The Affordable Housing Shortage
Brendan Griesemer, assistant director of planning and development for the City of Springfield, is on a similar path. For several years, Griesemer and the city “were actively looking for foreclosed houses to buy” that could be turned into affordable housing. Finding affordable housing in Springfield has plenty of barriers. Past criminal convictions, fixed income, disabilities or a record of past evictions can stand in the way. Owning pets can be a deal-breaker.
When affordable housing does pop up, it’s not always safe. 417 Rentals was a great example of this. Complaints seemed endless, so why didn’t the city intervene? Part of that answer is simple: It couldn’t. Griesemer explains the city is limited in what action it can take against a landlord. City inspectors can only investigate if a tenant allows investigators entry to the home. In many instances, Garand says she heard from tenants who filed complaints against Gatley and then found themselves evicted. Other residents were too scared to voice concerns with the city—a problem Garand says she sees a lot with low-income households.
To address the shortage of affordable housing, Griesemer says the city is getting creative, and citizens are starting to pay attention. When Griesemer used to ask citizens what their major concerns were, access to affordable housing rarely came up. Now, “it is mentioned at every event we go to,” he says. What’s more, the need for affordable housing is not isolated to north Springfield. To incentivize developers to build more quality affordable housing, the city has a special loan program that operates out of the Planning and Development department. It also offers home loan assistance and partners with Habitat for Humanity, OACAC, Council of Churches and Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri to run the Homeowner Emergency Loan Program, which assists low- and moderate-income citizens who need emergency loans to fix serious issues in their house like a leaking roof.
The one thing the city still doesn’t have is the authority to inspect homes without the owner’s or occupant’s permission. That gap could clear the way for landlords like Gatley to continue renting units that are unsafe to live in.
What Lies Ahead
In fact, there are already rumors on the 417 Rentals Facebook page that Gatley is back under a different business name. According to Greene County Assessor records, 417 Rentals LLC still owned 124 parcels of land in 2019. So is Chris Gatley back? Is 417 Rentals still collecting rent? And will Springfield ever be able to prevent another landlord like Gatley from scooping up property? There are still many questions left to answer, but one thing is clear, as 417 Rentals homes continue to pop up on foreclosure sales and public auctions; The rental giant is still being dismantled.