Post by Scott Irblacher, A Concerned Bellevue Resident and Member of the Liberty in Bellevue Movement
As a renter in Bellevue, I have several grievances with Bellevue Council, and in particular, our council president Linda Woshner that I would like to point out publicly:
1) There are far too many large Victorian homes chopped into low-rent apartments. The high number of these “chopped rentals” bring in an exceptionally high number of low-rent renters into the community and limit the opportunities for home ownership. Additionally, many of the thousands who rent the low cost apartments in Bellevue have little personal investment in the community and school district largely influenced by the fact that they do not pay taxes directly into the community in which they live.
2) Many of these properties were chopped before the modern code was formulated. Bellevue currently does not conduct annual inspections of rental properties for compliance or fire/safety. Thus, unless the property owner is an exceptional landlord, renters are not guaranteed their apartment is safe or secure in Bellevue.
3) These chopped houses/apartments on residential streets directly impact Bellevue’s declining populace and economic infrastructure in many ways. To put it bluntly, single family home owners tend to earn more than renters. As the population of home owners dwindles, the community loses revenue in the form of less income tax. Renters do not have an investment in the property in which they live. They rely on a landlord for property maintenance and are not typically motivated to request cosmetic fixes to the building or landscape the lawn. Renters often are short-term residents. They do not tend to build long term relationships with neighbors limiting the sense of community in Bellevue. We have enough apartment houses and original duplexes in the borough to maintain access to affordable options even if we convert chopped houses back to single family residences. Additionally, the chopped houses in Bellevue are a drain on one of the most understated limited resources in this community: on-street parking. A large house chopped into three apartments is likely to host six cars among its numerous tenants. This is opposed to an average of two cars on the street if a single family lived in the same house.
4) There is no moratorium/ceiling on rental properties in Bellevue.
5) Bellevue does not have a way of determining if properties are being rented with a valid rental permit. Bellevue does not annually audit rental properties. Bellevue has no incentive for someone to revert a “chopped house” back into an “unchopped” single family home.
Why won’t these issues be resolved? Why won’t the current council take steps to improving our borough’s economic struggles by providing solutions to these challenges? The answer is simple, our current council president, Linda Woshner, owns 18 properties in Bellevue, worth over $2.7 million. That’s a lot of investment equity and income. Her micromanaging style and focus on questioning every dollar is clearly influenced by the more than $100,000 a year she pays in property taxes (this is nearly $20,000 annually paid directly to Bellevue Borough). As long as she is on council, the tax abatement for property improvement and increasing the number of single family homes will never come. She can easily bankroll opposition to any true reform that would take money from her or force her to put money into her empire.