated just overnight. And if you knew for when Lord tells a tenant in terms of providing heat and hot water in his lease the failure of the less sort to provide any of the foregoing items to any specific degree quantity quality or character shall not form a basis of any claim for damages against the less saw one that's in direct conflict with the state law. Then there's something going on. Well did you ever think of things that you see conditions which can happen to anybody. Such you not want to right now not when it takes three months to fix a boiler to get heat in the winter and the in the in the lease it says you can't sue the landlord for that. Do you know Joe I'd like to just mention it at Wharton I think each of us have that each of us have had experiences where by bringing. Compelling the landlord and the tenant to sit down together in the presence of other more or less neutral tenants and landlords and hacking out some of this problem
at least relieve some of the frustration. It may not cure all the problems but so much tension builds up when the poor person calls his landlord calls them again to make a repair calls them again winds up banging his head against the wall and then then the landlord aswell they're destructive he throws garbage out of the window. The frustration builds up to the point where in a way you have to forgive is throwing the garbage out of the window he is so frustrated with his inability to get things done that he throws it out. He kicks a hole in the wall. He knows of the rich man who called his landlord and say look at down here and fix that leak. But the poor man he just can't do it he has no clout he has no leverage to get it done. Gentlemen minutes remaining in this program I want to go around the room again starting with the representative the government here in Boston the executive director of the RET Review Board Richard Borden for your prognostication your prediction of whether things will get better or will they get worse with regard to housing in our urban centers around
this country. Now the second CHL get worse until the federal government can start to bring out funds to start to devote a decent portion of the federal budget to the construction of housing. Until that time comes about things will only get worse I'm afraid. Larry Sherman chairman of the Boston area Congress of tenants rights. They're going to get worse until there's a movement in this country which could be analogous to the labor union movement called the tenant union movement that is going to have to struggle for the basic rights of American tenants. And until this tenant movement is large enough where they can have the power that the labor unions possess today that's the only I feel the only solution to the housing problem. Alexander Bicknell president of the rental housing association. With rent control coming into effect within the cities or anywhere else things will get much worse. This will not help the solution to TAWAR housing problems. However if the government takes the proper approach and gives us new zoning
makes monies available in all I'm sure that a barrack a better America better cities can be developed and a very very short period of time. Gentlemen the gloom and doom pronouncements of our mass media have recently come under attack from various sources around the country we have been attacking that tendency of mass media for almost two years and programs that we've done and yet for the life of me listening to you gentlemen of the past 30 minutes I don't know how I can escape a very pessimistic conclusion I have afraid that all aspects of the housing shortage in our urban centers seem to be on a course toward which things will get much much worse before they get any better and I think any other conclusion would be a misrepresentation and a disservice to the listening audience. Gentlemen thank you for coming on this program.
Northeastern University has brought you. Richard Corsi executive director. Of the Boston when. You. Heard. Alexander McNeill president of the metal housing association my reach your man Chairman the Boston area Congress for tenants rights. Discussing the housing hassle landlord vs.. The views and opinions expressed on the preceding program. Necessarily holds of Northeastern University for this nation. Weston's I asked where the moderator's method of presenting many sides of today's topic. Host of Ben Joseph Bayer Director Department of radio production. This week's program was used and directed by. Those who have a high. Tech producer Vorderman confrontation is bigger. Than confrontation with producers for the division of instructional communications at the nation's largest private university Northeastern University. Press or a tape recorder. How. Many have read.
Urban Confrontation
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Northeastern University (Boston, Mass.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Urban Confrontation is an analysis of the continuing crises facing 20th century man in the American city, covering issues such as campus riots, assassinations, the internal disintegration of cities, and the ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation. Produced for the Office of Educational Resources at the Communications Center of the nations largest private university, Northeastern University.
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Producing Organization: Northeastern University (Boston, Mass.)
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Identifier: 70-5-45 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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Chicago: “Urban Confrontation; 45,” 1971-00-00, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 11, 2022,
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APA: Urban Confrontation; 45. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from