Salem landlords learn more about landlord-tenant legal issues, resources for property improvements, and city requirements affecting rental properties during the city’s first-ever Landlord Exposition last month.

As part of a larger housing stability effort, the city of Salem recently held its first-ever Landlord Exposition to connect landlords with information and resources, and to improve the outlook for Salem’s renters and rental properties.

Held at a local community center on Sept. 21, the Landlord Exposition attracted 60 landlords, who interacted with representatives from local social service agencies and with city employees from departments including fire, planning, and sustainability and resiliency. The expo featured topics such as Section 8 housing vouchers for low-income tenants, rental assistance applications, fire safety regulations, health standards, and relevant planning and zoning rules.

Mayor Dominick Pangallo said Salem wants landlords to have access to grant programs, resources and information to make their property investments more successful and provide greater stability for their tenants.

“With around half our population living in rental properties, it’s incredibly important that we have landlords that are engaged in being constructive and positive partners in our housing efforts,” Pangallo said. “Rental housing, which is disproportionately housing occupied by lower-income residents, working families, and so forth, can be housing with dignity for tenants and with economic stability for the property owner.”

The expo is part of a larger city effort to improve the housing situation. Last year, partnering with the Essex County Bar Association, it created a housing stability service to help tenants and landlords work through challenging rental situations before they escalated to eviction proceedings or litigation. Representatives from the service provided legal information at the expo.

Like many other Massachusetts communities, Salem faces a housing shortage and a lack of affordable units. According to the U.S. Census, the city has an owner-occupancy rate of 51.6%, which means that landlords play a significant role in determining housing access, property upkeep and quality of life in the city’s neighborhoods. Lori Stewart, the city’s neighborhood stability coordinator, proposed the expo as a way to involve more landlords as stakeholders.

“If we’re going to solve the housing crisis, we need the landlords at the table,” Stewart said.

During the expo, landlords were invited to numerous tables — one offering sandwiches and coffee, and others with information sheets and resources to help them become more knowledgeable landlords. Spanish interpreters and bilingual city staff were on hand throughout the event, and the city offered door prizes and raffled off gift cards.

Landlords learned how to fill out rental assistance applications, and signed up for the Mass Save energy efficiency program and other resources. In one case, a landlord asked for advice about an elderly tenant who couldn’t afford to pay her rent. Stewart directed the landlord to rental assistance programs and to a housing stability lawyer.

Stewart said she hopes the expo helped to demystify the Section 8 housing voucher program for landlords, so that more of them will be willing to rent to households with the vouchers. Currently, she said, many people with vouchers struggle to find landlords who will rent to them. She said she also hopes that the event will inspire landlords to sign up for energy efficiency programs and other resources to help them with property upgrades.

The city will evaluate information gathered from the event and decide whether to hold another one in the future, Stewart said, though she suspects there will be interest in future events. She now has dozens of landlords’ email addresses, she said, and Salem might now send out a quarterly newsletter to keep landlords informed.

“We’re just hoping to open up that channel of discussion between landlords and the city of Salem,” Stewart said.

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