Saturday, February 24, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Land grab poses risks for region

Florida is gradually recovering from the economic recession, but a new threat from the collapse of the housing market is hitting the Tampa Bay area. Big investors have scooped up thousands of homes in recent years and are focused on charging the highest rents possible. The land grab by Wall Street has huge implications for neighborhoods throughout the region, and area leaders should remain vigilant to limit damage to the area's economy and quality of life.

The Tampa Bay Times' Drew Harwell reported that in the past two years, seven of the largest investors buying homes in the bay area have spent more than $1 billion, acquiring 6,800 homes in an unprecedented buying spree. Now these investors are pushing the envelope to return profits to Wall Street — with some pushing rents surprisingly high, evicting late-paying tenants and delaying routine maintenance. These investors landed here just as the average household spending on rent neared its highest point in three decades, consuming about one-third of a tenant's income, compared to 27 percent in 2004.

Investors and analysts say the investment in single-family houses meets a need by the so-called "rentership society" by providing homes to those unable or uninterested in purchasing them. Some families prefer single-family homes to apartments. And many younger workers prefer renting to being tied down with a mortgage. But this market is not entirely one of choice or convenience. Many renters are former homeowners who lost their credit and savings in the last housing bubble. For them, dealing with rising rents and obstinate landlords is the price they pay for bad financial luck or an earlier mistake.

As one of the areas hit hardest by the housing bubble — where the home ownership rate sank last year to its lowest point in 30 years — Tampa Bay is a guinea pig for this untested industry. Renters are sending monthly payments out of state and the local economy loses the spin-off benefits that come with investing in a family home.

State and local agencies should maintain strong consumer protection programs to ensure that renters are treated fairly. And local governments need to hold these investor-landlords to all property, health and safety standards meant to protect the neighborhoods. The foreclosure crisis left many eyesores, creating blight and trouble for local code inspectors and police.

These protections, though, are bandages compared to the larger job of fostering responsible home ownership. Planners need to develop smarter communities that reduce the reliance on automobiles. Governments also need to attract home buyers back to the urban core, where schools, transit, parks, shops and other amenities already exist.

Home ownership can create a connection in a neighborhood and increase its political clout; look no further than the neglect in Tampa's Sulphur Springs or the infamous "Suitcase City" area of northern Hillsborough to see the impact that heavily transient housing has on a community. As investor-landlords take buy up housing stock, local leaders need to keep these neighborhoods on their radar — and look for new ways to provide residents with more affordable and sustainable housing options.

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Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Gov. Rick Scott and key members of the Florida Legislature offered ambitious proposals Friday that would plug some holes in the state’s safety net, strengthen school security and spend up to a half-billion dollars in response to last week’s massacre ...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Enough is enough. The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has renewed conversations about gun control in Washington and Tallahassee. Young people are demanding action, and there are cracks in the National Rifle Association’s solid w...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

The nation’s conversation on guns took an encouraging step this week in three essential places — South Florida, Tallahassee and Washington — as survivors, victims’ families and elected leaders searched painfully and sincerely for common ground after ...
Published: 02/22/18

Editorial: FDLE probe of state fair fiasco falls short

It should go without saying that Florida law frowns upon public officials who take freebies from vendors and whose agency throws business to their family. But that wasn’t enough to move the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to find that the ex-di...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18

Editorial: Nursing home rule should be stronger

It shouldn’t take months or another tragedy for Florida — which is hot and full of seniors — to protect its elderly population from heat stroke in the event of an emergency. That’s why Gov. Rick Scott had the right idea last year in calling for nursi...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.’’ A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he won’t raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trump’s claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nation’s 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trump’s rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trump’s rising deficits and misplaced priorities

It’s not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18