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California says changes ahead for rental relief program

San Jose Mercury News - After widespread criticism from tenants and landlords, state officials said Thursday they plan to streamline applications and step-up outreach efforts to more quickly deliver $2.6 billion in emergency rental assistance.

Despite nearly 200,000 applications requesting $543 million to cover unpaid rent, just $40 million has been distributed across California, according to state data. Advocacy groups continued to sound alarms, saying the state needs to accelerate the distribution of relief checks or risk a wave of evictions when a state moratorium expires June 30.

“I’m worried about eviction. All day, every day,” said renter Patricia Mendoza, a member of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. “The vast majority of tenants and landlords have not received rent relief.”

City Council Expands Definition of Tenant Harassment Ahead of Ordinance Vote

City News Service - The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday strengthened aspects of a draft tenant harassment ordinance, including through an expanded definition of harassment, and directed the City Attorney's Office to incorporate the revisions and bring the measure back for final approval.

The draft ordinance defines tenant harassment in several ways, including reducing or eliminating housing services, such as parking; failing to perform necessary repairs and maintenance; abusing the right to access a rental unit; threatening a tenant with physical harm; misrepresenting to a tenant that he or she is required to vacate the unit; refusing to accept rent payments; and inquiring about a tenant's immigration status.

The City Council amended the definition to include tactics like coercing a tenant to vacate with offers of payment; failing to perform necessary repairs on time as required by federal, state, county or local housing, health or safety laws; failing to minimize exposure to noise, dust, lead, paint, asbestos and other harmful building materials; and interfering with the comfort, peace or quiet of a tenant.

Some Exposition Park residents say housing developments near USC is gentrifying area

ABC 7 - Residential neighborhoods around USC look different than they did just a few years ago. Residents say that's because of companies like Tripalink, which are building housing for USC students - disrupting the makeup of Exposition Park.

Community members marched to Tripalink's office Thursday to demand a halt to all construction projects in the area. According to the group Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, Tripalink is expanding at a rapid rate. 

Protesters also want their councilmember, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, to put up a fight instead of working with Tripalink, and bring affordable housing to the area.

"I am so disappointed in Marqueece Harris-Dawson because he's turned his back on us," said Beverly Roberts, who lives in Exposition Park.

San Diego Region Slow To Send Rent, Utility Relief To Struggling Tenants Facing Eviction

KPBS - More than two months ago, the San Diego region was awarded $211 million in state and federal funds to help landlords and low-income tenants who were financially impacted by the pandemic.

But only 2% of that money has been sent to eligible households, according to data obtained by inewsource in mid-May. Some are just now receiving updates about the status of their applications and many others are still waiting, housing advocates say.

The two-month turnaround to process applications and send payments to eligible households has been a problem for struggling tenants who are left in the dark. The state of California is also holding local agencies to a Sept. 30 deadline to commit 65% of the available funding.

Oakland tenants sue S.F. real estate investment company, alleging harassment

San Francisco Chronicle - Dozens of tenants in Oakland filed a class-action lawsuit and four multi-plaintiff lawsuits late Tuesday against Mosser Capital, a San Francisco real estate investment company, alleging illegal utility gouging and harassment, attorneys said.

The allegations include driving up existing rents by imposing new utility fees, unlawful entry into units, refusal to make repairs and charging tenants for necessary repairs.

The lawsuit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, demands a jury trial, unspecified damages and asks a judge to prohibit Mosser and other companies named in the lawsuit from pressuring tenants to vacate their units.

Oakland Tenants Sue Landlord Mosser Companies, Alleging Harassment, Discrimination To Force Them Out

San Jose Mercury News - Oakland tenants in four different apartment buildings are trying to put a stop to what they say has been an ongoing campaign of harassment and legal violations from their corporate landlord, filing five lawsuits this week against the property owner.

The tenants say Mosser Companies, a property company that owns buildings in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, has shut off their utilities, created unsafe living conditions, slapped them with illegal fines and fees, and harassed them in an effort to get them to leave their rent-controlled apartments.

Just like companies charged with creating hostile work environments, Mosser has created “hostile living conditions,” said Ethan Silverstein, an attorney with the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the tenants. “Now, we are asking the courts to put a stop to it.”

Activists Gather At San Diego City Hall To Protest Mayor’s Police Budget

KPBS - A small coalition of activists gathered at San Diego City Hall today to protest Mayor Todd Gloria’s proposal to increase the police budget by nearly $19 million.

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Gennea Wall, a member of the San Diego chapter of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, said more money should be going to dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline.

“Focus on youth services, so children can succeed academically and creatively,” Wall said. “Whatever space they want to go into, you have to have those programs.”

Can this innovative housing idea survive the Bay Area’s real estate market?

Community land trusts struggle to compete in red-hot market

San Jose Mercury News - After more than three years of fighting for his East Oakland home, Rafael Luna is exhausted.

Campaigning against rent hikes that could have priced them out of their apartment building, Luna and his neighbors passed out fliers at the building owner’s office, protested outside the owner’s mother’s house and even had two run-ins with the police. This month, the tenants finally are celebrating a major milestone — a local community land trust bought the building and will convert it into affordable housing.

But he says it’s a bittersweet victory and one that opens another chapter of waiting and uncertainty.

“I don’t know if it’s worth staying here,” said Luna, a 49-year-old electrician. “It’s so much stress.”

Community land trusts – nonprofits that buy market-rate properties and then rent or sell them back to residents as permanently affordable housing – are sweeping the Bay Area, promising a new solution to the region’s low-income housing shortage. New land trusts recently formed in San Jose and on the Peninsula, and Oakland, Berkeley and San Jose are considering ordinances that could make it easier for the groups to snap up homes.

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