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Coronavirus: New proposal offers broader tenant protections for Californians

 

Measure would ban evictions for back rent owed due to pandemic

San Jose Mercury News - Lawmakers on Wednesday introduced a measure for long-term eviction relief for renters struggling through the coronavirus pandemic, as a state judicial council delayed a decision on dropping a temporary ban on renter-landlord court hearings.

Bay Area lawmakers proposed a statewide ban on evictions for back rent owed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The measure would give stressed renters up to 15 months after the health emergency has lifted to pay back debts, while allowing landlords to pursue civil claims to recoup lost rent. The measure, AB 1436, also encourages tenants and landlords to reach private agreements to settle accounts.

Assemblymember David Chiu, D-San Francisco, said the pandemic has put millions of California renters at risk for eviction. Increasing homelessness and stacking families into tighter quarters would compound health risks, he said. Assemblymembers Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland, and Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, also endorsed the measure.

Why the Fight Against Police Brutality is Also a Fight for Affordable Housing

 

 

KQED - Walter Riley, 76, hadn’t left the house in more than two months. But it was a special day.

His grandson, Akil Riley, 19, had organized a demonstration to protest police violence against black and brown people, part of the nationwide movement following the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.

Thousands of people gathered in front of Oakland Technical High School, with crowds spilling out into the street and extending for several city blocks.

“I hadn’t seen numbers like that since the Civil Rights Movement,” said the elder Riley, an Oakland attorney and activist who had organized similar demonstrations in the South a half a century ago. “I was impressed that so many young black people came out for this. It was a moving and powerful moment for me.”

Black activists with deep Oakland organizing roots reflect on a week of protest

 

Carroll Fife, TurHa Ak, John Jones III and Refa One on how this moment compares to movements of the past, and what comes next.

Berkelyside - For seven straight days, Oaklanders have taken to the streets to demonstrate against police brutality toward Black Americans. In some ways, these events feel wholly unprecedented. In other ways, this moment is reminiscent of previous chapters in the Bay Area’s deep history of political protest and social-justice movement building.

Oaklandside contributors Jeannine Etter and Sarah Belle Lin interviewed four seasoned Black activists with deep organizing experience in Oakland. They reflected on the past week’s demonstrations, and offered advice to younger activists and anyone interested in better understanding this moment.

The Black New Deal

The Oakland Post - Across the entire county, Black Americans have been crying out for specific data on the impacts of the coronavirus on their communities due to high rates of contraction and mortality.

In Oakland, coalition of Black-led organizations was convened to address the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 and its evisceration of the Black community.

The resulting effort is The Black New Deal, a platform of short, mid and long-range goals crafted to address the immediate needs of Oakland’s Black residents.

Vocal alliance lobbies San Diego to focus budget more on low-income residents

22 local organizations want rent relief, free broadband, money for undocumented residents, small business help

San Diego Union-Tribune - A coalition of nonprofit groups and labor unions is lobbying San Diego to make major revisions to the city’s proposed budget that would help renters, low-income workers, undocumented residents and small businesses.

The Community Budget Alliance, a partnership that includes 22 local organizations, wants the city to give rent relief to people struggling during the pandemic and provide free high-speed internet to low-income households.

The alliance also wants more money devoted to enforcing worker rights and wage rules, boosting small businesses in low-income areas and translating city communications into the many languages spoken across San Diego.

'One paycheck away' from homelessness: housing inequality fuels U.S. protests

Reuters - WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Activist Winsome Pendergrass has an explanation for why the coronavirus is disproportionately affecting African Americans and fuelling the anger that has exploded onto U.S. streets - housing.

“The ones who feel it most are the black and brown people. That’s why COVID runs so prevalent in our area - you have eight people in a one-bedroom apartment,” said Pendergrass, a leader with the activist group New York Communities for Change.

“COVID has blown the lid off to show that we’re all living one paycheck away from the side of the street,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

Pendergrass is among a number of activists and residents warning that the protests over race and policing that have roiled the United States for more than a week are driven in part by housing inequalities exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

There are cracks in the foundation of our housing system

 

Marketplace - Vanessa Bulnes and her husband Richard were homeowners in Oakland for nearly 20 years until they lost their home to foreclosure after the Great Recession and were forced to move into a rental. Now they put about 70% of their take-home pay toward rent each month — money that’s no longer building equity in a home. 

When COVID-19 hit, putting millions of Americans out of work, the rent was no longer affordable for Bulnes and many like her — even on unemployment benefits. So she went on a rent strike.

“If nothing is done that’s a permanent solution, like rent forgiveness or cancelation, I can’t even describe what the world is going to look like,” Bulnes said. “It’s a scary thought.”

Organizers of 2020’s May Day Actions Are Planning a People’s Strike for June 1

 

Truthout - Permutations of disaster are bearing down with such velocity on working-class people in the United States, it’s not easy to keep abreast — of the harms, but also of the welcome initiatives.

Jump-started by Cooperation Jackson co-founder and co-director Kali Akuno, a People’s Strike was announced on April 1 to inspire working-class people to think deeply about their futures and come to a shared commitment that concessions from power must be demanded, are worth struggling for and that steps must be taken to prepare materially for that struggle.

From now until further notice, on the first day of every month, the People’s Strike will birth a program of coordinated actions from coast to coast.

Davis extending eviction moratorium, Steinberg supports idea for Sacramento

FOX 40 - When the pandemic began, millions across the state were suddenly unsure of how they would pay their rents and mortgages.

“Right now, we’re having folks having to choose between paying for food and paying for rent,” said César Aguirre with the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment Sacramento.

That’s why community groups like ACCE fought for moratoriums on evictions in cities across the state.

Protest outside Sheriff Gore’s San Diego home urges no evictions

 

San Diego Union-Tribune - About 30 anti-eviction protesters gathered Tuesday evening in San Diego’s Mission Hills neighborhood, near where San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore lives, and traced outlines of dead bodies with blue, pink, yellow and white chalk.

“Evictions equal death,” they wrote in chalk and on hand-painted signs.

On May 7, the Sheriff’s Department announced plans to resume roughly 160 evictions that were ordered before the coronavirus pandemic. Later that day, sheriff’s officials reversed the decision, saying they would hold off on the evictions even though they were “perfectly legal.”

When eviction protections are lifted, how will people afford to pay accumulated rent?

 

San Francisco Chronicle - On May 6, Lorenzo Perez got a notice on the door of the Walnut Creek apartment he shares with his wife, Lesly Ordonez, and their two children. It said they had three days to pay rent or quit.

In other words, the landlord was threatening to evict the family.

Protesters gather outside Irvine Co. office, seek rent cancellations

 

LA Times - Protesters took to the lawn outside of the Irvine Co. office building in Newport Beach on Friday to express their concerns about economic struggles they face regarding affordable housing.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a loss of wages for many people not deemed to be part of the essential workforce.

A group called the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment organized a caravan of about 15 cars that made several trips around the building, honking horns and displaying signs that focused on two messages in particular “Cancel Rent” and “Make Them Pay.”

Will California Guarantee Housing as a Right? Here's How the Pandemic Is Shaping the Debate

 

KQED - California’s housing crisis is driving state lawmakers to think big. One question they’re considering: How can the Golden State guarantee housing as a right? This week, state legislators looked at two different approaches that tackle the legal right to housing and how the coronavirus pandemic is shaping the debate.

L.A. County ends controversial PACE home improvement loan program

 

LA Times - Los Angeles County has ended its controversial PACE home improvement loan program, a decision that follows years of criticism that the county enabled predatory lending and put people at risk of losing their homes.

County officials — who launched the PACE program in 2015 to fund energy- and water-efficient home improvements — said they made the decision after determining the program lacked adequate consumer protections.

Homeowners repeatedly alleged the private home improvement contractors who signed them up for PACE misrepresented how the financing would work, saddling them with loans they could not understand or afford.

MOMS 4 HOUSING ORGANIZER CARROLL FIFE IS REDEFINING WHAT WEALTH DISTRIBUTION LOOKS LIKE FOR BLACK PEOPLE GLOBALLY

 

Black Enterprise - Oakland-based organizer and Regional Director of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment for San Francisco and Oakland, Carroll Fife, has dedicated her life’s work to advocating for the rights of marginalized people. During these unprecedented times, Fife sat down with BLACK ENTERPRISE to share the importance of her work on the front lines, with Moms 4 Housing, and administratively as she helps black people remain politically engaged and empowered.

Over the span of her career, Fife has been able to make incredible strides toward the liberation of oppressed people. Fife is a selfless organizer who understands that educating others as you uplift them is what ignites lasting change. That, coupled with the power of storytelling, is how she and the women she organizes with has attributed to their success.

 

ADVOCATES HAIL END OF CONTROVERSIAL LOS ANGELES COUNTY PACE PROGRAM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Media Contact: Rekha Radhakrishnan, 832-628-2312, [email protected]

ADVOCATES HAIL END OF CONTROVERSIAL LOS ANGELES COUNTY PACE PROGRAM

Homeowner and consumer advocates call on local entities statewide to follow the County’s lead and protect vulnerable homeowners from predatory financing scheme

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – May 19, 2020 – Bet Tzedek, Public Counsel, ACCE, Haven Neighborhood Services, Neighborhood Legal Services, and UC Irvine School of Law are celebrating Los Angeles County’s decision to end its highly criticized Property Assessed Clean Energy (“PACE”) financing program, which has victimized thousands of County homeowners. In ending its program, the County of Los Angeles confirmed what advocates and victims have been saying for years: that the County “cannot be certain” that the PACE program can “provide sufficient protection for all consumers.” The County discontinued new financing under its PACE program effective May 13, 2020. See ISD PACE Termination FAQs.

In response to the mounting economic pressure homeowners across the state feel due to the COVID- 19 pandemic, advocates again call on the City of Los Angeles and other local entities across the state to end their continued participation in non-County PACE programs to protect all Californians.

 

Moms 4 Housing Is Fighting to Make Sure Everyone Has a Home

This Oakland-based group is reclaiming vacant homes from speculators and profiteers so that no one ends up on the streets.

Shondaland - Last November, Dominique Walker had a radical plan: Occupy a vacant house in her hometown to protest the fact that there are far more empty houses in Oakland, California than those in need of a home. Though she had the support of the community, Wedgewood Inc., a house-flipping company that owned the home, sued to have them thrown out.

“I've never seen an eviction done in that manner. There were [Roomba-like] robots that came into the house, like we were terrorists. They sent the robot in first, and then they came in. They had AR-15s and military fatigues, and tanks for mothers and babies,” Walker says, recalling the Tuesday morning this past January when the incident happened.

Los Angeles’s ‘Eviction Ban’ Doesn’t Protect Tenants

The city’s emergency measures will only delay a huge wave of evictions until later this year.

The Nation - California is often painted by liberal media as the “State of Resistance,” where rationality prevails and the response to Covid-19 has been guided by science. And Los Angeles might appear to be this progressive bastion’s crown jewel: In recent years, media outlets have praised LA’s mayor, rising Democratic star Eric Garcetti, for leading what one Economist story proposed as “the model for a more diverse America.” The mayor’s nightly Covid-19 briefings, streamed on Facebook, “come from a place of love,” one law professor recently told the Los Angeles Times. “He’s tried to come from a place of kindness. He’s trying to build consensus.”

This boosterism obscures the racialized poverty, suffering, and violence that coexist uneasily with astonishing wealth in this paradise of liberal capitalism. LA has never been a friendly place for tenants, but the situation has worsened in recent decades, as wages stagnated and rents soared. Now LA is staring down the barrel of what could be the largest wave of forced evictions in the region’s history, and local leaders—including Garcetti—are refusing to do what’s necessary to secure housing for renters and unhoused Angelenos.

Rather than being a model city, Los Angeles has become a cautionary tale: Even under the best conditions that liberalism and the Democratic Party have to offer, those who don’t own property will be exploited by those who do.

Cancel the Rent

The New Yorker - It is now clear that the twin prescriptions of social isolation and shuttering large parts of the national economy have lowered the death toll of the novel coronavirus in the United States from the direst predictions. But in a country where the “social safety net” is more a distant memory than a source of actual provision or support, large swaths of the public now face the threat of hunger and homelessness. Each passing week brings more questions about what our cities and states will look like when the shelter-in-place orders are lifted; they also bring us one week closer to the rent coming due.

By May 6th, twenty per cent of tenants had not paid this month’s rent, a slight improvement over the twenty-two per cent who did not pay last month’s rent in the first week. This is probably the result of renters receiving increased unemployment and stimulus checks, but it is also unsustainable. Republicans have vowed not to renew the extra unemployment money when it comes up for a vote again in July, and most states are running out of funding to make their shares of the payments. Meanwhile, in a matter of weeks, a staggering thirty-three million people have filed for unemployment, and the future of millions more hangs in the balance. April’s unemployment rate was nearly fifteen per cent, a height of joblessness not reached since the Great Depression. The Congressional Budget Office has projected that by the fall, the official unemployment rate could rise even higher, to sixteen per cent.

These Moms Fought for a Home—And Started a Movement

 

VOGUE - In Oakland, the Bay Area’s deep-rooted housing crisis is starkly visible. In makeshift encampments, the city's homeless live in tents, old cars, and mobile homes clustered together in parking lots. Vacant houses, all chipped paint and rotting wood, stand feet away from newly renovated properties that tech industry transplants would swoop up in a heartbeat.

At the end of last year, Moms 4 Housing, a group of Oakland-born unhoused and marginally housed community activists, began a campaign to face these issues head-on. They planned an occupation of one home that had been sitting vacant for years, setting their sights on fighting gentrification, institutional poverty, and a speculative housing market that’s completely transformed the city that they grew up in. It garnered attention worldwide, and now, in the wake of COVID-19, their actions have taken on a whole new context. How can California’s homeless population heed the call to shelter in place when there’s no such shelter to speak of?

Gimme Shelter Podcast: #CancelTheRent, with a California renter and landlord

LA Times - With the state's economy in pandemic-induced freefall, missed rent payments are piling up for California tenants and landlords. On this episode of Gimme Shelter, Matt and Liam discuss whether a rent strike will provoke the state into action, and what can the government realistically do to help? First, the Avocado of the Fortnite takes us to Liam's backyard (4:00). Then a discussion of the #CancelTheRent movement and two state proposals to address the issue (7:00). Then an interview with Patricia Mendoza, a renter in Imperial Beach who participated in the May 1 rent strike (30:00). Finally, an interview with Evelyn Garcia, whose family owns an apartment complex in South L.A. (44:00).

‘This isn’t an acceptable reality’: L.A. renters hit new levels of rage under coronavirus

LA Times - Chris Tyler lost his job at a restaurant on March 15 — the same day Mayor Eric Garcetti banned sit-down food service to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in Los Angeles. A couple of weeks later, he and his partner decided not to pay rent for the one-bedroom apartment they share in Silver Lake.

“It’s a decision that I have made personally that is both political and very much out of necessity,” said Tyler, 31. “I don’t think it’s an unreasonable choice to make in the middle of a global pandemic.”

As California enters its second full month under stay-at-home orders designed to prevent more coronavirus cases, a growing number of tenants are turning their personal economic situations into mass protests, demanding that legislators at all levels of government pass laws to cancel rent until the public health crisis is over.

They call it a “rent strike” and it is just one tactic marking a dramatic new escalation in the long-running fight over affordable housing in California.

Coronavirus cost me my job; without rent forgiveness, it will cost me my home

 

CalMatters - By Patricia Mendoza, Special to CalMatters

It was a few weeks into the coronavirus pandemic when I got the call from my boss. I could tell from the sound of her voice what I was about to hear: She had no choice but to let me go.

Just like that, I’d lost my job — a job I loved, that I did well, and that I needed to feed my two kids and pay my rent.

My boss apologized and promised I could return “when things got back to normal.” But when will things get back to normal? And what will happen to my family in the meantime?

My heart sank as I wondered how we were going to stay in our home. The answer is that we won’t be able to, unless our elected leaders cancel and forgive my rent until this coronavirus crisis is over.

 

SHOULD RENT BE CANCELLED? TENANTS HOLDING MASS RENT STRIKE DURING CORONAVIRUS CRISIS

Newsweek - The debate on whether people should still be made to pay rent after they have been forced from their jobs will be highlighted again as tens of thousands of tenants across the U.S. are expected to take part in a mass strike in order to help ease the financial burden brought on as a result of the coronavirus.

A coordinated day of action had been planned by groups across the country urging people who have lost their jobs as a result of the virus and lockdown procedures to withhold paying their rent on Friday, May 1.

Rent strike activists seek relief during COVID-19 pandemic

Marketwatch - For the last two months, Mark Osgood from Chicago said he has not been able to pay rent. He’s 32, an Uber driver, and says work has dried up due to the virus. He said neither his stimulus nor his unemployment checks have come in yet.

“I mean, I live paycheck to paycheck as it is,” he said. “And if there is no income coming in, there’s no bill money going out.”

Today is May 1, rent is due, and he said he won’t be paying. Neither will many others — there are rent strikes across the country today, as a response to job losses and economic damage from the pandemic. Worker rights activists across the country are also calling for a day of action to bring attention to workplace issues around COVID-19.