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Affordable Housing

Big Real Estate Gears Up to Stop Rental Affordability Act

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by Patrick Range McDonald for Housing is a Human Right

A year away from Election Day, the real estate industry is already gearing up for a pitched battle against the housing justice movement in California. Heavyweights Essex Property Trust, the California Apartment Association, and Equity Residential spent millions to stop a rent control initiative in 2018, and they’re giving every indication they’ll do the same for the Rental Affordability Act, the 2020 statewide ballot measure that expands rent control.

“We’re definitely focused on it,” said Essex Property Trust Chief Executive Officer Michael Schall during a recent earnings call, “and we’re organized and ready to fight it as needed.”

Throughout California, middle- and working-class residents continue to get slammed by excessive rents and gentrification, fueling a massive homeless crisis. To counter an inadequate response from elected leaders, local and statewide grassroots movements have risen up in such places as Concord, Sacramento, and Pasadena to seek greater tenant protections from sudden evictions and exorbitant rent increases.

“Here in the city of Concord, there is no protection for renters,” said Betty Gabaldon, president of the recently established Todos Santos Tenants Union, at a press conference. “We want to send a message that we as tenants are not alone.”

For the upcoming battle over the Rental Affordability Act, the housing justice movement will run into a politically-connected, abundantly-funded real estate industry.

Among others, publicly-traded real estate investment trusts, such as Essex Property Trust, Equity Residential, and Blackstone Group, and lobbying groups, such as the California Association of Realtors and California Building Industry Association, shelled out $77.3 million to stop Proposition 10. The 2018 California ballot measure would have allowed communities to expand rent control. Blanketing the airwaves with confusing and deceitful messaging, the real estate industry successfully killed the initiative.

For the Prop 10 fight, the California Apartment Association led a key No on Prop 10 campaign committee, Californians for Responsible Housing. According to The Real Deal, that committee will be used again, but to oppose the Rental Affordability Act. California Apartment Association CEO Tom Bannon told The Real Deal that politics in California is a “full-contact sport,” and housing justice activists expect Big Real Estate to spend whatever it takes to trick and confuse voters about the Rental Affordability Act.

The real estate industry has a long history of doing whatever it takes to secure and maximize profits. United Nations housing experts Leilani Farha and Surya Deva charged Blackstone Group, which shelled out $7.4 million to stop Proposition 10, with “aggressive evictions” and “constant escalation of housing costs for tenants” in order to beef up its bottom line. The U.N. experts were also worried about Blackstone’s outsized political influence.

“We are equally concerned that Blackstone has used its considerable resources and political leverage to influence housing policy in a manner that is inconsistent with the right to housing,” Farha and Deva wrote in a letter to Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman.

Blackstone is one of the largest corporate landlords in the world.

The California Apartment Association recently took part in a failed and controversial ballot measure in Mountain View, which would have repealed tenant protections there. “Mountain View voters were not fooled by the apartment owners’ deceptive campaign to place the sneaky repeal on the ballot,” Mayor Lenny Siegel said in a statement.

In East Palo Alto, according housing activists, Equity Residential started harassing longtime residents at a rent-controlled apartment complex to force them out — and then dramatically raise rents with new tenants. UDR, a real estate investment trust that contributed $1.2 million to No on Prop 10, was recently slapped with a lawsuit for allegedly charging too much for rent-stabilized units in New York.

Activists have witnessed such predatory tactics by the real estate industry for years. In 2020, real estate insiders will again pull out their bags of tricks, and their checkbooks, to stop the passage of the Rental Affordability Act.

Patrick Range McDonald was a longtime staff writer at L.A. Weekly, where he won numerous awards. He’s now an advocacy journalist for Housing Is A Human Right.

(Reprinted with permission)

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Affordable Housing

Senior Tenant Sues Santa Monica Landlord to Stay in Her Home

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photo by Benjamin Massello

SANTA MONICA (Santa Monica Daily Press)– A 72-year-old woman with disabilities who has lived in the same Santa Monica studio for 38 years has filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court against her landlords.

In the suit filed Monday, St. James v. Bills, tenant Zandra St. James charges that her landlord violated state law by refusing to accept her housing choice voucher to offset her monthly rent. As a result, St. James faces eviction.

St. James’ apartment is rent-controlled, but with annual incremental increases. The rent has risen to the point that it now demands more than 90 percent of her monthly Social Security disability check.

She was awarded a housing choice voucher in 2019 and immediately sought to use the subsidy to help pay her […]

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Affordable Housing

Apply for Affordable Senior Housing at LGBT Center’s McCadden Campus

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LOS ANGELES — The City of West Hollywood is getting the word out that applications for new affordable senior housing will be accepted by the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Senior Services program for the forthcoming McCadden Campus senior housing site, which will offer 98 new, affordable, low-income units designed for people who are ages 62 and over.

The LGBT Center’s McCadden Campus senior housing is anticipated to be completed in fall 2020 and will feature studios and one-bedroom rentals.

There will be fully accessible units for people with mobility hearing, and/or vision disabilities. Future residents will be welcomed into the LA LGBT Center’s wide range of community programming specializing in HIV+ wellness, gender identity, and LGBT social and cultural support.

Other services will include meals, case management, employment training, and more.

The new senior housing site will be located adjacent to the Center’s Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Senior Center at the Anita May Rosenstein Campus on N. Las Palmas Avenue in Hollywood, just east of the City of West Hollywood, and is a project of the Los Angeles LGBT Center and Thomas Safran & Associates.

The City of West Hollywood contributed $2.1 million to the project from the City’s local housing trust fund. Applications will be accepted by the Los Angeles LGBT Center until Wednesday, March 4.

There will be three opportunities for community members to submit applications in person in the City of West Hollywood:

  1. Monday, March 2 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the West Hollywood Park Auditorium, located at 647 N. San Vicente Boulevard; and
  2. Wednesday, March 4 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the West Hollywood Library Community Meeting Room, located at 625 N. San Vicente Boulevard.

The City of West Hollywood has a decades-long commitment to providing social services, health education, and information to community members in-need and to improve quality of life. The City’s Social Services Division and Strategic Initiatives Division budget more than $5 million annually to support programs that impact thousands of people in West Hollywood through local nonprofit organizations.

The City’s Aging in Place/Aging in Community program was launched in 2016 to improve the quality of life and well-being of older adults in the City. For additional information, please visit weho.org/aging.

The City of West Hollywood’s Rent Stabilization & Housing Division promotes equity and inclusion through access to housing, and by working to change the underlying systems leading to and perpetuating disparities.

The Division provides a breadth of information and services to both tenants and property owners, including housing counseling and information materials. The City facilitates the development of new housing with an affordable component, the rehabilitation of existing housing for lasting affordability, and the development of mixed-use projects that include affordable housing units. For additional information, please visit weho.org/housing.

For more information about programs and services for seniors in the City of West Hollywood, please contact the City of West Hollywood’s Social Services Division at (323) 848-6510 or visit www.weho.org/wehocares.

For more information about McCadden Campus senior housing, please contact the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Senior Services program by calling (323) 860-5830 or visit http://mccaddencampus.

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Affordable Housing

CA Lawmakers Say Limiting Development Fees Combats Housing Crisis

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Photo by Sacha T'Sas

SACRAMENTO (AP) — In their latest bid to combat California’s affordable housing crisis, state lawmakers on Monday announced a package of bills to limit development fees that can add tens of thousands of dollars to the price of a new home.

However, local governments depend heavily on the fees, which typically are used to pay for schools, roads and parks. Lawmakers said they were discussing those needs but have not yet decided how the fees might be replaced.

The fees are “vital to local government’s ability to pay for the infrastructure that residents living in new developments need,” Chris Lee, legislative representative for the California State Association of Counties said in a statement. He said counties are glad to […]

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