News and Views
April 16, 2018
Four years ago, Chelsea Lutz moved to Los Angeles from Cleveland to pursue a career writing and directing films. "I needed a really cheap apartment," she said. She found one in Koreatown, where she didn't particularly want to live, but it was all she could afford. Today, Lutz, 28, shares a rent-controlled, one-bedroom apartment in the Miracle Mile area with her fiance. "My rent's expensive, but it's not crazy expensive," Lutz said. "But eventually I want to get a house and that's worrisome because I want to be close to my job."
In 2016, 3,255 renters in the city of Los Angeles were evicted from their homes, according to data released last week by the Eviction Lab, a research group at Princeton University. For a city of 4 million, that rate is fairly low. As the Eviction Lab data illustrates, the United States is in the midst of an eviction crisis of tremendous scale. Nationwide, nearly 1 million renters were forced to find new housing in 2016.
Predictably, a number of affluent Bay Area suburbs (and the anti-development neighborhood groups that have come to characterize them in national news reports) are up-in-arms over SB 827, the now (in)famous legislation to fast-track development near transit stations across the state, introduced by State Senator Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) in January. But just as the bill’s many opponents can’t be stereotyped, the cities embracing its core tenets are often surprising.
Family photos, Bible verse decals and wedding mementos adorn Jimmy Mejia and Patty Garrido's living room walls in South Los Angeles. Despite their efforts, the decorations can't mask the unpatched holes in the ceiling and the roaches that crawl around their kitchen. In one corner, there's a hole where the drywall caved in after a recent storm. "The heater doesn't work, so in the winter it's really hard; it gets really cold here," Mejia said.
Affordable Housing, Displacement, and Regional Housing Needs The elephant in the housing legislation room is S.B. 827, authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). This bill, which has sparked furious debate among housing and economic justice advocates since it was introduced in February, will get its first committee hearing Tuesday when it goes before the State Senate’s Transportation and Housing Committee.
As the price of housing in California spirals out of reach, more than half of Los Angeles County residents fear being priced out of living in the region, and younger residents are even more apprehensive. Fifty-five percent of LA County residents said they, a close friend or family member have considered moving from their neighborhood in the last few years due to rising housing costs, according to the 2018 Quality of Life Index.
L.A. County is at risk of losing roughly $3 billion worth of affordable housing in the next five years, according to a draft report presented to county officials Thursday. On top of that, efforts to build new units for homeless and low-income people in the county are also hitting snags. Why? A combination of gentrification, federal tax reform, and the circuitous way affordable housing is funded in this country are mostly to blame. HOW AFFORDABLE HOUSING DISAPPEARS
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
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 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.
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.