California’s Sky-High Rents Impact A New Father and His Community

Oct 10, 2018

Mike and his wife live in a modest apartment on a quiet, tree-lined street in Glendale, a small city ten miles north of Downtown Los Angeles. They have been married for five years, they both work, and they are thrilled about the birth of their first child. But like many young families in California, Mike can’t shake a persistent fear.

“It’s very scary,” says Mike, sitting in his living room on the couch with his dog Charlie. “My wife and I want to be sure we’re housing secure for our family. But right now, there’s no guarantee. Landlords are ‘profit first.’”

Mike, an amiable, 33-year-old photographer, understands California’s housing-affordability crisis better than most. A co-founding member of the Glendale Tenants Union, he’s seen luxury-housing developers and landlords charge maximum rents for maximum riches — and he’s watched housing costs skyrocket. It’s driving families, seniors, and working people out of their homes.

“Displacement is breaking families apart,” says Mike. “Breaking communities apart.”

He believes passing Proposition 10 in November is crucial for addressing California’s housing-affordability and homeless crises.

As corporate landlords such as Blackstone billionaire CEO Stephen Schwarzman and Equity Residential billionaire chairman Sam Zell grab for even more king-sized profits, median rents are higher than any other state in the country. Among all 50 states, California has the fourth highest increase in rents.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a Californian earning minimum wage would have to work 92 hours per week in order to afford to rent an average one-bedroom apartment. And even though the state represents only 12 percent of the total U.S. population, California is home to 22 percent of the nation’s homeless population, according to the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

Now, Proposition 10 — the Affordable Housing Act — is on the November ballot. With Prop. 10, cities and counties will be allowed to urgently address California’s housing-affordability and homeless crises by giving local communities the power to limit rent increases. It will also ensure that landlords receive a fair rate of return.

The movement to support Prop. 10 continue to grow. Trusted organizations like the League of Women Voters, California Democratic Party,  California Teachers Association, SEIU, AFSCME, and the California Nurses Association have endorsed Prop 10.

Tenant defense groups like the Eviction Defense Network, Property Owners for Fair and Affordable Housing, and others urge Californians to vote “yes” on Prop. 10. Civil rights and faith-based groups like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California, the ACLU, and many others have also endorsed Proposition 10.

Mike took up activism not only to address his family’s concerns about housing affordability, but to stop the massive rent hikes — in some cases as much as 40 and 50 percent — that are devastating his neighbors in Glendale.

“The pressure the market is putting on the working class is extraordinary,” says Mike. “So many of us are getting hurt — immigrants, young people, seniors, teachers, artists. So many of us.”

As a member of the Glendale Tenants Union, he routinely hears from senior citizens who say they are one rent hike away from homelessness.

“That’s an absolute disgrace,” says Mike.

Recently, a preschool teacher desperately sought help from the tenants union — the teacher was getting hit with a $1,400 rent increase.

“That is not tenable!” Mike says with outrage.

Many tenants in Glendale, says the activist, now put up with poor living conditions, fearing they’ll incur a landlord’s wrath.

“People are afraid to report maintenance problems,” Mike says. “They’re afraid the landlord will raise the rent.”

He notes, “There are corporations and individuals who take advantage of other people to make profits. That is greed.”

But he believes passing Prop. 10 and allowing communities to limit excessive rents can make a difference — and start turning the tide in favor of families, seniors, and working people.

“We need more tools to address the housing-affordability crisis,” says Mike. “We need housing stability for all.”

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