"When Kimberly Dominique received her Section 8 voucher in September, she thought it was the ticket to move out of the Ford Focus she and her 29-year-old son called home.
But Dominique, a 66-year-old stroke survivor, spent months contacting one apartment complex after another in Oceanside, only to have landlords reject the voucher, which can provide hundreds of dollars toward a rent payment.
One day, Dominique estimated, she called more than 70 landlords. Those who answered or bothered to call back all had the same answer: No.
'It’s taken its toll,' Dominique said late last year, noting that she’d lost weight and grown increasingly depressed as her voucher neared expiration.
'Sometimes, I feel like I’m losing hope,' said Dominique’s son, Dion."
New state legislation would prevent retaliatory evictions against tenants rights organizers.
"...Deed says she heard from so many other renters who were having problems with Pearl Investment that she continued organizing tenants at the Trees at Madison and two other properties Pearl owns.
On March 19, just weeks after the year lease on Deed’s apartment expired, Pearl Investment served her with another eviction notice. This time there was no cause listed. Deed believes it’s direct retaliation for her advocacy.
“It’s because I’ve been organizing and more tenants are coming to me to share their issues,” Deed said. “And because I’m trying to be a voice for the community.”
Click here to read Scott Anderson's article.
Today, Tenants Together, California’s statewide organization for renters’ rights, announced its sponsorship of Senate Bill 529, which aims to protect California tenants from retaliation by their landlord for organizing collectively. The bill would prevent evictions of tenants participating in a tenant association or rent strike.
Over half of California renters are cost-burdened, paying more than 30% of their income towards rent. Half a million California tenants face court eviction every year, and far more are displaced by rent increases and eviction notices. Homelessness has risen statewide by 15% since 2015. In the midst of an escalating housing affordability crisis, many tenants are afraid to assert their rights. Tenants who speak out about their housing conditions are vulnerable to retaliation and losing their homes.
Betty Gabaldon is one of these tenants. A single mother with two jobs who organized her building and neighborhood to fight substandard rental conditions, Betty was evicted from her home of 8 years in Concord, CA, and had to leave the city. “I was evicted simply because I worked to protect my family and my neighbors,” says Gabaldon. “Renters like me deserve the right to fight for safe, livable housing and not be afraid of retaliation from landlords.”
SB 529 is the product of collaboration between Tenants Together’s member organizations across the state and State Senator María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles), the bill’s author. Tenants who form associations against excessive rent hikes, poor living conditions, or harassment, are often met with retaliatory evictions.
“Every Californian has a right to a union at work and a union at home,” said Lupe Arreola, executive director of Tenants Together. “Tenant organizations are often the only thing standing between marginalized communities and displacement. We are grateful to have a labor champion like Senator Durazo advancing this bill.”
In cities across the country, tenants are demanding robust regulations to keep rents affordable and stop unjust evictions.
"Araceli Barrera is a housekeeper at a hotel in Denver. Last year, the apartment where she lives with her husband and two children was overrun with an insect infestation. She says she had to trash most of her belongings and move out. When her landlord took her to housing court to force her to fulfill the final months of her lease agreement, she turned to a local renters coalition called Colorado Homes for All. The group provided her with a pro bono lawyer who helped defend her in the case.
The experience politicized her. Now Barrera is helping Homes for All push a bill in the state legislature that would allow Colorado tenants to withhold rent from their landlords if their housing is in disrepair.
'I lost everything, my belongings, my home, and the life of my family was uprooted,' she says in Spanish. 'That makes me want to fight harder. I want to go to the capitol and tell my story and be heard.'"
Click here to read more of Jimmy Tobias's article.
Kathleen Ronayne, AP Photo
LA Times: "Glendale Landlords May Soon Have to Limit Annual Rent Increases to 7% or Pay Tenant Relocation Fees"
"Glendale officials signaled Tuesday evening they would support a proposed ordinance requiring landlords to offer tenants a one-year lease and pay relocation fees if their rent is raised more than 7% annually and the tenant opts to leave."
Click here to read more of Lila Seidman's article.
Raul Roa, LA Times staff photographer
In California’s fight over Proposition 10, it’s Wall Street versus the working class.
"Every month, tenants in more than 14,000 California rental properties fork over huge portions of their paychecks to Blackstone, a Wall Street asset-management company that’s notoriously reluctant to perform maintenance duties. This year, Blackstone has been throwing millions of dollars of that money into the fight against Proposition 10, a ballot measure that would pave the way for rent control across the state.
Or to put it another way: a massive corporation is using working people as ATMs, and then leveraging the money it extracts from them to purchase political influence, thus protecting its ability to continue wringing renters dry — all while rents skyrocket, the eviction and homelessness crises worsen, and the average working-class Californian’s standard of living plummets."
Click here to read more of Meagan Day's article.
Earlier this year, three California Assemblymembers — Richard Bloom, David Chiu & Rob Bonta — took Sacramento by surprise, introducing AB 1506 to repeal the Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act. Recent grassroots organizing by tenant groups laid the groundwork for this important legislation. Since 2015, numerous cities have been organizing for rent control, and in that time tenants in Richmond, San Jose, Union City, and Mountain View have already won new protections. There is a tenant movement gaining strength, and we have our eye on rolling back state restrictions that stand in the way of strong local rent control.Read more
Companies like Airbnb are exacerbating California’s affordable housing crisis, but lawmakers in Sacramento want to give the company a free ride.
A new study from the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy suggests that in the metro Los Angeles area alone, more than 7,000 units have been removed from the rental market to be used as short term rentals for tourists and business travelers. The result? Fewer people have permanent housing and rents are rising even more.
Airbnb and similar web companies are fueling the explosion in short term rentals. The site encourages property owners to connect with customers that want to rent lodging for less than 30 days instead of long term renters.
In many California cities, there are laws against converting scarce housing resources to tourist use. Using political influence, Airbnb has engaged in a systematic campaign to dismantle those laws and avoid paying any taxes to offset their impact. Now, they are taking their lobbying efforts to the state level, and a new bill has been proposed that would make Airbnb rentals exempt from local taxes.
It’s bad enough cities are losing valuable rental housing stock. The least AirBnB and other short term rental corporations can do is pay their fair share.Read more
Landlords Secretly Fund Anti-Rent Control Candidates to Stop the Inevitable Rise of Rent Control in New Cities
With rising demands for rent control, landlords have taken to hidden campaign funding to promote anti-rent control candidates.
Despite gobs of money and faux experts trying to convince the public that rent control is a “failed policy,” the public continues to support rent control by a large margin. Tenants know that rent control preserves affordability, especially in expensive markets.
Landlords know that the only way to prevent Bay Area cities that are struggling with huge rent increases from adopting rent control is by secretly funding anti-rent control candidates. If they do it publicly, their efforts will backfire, as voters receiving a mailer explicitly from a landlord group would vote for the rent control candidate. So they fund other shell groups that then back anti-rent control candidates. Welcome to the world of unlimited Independent Expenditures (IE).
Here's what happened in November in the Mountainview, CA, a city of 60% renters:
According to disclosures filed with the state last week, the California Apartment Association — which represents landlords and is involved in local politics — funneled $90,000 through the "Neighborhood Empowerment Coalition," a mysterious political action committee (PAC) that sent out an unusual number of mailers in support of three candidates opposed to rent control during the election: Pat Showalter, Ken Rosenberg and Ellen Kamei. (Landlords Hid Big Election Spending, Mountain View Voice, Feb 6, 2015)
Usually, Big Real Estate gets away with this stuff without any scrutiny. Kudos to Daniel DeBolt of the Mountain View Voice for uncovering the shadowy campaign money in the recent election. His article is a must read for anyone concerned with tenant rights.
The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office is estimating that tax revenue is several billion dollars higher than anticipated, leaving Governor Brown with absolutely no excuse for failing the restore funding to California's renters' rebate program. This critical lifeline provides an annual payment of up to $347.50 for low-income, senior and disabled Californians.
Citing budget deficits during the recession, then-Gov. Schwarzenegger eliminated all funding for the program. To date, Gov. Brown has not restored the funds. Eliminating these cuts was unfair to begin with, but continuing to do so in light of the budget surplus is totally indefensible. Please sign our petition today demanding that these funds be restored.