In the first half of 2019, two cities passed sweeping tenant victories with permanent rent control and just cause eviction ordinances. The victories follow years of sustained tenant organizing by local residents in Uplift Inglewood, the Alameda Renters Coalition, and Filipino Advocates for Justice. Here's an overview of what happened:
Inglewood passes 5% rent cap and no-cause relocation fees
Rents in Inglewood have skyrocketed since the city announced major plans to build a new NFL Rams and Chargers stadium. These developments run parallel to a growing tech industry in neighboring Culver City and the Westside, and rampant redevelopment in local neighborhoods. By 2018, renter households in Inglewood experienced a 12.2% rent hike in only 2-years. But alongside the pressure by developers to create a "new Inglewood," renters asserted their own right to the city by advocating for strong anti-displacement policies and tenant protections. Groups like Uplift Inglewood have led the way for the city of Inglewood to pass a permanent 5% rent cap & no-cause relocation fees just one year before the new stadium opens.
For 3.5 years, Inglewood residents grappled with City Council to pass tenant protections. In 2017, D'Artagnan Scorza, a leader of Uplift Inglewood, told news reporters, “Our goal is for people who live here to get to benefit from all the development, and being able to afford there." In 2018, rent control organizers came up short while gathering signatures to get rent control on the ballot. This defeat did not stop tenants from organizing for even a moment; this year, continued pressure on the city council forced leaders to not only vote for rent control, but set the cap much lower than the mayor had originally intended. The cap was initially set at 8%, but thanks to high turnout by tenants, the new cap has a threshold of 5%.
Many made the argument that most people don’t get annual raises from their employers as high as 8 percent. They said longtime and lower-income residents deserve to be able to afford to stick around and enjoy Inglewood’s “resurrection."
The city must vote on the rules one more time before they go into effect.
How the ordinance works: Under statewide Costa-Hawkins restrictions, single family homes, condominiums, and any unit built after 1995 will be exempt from rent control. Landlords who do not already have their units up to market-rate will be allowed to raise their rents by 8% each year until they reach market-rate (boooooo). Landlords can also raise rents by 8% when they make more than $10,000 in improvements. Relocation fees will be worth three times more than Inglewood's average rent, or $5,310 this year.
You can follow local updates on tenant protections in Inglewood by following Uplift Inglewood on twitter: @UpliftInglewood or Facebook!
Alameda passes 2.8% rent cap and permanent just cause protections
Victory at Alameda city council could not come soon enough. For years, organizers in the Alameda Renters Coalition (ARC) and Filipino Advocates for Justice (FAJ) organized through city council, ballot measures, and grassroots advocacy to pass local rent control and just cause. In 2015, FAJ began their fight for renter protections after defending tenants at 470 Central from no-cause eviction, where a majority of tenants were Filipino. The 470 Central battle illustrated the impact of displacement and called citywide attention to the need for eviction protections. In successive years afterward, tenants had several battles to face with landlords. In 2016, ARC, FAJ, and their supporters campaigned for M1 (permanent rent control and just cause) while fighting L1, a landlord measure which constituted an unbinding rental mediation program for rent increases over 5%. Rent control didn't pass, but rent mediation did. For over 2 years, tenants and landlords could mediate disputed rent increases, but only if tenants knew that they had this option (many did not), and only if the landlords were willing to negotiate.
But victory was only on the horizon! Last year, the tenant groups successfully defeated Measure K, another landlord measure, which would have permanently instituted the rent mediation program into the city's charter. Victorious by a 20% margin, tenant groups took this mandate to city council. Now, almost 4 years later, tenants in Alameda can feel secure in their homes with permanent rent control and just cause.
How the ordinance works: Rent increases are now tied to 70% of the CPI for the SF, Hayward, and Oakland region, meaning that rent increases are pegged at 2.8% for the next year. The ordinance allows landlords to "bank" rent increases, meaning save them up, but only up to 8% of rent increases. Landlords can only use 3% of banked rent increases during any given year, and not in consecutive years. Landlords can only use banked increases three times during the life of a tenancy. The banked increases do not carry over to the next tenant, or if the property is sold. The new ordinance also institutes a rental registry in order to track rent increases and banked increases. This ordinance works in conjunction with a new just cause eviction ordinance.
"Listing everything included in the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019 could take a while....
Rather than recount every provision, here are some of the highlights."Read more
"Price sits on an influential council committee that vets development and planning decisions. Many of the votes identified by The Times were related to housing developments: One of the companies listed by Price as a source of income to his wife’s firm was Retirement Housing Foundation.
Price voted to loan more than $1 million to the Crenshaw Gardens affordable-housing project in 2016. The council motion identified the developer as Retirement Housing Foundation."
Click here to read more of Emily Alpert Reyes's article.
Al Seib, Los Angeles Times
Last week, 8 Democratic senators abstained or voted no on SB 529, the Tenant Right to Organize Bill. Many of the opposed senators represent regions with thousands of tenants paying more than 30% of their incomes on rent: The San Joaquin Valley, Imperial Valley, Fresno County, Orange County, parts of Contra Costa County, and San Diego County. Write these Democrats and ask why they don't want to stop retaliatory evictions:
Bob Archuleta: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bill Dodd: email@example.com
Steven Glazer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ben Hueso: email@example.com
Melissa Hurtado: firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard Roth: email@example.com
Thomas Umberg: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cathleen Galgiani: senator.Galgiani@senate.ca.go
New legislation is underway to protect California's mobile home parks, hundreds of which are affordable havens for low-income mobile home owners and tenants. Since 2000, owners and developers have targeted mobile home parks for conversion into higher-income generating uses, according to George H. Kaelin III, an attorney at Allen, Semelsberger & Kaelin LLP in San Diego. In 2007, Kaelin predicted that mobile home parks would face drastic decline and recommended that protections be put in place to mitigate these closures. He was right. Between 2000 and 2017, the number of mobile homes nationally has fallen 3%. Now, Assemblyman Mark Stone and advocates with the Golden State Manufactured-Home Owners League have put themselves to the task of protecting mobile home park residents from displacement with a statewide bill to limit park closures.
Senator Wiener's latest repackaging of his gentrification bill SB 827 has returned this legislative session as SB 50, which will be heard by the Senate Government and Finance Committee later this month. Essentially nothing has changed about this bill, save for mild lip-service given to "sensitive communities" that will be impacted by luxury development in "job-rich" neighborhoods. What do these terms mean? It's hard to say, given that Wiener has yet to concretely define how tenant protections will be enforced. Here's what we do know.Read more
"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."
Of all the current housing bills in the state legislature, four stand out with the potential to provide meaningful protections to tenants. To write in support of these bills, follow these steps so that your organizational/individual position will be recorded before their respective committees.
Steps to Submit Organizational Positions on Senate and Assembly Bills:
STEP ONE: If you have not yet done so, please create an advocate account with the state legislature. It is a free and relatively brief process. Creating an account is now a necessary step for all organizations to go on record in support or opposition to any legislation. Note: it is NOT the same as registering as a lobbyist. Please go to https://calegislation.lc.ca.gov/Advocates/faces/index.xhtml to create an advocate account.
STEP TWO: Once you have logged on to the state ‘advocate’ portal you can then go on record to support SB/AB __. Select the bill from the main menu, direct your message to the respective committee, and select your position ("support", in the case of these bills).
Find the bills we support and their respective committees in our description below.
*The Senate Judiciary Committee is not using the Advocates portal at this time. Details on who to email about your position are listed below.Read more
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.”