News and Views
April 5, 2018
Many American cities face a severe shortage of affordable housing — and not just for the poor, but well up into the upper-middle class. A recent report from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies concluded: “The rental market thus appears to be settling into a new normal where nearly half of renter households are cost burdened,” or paying more than 30 percent of their income in rent.
April 5, 2018
The city of Half Moon Bay is in the early stages of considering some form of rent control that could ease a growing crisis felt by area residents who are forced to double up in homes or move out of the area just to make ends meet. At the March 20 City Council meeting, Half Moon Bay resident Joaquin Jimenez spoke about the issue and how it has hit the Latino community on the Coastside particularly hard. Jimenez said he had collected 300 signatures from residents interested in seeing a rent control ordinance appear an upcoming ballot.
For Fernando Nadal, the fight to bring rent control to Sacramento is personal. The retired nurse says he and his wife were evicted from their retirement community by a property manager who, among other things, claimed that a small gathering of acquaintances and journalists to discuss his son’s fatal drug overdose constituted having “a party” inside his rental unit. When Nadal received a 60-day eviction notice last year, he filed a complaint with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which sided with the property manager.
Several residents at a Fort Worth apartment complex say they are being evicted through no fault of their own. According to tenants and a Fort Worth police report, someone broke into the overnight deposit box at Chisholm Trail Townhomes and stole the checks and money orders. Now, residents say even though the families have lost their rent money, the complex is asking them to pay again.
April 4, 2018
After 29 years in a rent-controlled apartment three blocks west of Sawtelle Boulevard, by no fault of her own, Renee Akana received an eviction notice. The building’s owner was clearing all tenants from his eight-unit complex on Butler Avenue so he could retire the property from the rental market, invoking a 1986 state law called the Ellis Act that allows such evictions. But that wasn’t really his plan. Weeks later, he sought a permit to build 15 rental units on the same lot that wouldn’t be subject to rent control.
Astronomical prices are forcing a rising share of California families to postpone buying a house. As a result, the state’s record-low homeownership rate has been a boon to one growing segment of California’s housing market: single-family home rentals.
A coalition of activist groups gathered on the steps of Santa Ana city hall to kick off a campaign to bring rent control to the city. Frustrated by a lack of support from council members, Tenants United Santa Ana (Tú Santa Ana) filed an ordinance with the city clerk yesterday afternoon following a rally. If successful, the campaign aimed at the November ballot would make Santa Ana the first city in Orange County to establish broad rent control regulations.
April 3, 2018
On March 20, voters in nine Chicago wards were faced with a simple question at the end of their ballot: “Should the state repeal the ban on rent control?” Such a simple query belies the intense amount of organizing that has galvanized housing activists and changed the debate around Chicago’s housing problems. After more than a year of fighting to get the measure on the ballot, the outcome of the vote speaks to the frustration many people feel about rising housing costs in Chicago: 75 percent of voters supported the measure.
April 3, 2018
Fidela Villasano’s entire world was upending. In August, her landlord sold the tiny clapboard bungalow where she had lived for 55 years, and the new owner notified her that he wanted her out in the next few months. Like so many in Lincoln Heights, this tiny, rawboned 89-year-old woman had lived through a time of gang violence, high crime and police oppression. She never expected to be forced out by real estate values. But, with just $900 a month from Social Security, where in Lincoln Heights could she afford to live? Where in Los Angeles?
As tenant advocacy groups gather signatures to put rent-control reform on the November ballot, Santa Monica’s Rent Control Board is looking at the local possibilities if it succeeds. At their March meeting, the RCB expressed doubt it would be able to build consensus fast enough to draft a tandem measure to immediately expand its authority to either limit rents or expand rent control to more units if the Affordable Housing Act passes.
By many measures, the revitalization of neighborhoods across Washington, D.C. has been a windfall for the city. Fueled by higher tax revenues and property values, the city is awash in construction cranes, new libraries, restaurants and retail, and more than 70 miles of bike lanes—all welcomed signs of gentrification in the nation’s capital. Lost in the city’s waves of new amenities and newer, more affluent inhabitants are the longtime Washingtonians who have been pushed out or who are fighting to stay in the city.
April 2, 2018
Rent control campaigns are surging powerfully throughout the United States as rents rise and housing crises become more extreme. At the same time, mainstream economists and pro-landlord groups are recirculating anti-rent control rhetoric and misleading studies to discredit rent control and the real struggles that tenants face every day.
Just over a month ago, affordable housing advocates applauded Portland City Council for passing a new, "emergency" policy that would require landlords pay tenants between $2,900 and $4,500 in moving expenses under certain circumstances. The policy, which applies to any tenant who receives a no-cause eviction or faces a rent hike of 10 percent or more, is meant to act as a buffer to keep tenants from slipping into homelessness after a rental shakeup. But a recent apartment sale has tenants telling the city it's not enough.
April 2, 2018
Bay Area renters, don’t look now, but more hikes might be on the horizon. Year over year rents rose 3 percent in March in San Jose, 6 percent in Oakland and 1 percent in San Francisco, according to a survey by Apartment List released Monday. Nationally, rents rose about 2.3 percent during the last 12 months. Real estate economists and professionals are expecting a continued run-up during this year’s peak summer moving season. “We’re just not doing anything to keep up with it on the supply side,” said Chris Salviati, housing economist with Apartment List.
San Francisco Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer will introduce legislation Tuesday to eliminate what she and many housing rights advocates call an unjust loophole in the city’s rent ordinance that landlords can use to raise rents so they can pay mortgage loans and property taxes. As in many cities, when the costs of operating and maintaining an apartment building in San Francisco outpace the annual allowable rent increases set by the city’s Rent Board, landlords may request permission to pass on some of those expenses to tenants.
Nearly one dozen tenants in South Los Angeles are still facing sudden homelessness after participating in a mediation with the City of Los Angeles and the landlord trying to evict them.
March 30, 2018
By nearly every metric, Miami-Dade County is one of the most difficult places to live if you don't make a ton of money. The county's median income is a staggeringly low $44,000, compared to the $80,000 median income in a comparably expensive city such as Seattle. That means Miamians wind up spending a higher percentage of their incomes on rent than residents of any other city in America.
March 30, 2018
A judge’s ruling against Seattle’s first-come, first-served law for renters means a harder time finding housing for people who tend to be discriminated against, say supporters of the law who are reeling from the decision. “We’re very disappointed in the ruling and hope there’s an appeal,” said Merf Ehman, executive director of Columbia Legal Services, which pushed for the City Council to adopt the law in 2016.
March 30, 2018
The San Francisco Bay Area did a remarkable job of rebounding from the 2008 recession: The region has since added 640,000 new jobs, and its unemployment rate hovers around 3 percent. But as you’ve probably heard, the area’s housing supply hasn’t kept up with its population growth, and neither has its public transportation. A 2017 report found that 75 percent of Bay Area commuters drive to work, and only 28 percent of new office developments are accessible by regional transit.
March 29, 2018
In rankings of the US’s best urban public transportation systems, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Boston, and New York usually hover at the top. At the bottom are smaller and poorer cities like Buffalo, Cleveland, Omaha, and Oklahoma City. The overall takeaway is no surprise: well-resourced cities have better public transit systems than their more economically distressed counterparts.