Housing advocates ask Cleveland mayoral candidates for renter protections

A sign that reads "apartment for rent."
The Renter Rights Day 1 initiative calls on the mayoral candidates to commit to renter protections from the first day of the new administration. [dc_slim / Shutterstock]
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Cleveland housing advocates are joining together to ask mayoral candidates Justin Bibb and Kevin Kelley for a promise of renter protections and rights when a new administration takes over.

The Renter Rights Day 1 initiative includes three main priorities, said Enterprise Community Partners Senior Project Manager Emily Lundgard, including ending discrimination for renters who pay using subsidies, enacting a pay-to-stay program, and creating a resident-led body to draft a renter bill of rights.

“We know that this is something that Cleveland renters are looking for, so it’s really a matter of capturing their voices and elevating it to the mayoral candidates,” Lundgard said.

Renters make up roughly 60 percent of the population, she said

The bill of rights could include additional protections against discrimination for people with a criminal background or who are on probation or parole, Lundgard said.

These protections already exist in other communities, Lundgard said, such as pay-to-stay options enacted in Toledo and Yellow Springs in 2020. The shift to a new administration presents an opportunity for Cleveland to catch up, she said.

“These are asks that are proven, deeply researched, and perhaps most importantly, little to no cost for the city of Cleveland,” Lundgard said. “It’s really time for Cleveland to step up and join the ranks of these other communities to protect our renters.”

The initiative is a collaboration between a number of agencies including Neighborhood Connections, the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, the Fair Housing Center and Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries, among others. The agencies have put together a petition calling for support and have collected more than 250 signatures so far, Lundgard said.

“It is a real moment in time in our city of Cleveland where we can see some real change with our next mayor,” Lundgard said. “That’s why we’re joining together, trying to unify our voice alongside residents and say, ‘Now is the time to get this done.’”

Several of the agencies involved have been working to enact legislation that provides protections for renters, Lundgard said.

Particularly important is protections against discrimination for source of income and for late rent payments, said Fair Housing Center Senior Research Associate Michael Lepley.

“Allowing outright denial based on the source of rent is a waste of one of the most important sources of affordable housing we have,” Lepley said. “We’ve been working on both pieces of legislation for years. They’re ready to go. We hope the future mayor puts these renter protections in place.”

Providing renter protections will reduce eviction rates and lessen demand for emergency housing, said Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry Vice President of Housing and Shelter Michael Sering. These kinds of protections are particularly important in light of the coronavirus pandemic, he said.

“At a time when housing is healthcare, it is important tenants be allowed to stay in their home,” Sering said. “As the operator of the family overflow shelter, keeping families in their homes and out of emergency shelter should be our community’s top priority.”

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