Mayor Ireton says city rentals priced too high

Salisbury City Council members next month will review Mayor Jim Ireton’s proposal to lower rent for those who pay too much.

He has written legislation that would create a rent stabilization board and base the monthly cost on a home’s property value.

If approved by the City Council, it would put $8 million back into the local economy while relieving those overburdened by high rent, Ireton said.

Members of the board would make decisions after hearing requests from tenants and landlords who want rent to be adjusted higher or lower.

“I am grateful for the work that the City Council has done regarding receivership and other pro-neighborhood options that I have brought to the table,” Ireton said this week.

“Additionally, I believe we should be bold and not tinker around the edges. We have to get a grip on what’s happening in the neighborhood before receivership and demolition become the only options left. The sitting Council balked at amortizing the non-conforming uses in our neighborhoods, and asked for Plan B.

“This is plan B through Z. Let’s stimulate the local economy and, at the same time, give a much needed break to our poorer families,” Ireton said.

From 2000 to 2008, he said, rent amounts in Salisbury rose dramatically and are higher than the national average, due to increased energy costs and a doubling of the average home price.

Following what he called “the real estate crash of 2008,” rent continued to rise, but median household income fell by nearly $8,500. He quoted  statistics from the U.S. Census, stating 59  percent of renting households in Salisbury  are severely cost-burdened.

“This means that over 1,600 Salisbury households are paying between 30 percent and 50 percent of their income for rental housing costs, and an additional 2,700 households are paying over 50 percent of their income for rental costs,” the mayor said.

“We hear so much about economic development in our civil discourse today, so let’s talk about the economic part of that. Our residents pay far too much for the quality of the rentals that they live in, and far too many of them are severely cost-burdened. In the end, renters know when they are paying too much in rent. It’s when there’s no money left on the second of the month.

“We have tried endlessly for 30 years to address the problem of the greed of the rental industry in Salisbury. This Rent Stabilization Program is good for our residents, good for the local economy, and will allow the city to get a return on the investment it makes in its citizens,” Ireton said.

The matter is on the Salisbury City Council work session agenda for Oct. 5.

It could take a considerable amount of time to establish a rent stabilization board and write governing bylaws. Even so, Ireton has said he would like to see it in effect by July 2016.

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