Dayton leaders push for policies that treat housing as a ‘human right’

City Commission passes informal resolution listing series of priorities for housing issues in Dayton

The Dayton City Commission has vowed to enact policies to combat poor housing conditions, housing discrimination, unjust evictions, unfair rents, redlining and residential segregation.

The commission also pledged to prioritize policies that reward good landlords and hold bad ones accountable ... plus help residents with home repairs or obtain homeownership, especially Black and historically marginalized community members.

“This is long overdue,” said Dayton City Commissioner Shenise Turner-Sloss, who was the driving force behind a recently approved resolution about housing priorities. The city needs to “make sure we are protecting our residents, providing decent affordable housing and that we are answering the call that so many of our constituents are in need of: They don’t know where to go or who to talk to — they don’t know what resources are available to them.”

Turner-Sloss said she hopes the city in the near future will pass impactful policies that treat housing as a human right.

Dayton City Commission recently approved an informal resolution pushed by Turner-Sloss that establishes the commission’s priorities when it comes to housing policies.

The resolution says a legacy of redlining and predatory lending has created housing challenges like segregation and poor property conditions.

The city also has thousands of vacant and deteriorating homes, which the resolution says resulted from population loss, economic decline and historic disinvestment.

The city commission has pledged to enact policies that increase the affordability and availability of housing to create mixed-income neighborhoods.

The commission also said it wants to address subpar housing conditions, hold bad landlords responsible for unfair rents or unacceptable conditions and provide tenant protections against unfair evictions.

The city, like many other communities across the nation, has issues with absentee landlords, out-of-town investors and local property management companies that do not follow the rules, said Commissioner Turner-Sloss.

The resolution has fairly general and vague language, but it creates a framework for the commission to follow to create policies and legislation that help and protect Dayton residents when it comes to housing, she said.

This “essentially sets the tone to tell and let the residents know that it is priority and we see, we understand and their concerns have not fallen on deaf ears,” Turner-Sloss said.

Too many residents live in deplorable conditions, and although the city has much good-quality housing, too often it is unaffordable to a large segment of the community, she said.

Turner-Sloss said there’s some creative housing policy ideas the city can explore, and she expects to discuss some of these with her fellow commissioners.

One idea that has gained traction is inclusionary zoning, which requires or encourages market-rate housing developers to create some affordable units.

Establishing housing priorities is a good move, especially at a time when the city is preparing to invest some of its $138 million in federal COVID rescue funds into its neighborhoods and community improvement projects, said Dayton City Commissioner Darryl Fairchild.

Dayton also has convened a housing roundtable and related subcommittees that discussed ideas that potentially could help create housing policies, said Todd Kinskey, Dayton’s director of planning, neighborhoods and development.

The city has gathered community input that should serve as the foundation for a housing policy document that reflects the city’s priorities and needs, he said.

The city also helped form an eviction task force that has been developing policy ideas and recommendations. One proposal that has emerged is adding “source of income” as a protected class, meaning landlords could not turn renters away if they have housing vouchers or receive subsidies.

The city commission resolution also says the body will advocate at the state and federal levels for stronger tenant protections and housing laws and expanded housing subsidies and rental-assistance programs.

Dayton City Commissioner Chris Shaw said some important changes can’t be done at the local level.

Mary Sue Gmeiner, a local resident and community activist, said this resolution is a good first step and she hopes the city will pass some forward-thinking housing policies in the near future.

“I look forward to seeing the commission put teeth into this resolution by passing robust policies that protect the rights of tenants and buyers, as well as landlords and property owners,” said Gmeiner.

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