landlord, property management, real estate

Evictions can be dangerous and deadly

By Lindsey Bever January 13 at 8:57 AM

Pennsylvania girl accidentally shot dead by constable

Police say a 12-year-old girl in Pennsylvania was accidentally shot dead by a local constable who came to evict her family from their apartment. (Reuters)
Twelve-year-old Ciara Meyer was standing behind her father when a constable came to the door.

The constable was serving an eviction notice to them Monday morning at their apartment in Penn Township, Pa., when the girl’s father protested and then pointed a rifle at his chest. The officer pulled his gun and squeezed the trigger, police said.

The bullet, police said, went though the man’s arm and hit his daughter. She died at the scene.

The account was provided on Tuesday to ABC affiliate WHTM by Pennsylvania state police in Newport.

“Very kind, sweet kid,” a neighbor told the station. “Here’s a little girl that doesn’t even have a chance to grow up and live her life, and all because of this senseless act. It’s horrible, absolutely heartbreaking.”

Ciara was sick and had stayed home from school Monday when Pennsylvania State Constable Clarke Steele showed up at their apartment, according to WHTM-TV.

Her father, Donald Meyer, 57, shut the door, police told the station. Then, according to police, he opened it again and aimed a .223-caliber rifle at the constable.

“Constable Steele, who was in uniform, quickly removed his .40 caliber duty weapon from its holster and fired a single round striking the suspect in his upper left arm,” police said, according to CNN.

A neighbor heard the shot. It wasn’t until later she found out who had been killed.

“I burst into tears,” she told WHTM-TV. “I can’t understand it; it’s horrible.”

The neighbor, who was not named, said that her daughter was friends with Ciara and that she didn’t know how to tell her that Ciara was gone.

“She’s not going to handle it very well,” she told the station. “It’s horrible. How do you tell a little girl that something like this happened? How do you explain that? I’m an adult, and I don’t understand it.”

Ciara’s death is among at least 22 police shootings that have resulted in fatalities so far this year, according to a Washington Post database.

[Prosecutors will seek murder charges against Georgia officer who shot an unarmed, naked black man]

Meyer was transported to Penn State Hershey Medical Center via helicopter. He has been charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, terroristic threats and reckless endangerment.
He will be held at Perry County Prison without bail, police told WHTM-TV. A preliminary court hearing is set for Jan. 15.

A source close to the constable told the station that he is “very distraught over the situation.” A Commonwealth Constables Association spokesman told WHTM-TV that he opted to “suspend his work” during the police investigation.

[Former S.C. police officer who fatally shot Walter Scott released from jail]

The Susquenita School District said it is working with counselors to “provide support to students and staff” during this time.

“Procedures are in place across the district to address potential impacts of this incident to our students and staff,” Superintendent Kent Smith said in a statement. “Susquenita administration and additional professional staff (psychologists and guidance counselors) are working in conjunction with counselors from Holy Spirit (Teen Line) to provide support to students and staff as needed.

“Until permission is received from investigating authorities, the district is not at liberty to share any additional details.”

“She was a sweet little girl — so kind, so loving,” neighbor Sarah Harman told PennLive.com. “I just hope she didn’t suffer. … A child doesn’t deserve that — they are a precious gift from God.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family pay for Ciara’s funeral arrangements.
Lindsey Bever is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post. Tweet her: @lindseybever

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landlord, property management, real estate

Raising Rents

No let-up seen in rent hikes this year

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Apartment dwellers had to shell out sharply higher rents in 2015 and are likely to get socked again this year as a labor shortage prevents construction of new complexes from keeping pace with demand, a report out Monday says.

Rents for new residents of apartment complexes in the 100 largest metro areas rose 4.8% last year, the sixth straight year of hikes that exceeded a typical 2.7%, according to MPF Research, a unit of property management software provider RealPage. Over the six-year period, monthly rents have climbed 22.5% to an average $1,244, the largest jump in that timeframe in the 25 years that MPF has tracked the data.

Several forces are stoking demand. Millennials are finally moving out of their parents’ basements, largely as a result of strong job growth. But banks’ stricter, post-recession lending standards are keeping many from qualifying for mortgages.

Price increases for existing apartment residents generally track those of new tenants but can vary. Rents for existing residents rose 5% last year. The research group expects average rents to increase 4.1% this year as occupancy moderates slightly to 95.4%, and it forecasts above-average rent inflation through 2018. Although rents dipped slightly in the fourth quarter because of seasonal factors, apartment occupancy in the period was 95.8%, up from 95.5% a year ago and modestly below the record 96.8% reached in 2000, MPF says.

Sharply increasing rent makes it tougher for tenants to save up for a down payment to buy a house, says Chris Herbert, managing director of Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

Many young adults are also putting off getting married and having kids, keeping them in apartments longer, says Greg Willett, RealPage’s chief economist. Many, he adds, are gravitating to apartment-rich urban areas to be closer to amenities.

At the same time, many Americans lost homes in the mid-2000s real estate crash and foreclosure crisis, a large portion of whom prefer to rent or are still struggling to snag mortgages.

Thirty-seven percent of U.S. households were renters in 2015, the highest share since the mid-1960s, according to the Harvard center.

Builders are racing to keep up. They completed 232,168 units in the 100 top markets last year, the second highest total in the past 30 years and behind only the 252,348 added in 2014. But the fresh supply was well under the 300,000 apartments planned because of the labor shortage, keeping upward pressure on prices, Willett says.

Some 443,240 units are now under construction, with 311,511 slated to be completed in 2015. Yet that would temper rent increases only slightly, to 4.1%, MPF says.

“It speaks to how strongly demand is at this point,” Willett says.

Further delays due to the labor shortage likely would mean even sharper rent hikes, he says.Nearly three-quarters of multifamily builders are having a hard time finding qualified workers, according to a recent survey by Associated General Contractors.

Another constraint is that the vast majority of the newly- built units are more expensive luxury apartments, Willett says.

Nearly half of all renters spend more than 30% of their income on housing, which means they’re “cost burdened,” according to the Harvard center.

“People are spending more on housing and substantially less on food, healthcare… and the essential needs of life,”Harvard’s Herbert says.

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