Saturday, June 23, 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: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Itís hard to pick the biggest outrage in the financial and ethical swamp that has swallowed Tampa Bayís two primary job placement agencies, CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay. Is it the boiler room atmosphere where CareerSource recruite...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18

Family separation crisis is not over

The family-separation crisis that President Donald Trump created is not over. The executive order Trump signed Wednesday purporting to end the routine tearing of children from their undocumented parents stands on uncertain legal ground. U.S. border a...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Veterans can help veterans deal with trauma resulting from military service in a way no one else can. Thatís the theory behind a special hotline set up in the Tampa Bay area that proponents are hoping to take statewide.The expansion would cost some $...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney generalís misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect ó prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18