With housing as a hot topic in Santa Cruz, Saturday’s forum on housing education by the Santa Cruz Tenant Organizing Committee drew a handful of invested renters.
Taking place in the Service Employees International Union Hall on Mission Street, the forum focused on tenant rights. The group was founded a few months earlier by UC Santa Cruz students, though that is the extent of the group’s affiliation with the university. With affordable housing becoming harder to find in the city and county, part of the ire fell onto UCSC students, many of whom live in the area.
“The point is we’re trying to create a bridge between the university and the city proper, recognizing that the university has an impact on housing prices and the availability of housing stock in the city,” said Daniel Rudin, a doctorate student at UCSC and one of the group’s organizers.
Rudin added the group feels compelled to address the issue and help students and other tenants gain knowledge of their rights. Rudin, a transplant from Chicago, has lived in the county for 18 months and said the housing prices were outrageously high compared to Chicago.
“I came here as a student from Chicago and I was absolutely shocked at the cost of living out here,” he said. “Because Chicago is a very urban place and Santa Cruz is a very peripheral place.”
As the forum began, Kimberly Craige, another organizer of the event and also a UCSC student, went through a presentation on the rights each tenant had in fighting eviction. The discussion included what landlords were obligated by law to fix and offer tenants, how to address deposit issues, what laws governed rent increases and other related issues.
At times, some of the more than 30 attendees asked questions and aired their own grievances when it came to fighting eviction.
One attendee argued with Craige about when to withhold rent from a landlord in order to pay for repairs. The attendee said there were ways to use the law to win in those cases.
“Yes, that is a route you could take but it is messier,” Craige said, reiterating the legal battle that could be drawn out in court.
Toward the end, organizers opened up the floor for discussion and many of the attendees asked their own questions on how they could or should have fought their own eviction processes.
Rudin said that education was the focus of the event.
“I think a lot of residents don’t know what they’re supposed to do when they’re in a tricky situation,” he said. “They don’t know exactly what their rights are.”