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Tennessee mom does actual jail time for unkempt yard

One mother in Tennessee may serve even more jail time if she can’t keep her lawn in order.

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Because of an unkempt yard, one Tennessee mom will be spending time behind bars. You heard that right, because of an unkempt yard. Not identity theft or drunk driving, but an unshaved lawn. WVLT-TV reports that failing to do yard work means a five-day jail term.

The homeowner received a citation from the city this summer because of the messy, overgrown yard, insisting that she must immediately take action. She did not.

“With my husband going to school and working full time, me with my job, with one vehicle, we were trying our best,” she explains. “[The bushes and trees] were overgrown. But that’s certainly not a criminal offense.”

WVLT notes that she has been cited for this very offense before, while her husband was serving overseas in the military.

No, but ignoring an official citation from the city is…

After a second citation, and a court hearing, she has been ordered five days in jail, which she says is not only unmerited, but that she was never informed of her legal rights, namely that she could have legal representation.

“It’s not right,” she tells WVLT. “Why would you put me in jail with child molesters, and people who’ve done real crimes, because I haven’t maintained my yard?”

The threat of jail time is not over

Now, a judge has reduced her sentence to only six hours, as this is not a criminal case. The homeowner begged to be given community service, but the judge insisted that she serve at least some time in jail.

After her time served, the judge has ordered a check-in hearing in November to review her efforts to keep her lawn orderly. If the judge finds it is again overgrown or is not kept up to their standards, she will be sentenced with additional jail time.

messy yard

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Politics

New regulations could benefit homebuyers being priced out of the market

(HOUSING) If new regulations are approved, the willing homebuyers forced onto the sidelines could finally have a buying option previously unavailable to them.

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condos regulations

HUD Acting Deputy Secretary and Federal Housing Commissioner Brian Montgomery spoke at the 2019 Realtors Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo, pouncing on the widespread challenge of affordability in the housing market, as willing buyers continue to be squeezed out.

With over 11,000 National Association of Realtors (NAR) members in Washington D.C. for the annual conference, Montgomery spoke directly to those in the field that witness the phenomenon first hand.

“You all know better than most that affordability is an enormous challenge in many markets around the country,” he affirmed. “Large constraints on the housing market by regulations have exacerbated the shortage for hard-working families who are employed and willing to buy but continue to be priced out.”

Montgomery pointed to job growth, wage gains, and low unemployment rates as “good news” and “an additional shot in the arm,” but pointed out that housing is being restricted by overregulation and zoning laws.

“The combination of regulatory overreach and an aging housing stock has meant not enough affordable units are left – or worse, being built,” he said. In that same vein, NAR’s Chief Economist, Dr. Lawrence Yun has been sounding the alarm about lowered housing starts as restrictive for the entire market for years.

Montgomery stated on stage that “zoning, environmental and sometimes labor restrictions have made it more difficult for areas across the country to meet the growing [housing] demand.” He added, “We will need continued wage and economic growth and regulatory reform to mitigate affordability constraints. This will also require that not just HUD but states and localities ease the regulatory burden and other impediments to development.”

So where is the relief?

The collective hope is that the Federal Housing Administration’s finalization of a new rule surrounding condominium policies will bring some relief. NAR supports the rule revisions, which include allowing owner-occupancy level to be determined on a case by case basis,. This would allow up to 45% commercial space without documentation and implementing a five-year approval period for project certification.

Montgomery points to condos as traditionally being a “mainstay of affordable housing for both first-time homeowners and seniors.”

“We anticipate that the updated regulations will be more flexible, less prescriptive and more reflective of the current market than existing provisions. It may also include single unit approvals for loans that meet HUD standards for unapproved projects, allowing HUD to set the specific percentage,” Montgomery noted, adding that the final rule is under review by the Office of Management and Budget.

The end of the process is in sight, and could bring relief to homebuyers who are ready and willing, but currently left out.

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Politics

Equality Bill seeks to protect LGBTQIA+ community (with Realtor support)

(POLITICS) Congress considers the Equality Bill to protect the LGBTQIA+ community, and although it has widespread real estate support, it is nowhere near a done deal.

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LGB homebuyer profile

The Equality Bill – which aims to expand the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 to include discrimination against sexual orientation, sex, and gender identity, was first introduced in 2015. Unfortunately, it never left committee.

However, it is now back before Congress with some massive corporate support – over 161 companies are supporting the Human Rights Campaign coalition.

Although federal protections are most needed, and the federal government has lagged – it’s important to remember the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and members have come out in droves to support this legislation, continuing its great track record on LGBT equality. Nearly a decade ago made it against the code of ethics (see Article 10) for any realtor to discriminate against an LGBT person. NAR has long been on the side of LGBT equality, and as a fun piece of trivia: when it came to the historic marriage ruling – the lead plaintiff Obergefell was a Realtor.

But there is some direct action happening as well.

Recently, John Smaby, President of NAR, sent a formal letter to Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) a letter of support for the Equality Act, including its assertion for fair access to housing regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Smaby reminds Representative Cicilline that access to fair housing is essential to improve access for employment, education, and even health opportunities. NAR revised its Code of Ethics (meaning members who violate the Code lose their license) in both 2010 and 2014 and encourages congress to follow its lead and extend the necessary protections for fair housing to the LGBTQ community.

A lack of legal LGBT protections is a continued vulnerability in the fight for fair and equal access to housing, and even before this bill was reintroduced, 2019 was promising to be a big year with the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP) and NAR making a renewed push to end housing discrimination for LGBT populations. Things are happening!

What can you do? Write your senator or congressional representative, sign up to help push the law into action and stay in the know.

#EQUALHOUSINGFORALL

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Politics

Rural towns offer cash, land incentives to attract new folks – I’m skeptical…

(REAL ESTATE) Many rural areas are rolling out the red carpet to attract new residents, but ignoring some basic truths…

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Late last year Tulsa made news by announcing a program designed to attract people who had full-time online jobs to the city.

The incentives included up to $10k and perks like help with housing and cultivated coworking space. This wasn’t the first such “innovative” program; Vermont offers a similar package to people they imagine might be tempted to escape high cost of living areas for a more scenic residence.

A handful of other states have lower-stakes incentives that offer assistance with student loans, purchasing houses – one, in Kansas, will literally give people land.

These sorts of programs seem like a novel approach to dealing with the plight of rural America in an increasingly technology-dependent age.

As someone from the middle of nowhere, I can tell you that most small towns have a narrative arc: after kids graduate high school, they may go to college or directly begin working at whatever blue color industry still exists in the area, hoping that it won’t shut down and, thus, force your town to take bizarre measures to ensure its livelihood.

Remote work programs like these, with their singular focus on essentially seducing people with paychecks to live in “cheap” areas so that the states/towns can capitalize on their outsourced salaries for tax revenue and whatnot, are also missing deeper layers to the rural brain drain story.

First and foremost, they gloss over the fact that for many minorities, rural America is not a safe place. Tulsa, for wanting to appear innovative and forward thinking, needs to also reassure tech-workers, a diverse workforce often populated by multi-national employees, that the neighbors they find in Oklahoma aren’t a danger to them.

Even Vermont, long thought of as a bastion of tolerance, has seen reported hates crimes increase in recent years. Although these trends are not specific to rural areas (hate crimes across the US rose for the third consecutive year in 2018), minority populations in smaller areas lack resources that metropolitan areas offer, such as community centers and, well, community.

(Dating is tough anywhere, but can you imagine if you were the only kind of person like you?)

Let’s say that you felt safe and you’ve been lucky enough to find your life partner.

Would this kind of program then work?

Another shiny component of these remote recruitment programs is their use of housing and other long-term property as enticement. The implication here is that the remote workers who would relocate to these areas can afford these “affordable” new markets, perhaps even assuming that they have the savings necessary to be able to put a down payment on a house.

If someone has resided in an area with elevated costs of living, they likely haven’t been able to amass great savings. They might not even have the thousands of dollars in savings necessary to move from one state to another.

Although I can appreciate the cleverness of taking care of the state’s economic needs through these sorts of proposals, I am wary of what the experience might truly be like for those who have to live it. Of course, these transplants could try out Tulsa or Burlington for a year or two, take their couple thousand program dollars, and theoretically head back to the next opportunity, whether that be in Upstate New York or New York City. Even then, there’s no guarantee they’d break even financially or have had a pleasant experience out on the prairie.

But then again, maybe these sorts of “outsiders” moving to these places might inject the sort of social progress that can help address some of the issues that force local youth to seek out more open-minded locale. Their skills and resources could help inspire the next generation of small-town engineers or information workers, providing a glimpse of a possible future outside of the paper mill.

Either way, it will be interesting to see the long-term effects of these programs, and to see if they remain viable.

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