James

City: 
Soquel

My wife and I are second generation Californians born and raised in the SF Bay Area. I am 59 years old and have been a renter since 1979. Both my wife and I have worked hard all of our lives, taking our responsibilities as tenants seriously, always paying the rent on time, never being evicted or leaving behind anything but normal wear and tear. All and all the type of tenant any landlord would love to have residing in their property. Yet today, my wife and I are homeless though gainfully employed.
 
Over the years we have seen rental rates go from affordable to so far out of control that it is impossible to find affordable housing, and that's just the beginning. With the great crash of 2008 my wife and I lost our business and everything we had ending up in debt beyond our ability to pay. We did the only thing we could... bankruptcy. Not a first or even second choice but the only choice having been taken to the cleaners by a business partner and shut out by family and friends alike. Why? We had always taken care of ourselves without any help and, one would guess, to see us in dire straights, well, who wants to deal with that. So we joined the long line of the unemployed, sold or gave away just about everything we had left and moved into our 30 year old motorhome.
 
It took 8 months but we finally secured employment. We chose to continue living in our old but secure RV to save up and recover. As it turned out, we eventually were offered jobs managing an RV park which came with a free site, utilities, and a small but workable salary. On this new career path we felt sure that housing was no longer an issue, that is until it was. At the end of 2017, my wife and I returned from a much needed weeks vacation only to be greeted by the owner of the park who was there to let us know that after more than five faithful years, our services were no longer needed. No explanation just a document to sign agreeing to vacate the park within 72 hours in exchange for a small but much needed severance check.
 
So, no jobs, no place to live, no one to turn to, we pleaded our way into a neighboring park for a short term stay. Now, being that we had committed to RV park management, we had upgraded our RV and added a vehicle to tow it. The industry requires that your RV be no more than 10 years old and in perfect condition. So this really forced us into taking on the additional monthly expense of financed vehicles. Since we were not paying for rent or utilities, it was no great financial burden being cheaper than renting an apartment.
 
Now being that it was the wrong time of year to be looking for immediate employment in the RV park industry, finding jobs in another park was impossible. So we decided to broaden out our scope of our employment search. After four long months, a battle with breast cancer, and the exhaustion of our savings, we both found jobs, my wife with the local university and I with a property management company. That hurdle overcome, the next was finding suitable housing.
 
What we found was unaffordable and beyond our reach not to mention long lines of people applying and front step auctions going to the highest bidder. So, we decided to look for a long-term RV space putting our name on several waiting lists. We patiently waited and then we got the call. A space had come available. Happy days! After nine months we were off the street, or so we thought. They requested that we fill out an application, yes that's right, an application to rent an RV space. So we filled it out, gave them our $35.00 and waited. And then we got another call, "you've been denied". Wait, what? Yep, denied and why? No recent rental history and a credit score 15 points below their minimum. Now how is it that housing has come down to this. Regardless of your ability to pay the rent (in this case $1000.00/month) you can't even get a damn RV space the last stop before homelessness. No amount of pleading, no amount of money for a security deposit, nothing proved to be able to sway those in high places in corporate offices from slashing and burning our lives.
 
What has this world come to when good people who are gainfully employed are denied housing, period, no discussion, nothing. You remember the movie "Network" from 1976 and the line "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore"? Well that's were we’re at and were we all should be when the basic necessities of life in one of the worlds richest country’s are out of reach for employed, able to pay, good people who just want a place to call home, no frills just a roof and a bed.
 
So what are we going to do about this situation? Certainly our story is not unique; there must be others out there? I now manage a mobilehome park and I’m watching the cost of this last opportunity for affordable home buying price itself out of reach for more and more average working folks. So, so much for having jobs, so much for being housing creative, so much for California. Maybe somewhere in this country people are still willing to let people pre-pay to stay without having to apply for credit. Credit, what credit is any landlord extending what with first, last, and security deposits equal to one months rent? That’s ninety days of rent prepaid. Where is the risk? It seems that those who are defaulting on their rent all passed this credit check and yet… and so the madness continues.
 
Stand up America and take action. Our voice needs to be bigger, louder, and directed at those that actually hold the keys. If you don’t care, well, fine. Move over and let someone who does take the mic. This has to end, there has to be light at the end of the tunnel, and there has to be an answer. So please, join the solution… tenants together, really together!

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