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Affordable Housing

CA Renter Activists Push for Change- ‘When We Fight, We Win!’

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LOS ANGELES — The 2019 Renter Power Assembly was held inside the Morningside High School gymnasium in Inglewood this October. Hundreds of housing activists and renters, of all ages and colors, sat together in the bleachers and talked solutions.

In front of them, Lupe Arreola, executive director of Tenants Together, a statewide housing justice organization , stood on the basketball court, guiding the discussion. It was the kind of meeting that politicians rarely hold.

“The politicians are in and out of the game all the time,” a woman named Mandy told the crowd at one point. Many people nodded. Others gave a knowing “hmm-hmm.” Some people nodded and hmm-hmm-ed. Nearly everyone clapped.

The meeting was one of the plenaries — this one titled “Debate Key Strategic Questions” — held at the 2019 California Renter Power Assembly. Activists and renters from around the state convened to determine how they, the people who live and work on the frontlines of California’s devastating housing affordability crisis, wanted to address gentrification, unfair rents, a lack of affordable housing, and rising eviction rates.

The attendees, in other words, were figuring out bottom-up, or community-based, solutions rather than top-down, or trickle-down. Politicians and corporations, who like to keep a firm grip on power and wealth, usually have a strong aversion to bottom-up solutions. 

Mandy, standing underneath white-and-red basketball championship banners that hung from the gym’s ceiling, was responding to a proposed strategy to elect more tenant rights “champions.” She and many in the crowd weren’t too sure about that. The politicians, explained Mandy, have a habit of saying one thing during a campaign and doing something else once they get into office. 

Arreola moved onto other strategies. One was that any new housing that’s built must be permanently affordable. The crowd, which responded to the proposals by holding up small signs that read “agree,” “disagree,” and “don’t know,” threw up a mix of “agree” and “don’t know.” 

Arreola asked for comments, and chose a young woman named Deeana, who was given a wireless microphone. She had held up a green “agree” sign. 

“The goal is to ultimately de-commodify housing in general,” she told the crowd. “It should be free.”

Deeana got some claps and a few astonished giggles, along with a handful of hmm-hmms.

Arreola pointed to an activist named Susan Hunter, who had raised a yellow “don’t know” sign. Susan is an organizer for Housing Is A Human Right, a housing justice organization.

“The reason I don’t know is you didn’t define what is affordable,” she said. 

Susan explained that what may be affordable for some people, may not be affordable for others. She wanted a more concrete definition so the politicians wouldn’t say they were building affordable housing when they weren’t. The claps and hmm-hmms rose in volume as she spelled things out. 

Arreola asked for a “temperature check,” to see if people had changed their minds about the affordable housing strategy. This time, “don’t know” signs clearly outnumbered the “agree” signs. A friend of Susan’s playfully needled her for switching the vote. She smiled shyly, saying nothing.

Another proposed strategy was to focus on local victories and organizing rather than fighting local and statewide battles at the same time — because it’s difficult to do both. Without hesitation, an overwhelming majority of the crowd held up blue “disagree” signs.

A woman named Denise said from somewhere in the crowd, “Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.” Loud claps sounded off.

A man named Louis said, “I absolutely disagree. The path to rent control is absolutely through the state.” Another person added: “We have to build more local power and tenant unions.”

Arreola smiled, and said, “I like how people here are saying, ‘We can multitask!’” She pointed to an older woman named Bon Bon.

“All I have to say is that this is fabulous!” Bon Bon told the crowd. “We’re working together. We’re working collectively… So congratulations!”

After approving claps and a few other comments, Beverly, another older woman, took the microphone. Like Bon Bon, she wanted to remind everyone about the big picture.

“I want to say this: When we fight, we win!”

No one disagreed with her.

For more info about events and community actions, check out housinghumanright.org

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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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