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RACINE — Training sessions to educate tenants and landlords about their responsibilities are in development for Racine.

The Racine Revitalization Partnership, in conjunction with other community organizations and the City of Racine, is organizing the program series.

Edward Miller, the executive director of the partnership, said this program was offered years ago by a different group. When resources became available to the area, the organizations decided it was time to bring the program back. Miller said the program aims to help tenants and landlords understand their duties.

“We’re hoping in both cases … to improve tenant-landlord relationships by giving the knowledge of their rights and the knowledge of their expectations so that we can effectively set expectations for both parties,” he said.

U.S. Census Bureau data show renter-occupied units accounted for about 46 percent of housing in the City of Racine in 2016. Rentals made up about 31 percent of housing countywide, the data show.

Many of the calls concerning fair housing the city receives are related to disputes between landlords and tenants, according to a memo by Laura Detert, Racine’s manager of Housing and Community Development.

“The city provides practical advice and referrals, but more is needed to reach the needs of renters,” the memo states.

Renters can learn about evictions, requesting repairs, environmental health standards and searching for new rental units, according to the memo. The session for landlords is expected to cover effective renter screening, maintenance and management tips and best practices.

Miller said the landlords’ session also aims to provide education about programs they can participate in to make housing available to people who use vouchers or other assistance.

“One of the biggest challenges we face is providing housing to people who are … housing challenged and maybe even homeless,” Miller said. “If they have some resources available to them, we want to make sure that they can utilize those resources.”

The Journal Times reported in December that advocates said the community could reduce homelessness by expanding access to affordable housing.

Specific dates were not set for the program, but Miller said he expects the sessions to take place in April and May. If demand is high enough, he said, his organization aims to make the program an annual offering.

City seeks grant

The city may pursue a grant to help fund the event, a memo from the Finance and Personnel Committee meeting this week shows. The $8,000 grant from Associated Bank would in part be used to pay for expenses related to the event, such as the development and legal review of materials, incentives and food for trainings, speaker fees and marketing.

The remaining $2,000 of the grant would pay for the creation and maintenance of a fair lending webpage on the Racine Housing Repair Loan Program website, the memo states.

The City Development Department received similar grants in the past two years. A 2017 grant funded a Fair Lending and Small Business Summit, according to the memo.

The committee recommended allowing staff to apply for the grant, according to meeting minutes. The City Council is expected to vote on the recommendation at its Wednesday meeting.

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Sari Lesk covers the City of Racine, Gateway and UW-Parkside. She is new to the community and moonlights as an amateur baker.

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