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Harmony seniors, advocates battle for lease stabilization as costs rise

(BCN) — When the Harmony Metropolis Council mentioned a lease stabilization ordinance for almost 5 hours at a gathering earlier this month, the emotionally charged dialog attracted 67 public audio system, by one depend.

Hire is clearly a scorching button concern in a group the place, between 2011 and 2021, median gross rents elevated 62 %, in response to town.

Larger rents have an effect on almost everybody who doesn’t personal houses. However tenant advocates say excessive rents seemingly affect seniors in Harmony tougher than different teams, as 58 % of space seniors — in response to the Affiliation of Bay Space Governments — are very low-income.

Which means about 2,000 households in Harmony are susceptible to displacement, in response to the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economic system, a tenants rights advocacy group. The group says about 29 % of unhoused individuals in Contra Costa County are over 55.

When public remark closed from the Sept. 5 assembly, the merchandise was continued to the following assembly. The council was presupposed to make its determination Tuesday, however canceled the assembly.

Many individuals of their 70s and 80s spoke on the Sept. 5 council assembly and carried indicators and chanted at a protest together with about 30 individuals outdoors the council chamber earlier than the assembly.

“I dwell in Harmony. And these are presupposed to be my golden years,” mentioned 73-year-old Doreena Coon earlier than the assembly. “However I’m nonetheless working as a result of I can’t afford to dwell alone.”

Coon was together with her autistic shopper and roommate, for whom she’s paid $16 an hour to care for, and with whom she splits $2,200 month-to-month lease.

“He doesn’t make a lot cash both. So I care for him to dwell,” Coon mentioned. “We lease a home (and) pay half and half as a result of neither of us might do it on our personal. And it’s so necessary as a result of the rents go up, however our wages don’t. And it’s scary.”

Harmony’s proposed Residential Hire Stabilization Ordinance, which — like ordinances in Richmond and Antioch — would cap lease will increase at 3 % yearly, or 60 % of the buyer value index, whichever is decrease.

It might additionally require simply trigger for evictions of tenants dwelling in a unit for at the least a 12 months. Simply trigger consists of non-payment of lease, prison exercise, materials breach of a lease, refusing to permit the proprietor entry, refusal to signal a brand new lease with related provisions and period, and subletting the unit in violation of the lease.

The proposal wouldn’t have an effect on models constructed since 1995 or landlords with 4 or fewer models.

Josh Anijar is the director of the Contra Costa Central Labor Council, which represents 86 unions and about 87,000 staff in Contra Costa County.

He spoke to the group outdoors earlier than the Sept. 5 assembly, saying afterward he has heard “so many tales of seniors and staff being harassed by landlords right here.”

Anijar mentioned he has seen individuals priced out of San Francisco and Oakland, solely to return to locations like Harmony, the place historical past repeats itself.

“Individuals can’t afford to dwell of their homes,” Anijar mentioned. “Individuals can’t afford to dwell within the communities they’ve been in for his or her total lives, and raised households, they usually’re being priced out.”

Landlords talking on the assembly steadily cited California’s Meeting Invoice 1482, a three-year-old legislation capping lease will increase at 5 %, plus the speed of inflation, which collectively can’t exceed a ten % annual improve.

In addition they introduced up the financial injury of the COVID-19 pandemic, once they have been affected by eviction and lease moratoriums.

“In the meantime, the 12 months over 12 months improve in rubbish service was over 15 precent for 2023 alone,” mentioned Harmony landlord Tammy Chen. “As well as, for legal responsibility insurance coverage, which we’d like with the intention to function, that elevated 12 months over 12 months — the premium was almost 300 %. So because of COVID, it has been extraordinarily costly and troublesome for us to carry out even easy repairs.”

Chen mentioned landlords additionally take care of annual inspections, registries and ongoing repairs to getting old properties and the conduct of some tenants.

“As it’s, it has been almost not possible for us to remain in enterprise, a lot much less make a revenue,” Chen mentioned.

One landlord went so far as to say lease management is unconstitutional. Different landlords pointed to San Francisco and Oakland as examples of what lease management does to neighborhoods, inviting crime and different issues by limiting a landlord’s capability to pay for repairs.

“This council doesn’t search to restrict different small companies’ capability to cost for his or her services, however but one way or the other — as a result of I selected to purchase a small rental property and incorporate myself for insurance coverage legal responsibility functions — I’m being informed how a lot I can cost and who I can hold in my property,” mentioned Blaine Carter.

Carter pointed to “huge inflationary value for supplies and labor required to maintain my property clear, and secure, and interesting to the group versus turning right into a ghetto look.”

“If small companies and rental property is such a profitable enterprise, properly, how come then I nonetheless must hold my day job?” Carter mentioned “And the way come I needed to borrow cash towards my 401K to purchase a property? And why aren’t any of you within the enterprise if it’s so profitable and I’m making a lot cash?”

The Rev. Marie Wilson is the pastor at Harmony United Methodist Church. She attended with members of her congregation, praying earlier than the Sept. 5 assembly.

“We now have an intergenerational congregation, however principally seniors,” Wilson mentioned. “I’m standing right here to signify the seniors in order that they can dwell with out their retirement within the metropolis that they work so laborious for his or her houses to maintain.”

Wilson mentioned individuals are dwelling longer now, forcing cities and counties to contemplate seniors’ wants extra.

“Nevertheless, that is the ethical obligation that all of us must work with the group to maintain our group secure and hold everybody calm, proper?” Wilson mentioned.

Kristi Laughlin, the deputy director for Contra Costa County for the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economic system, mentioned seniors have totally different wants in comparison with different renters that want consideration.

“The laborious half is usually they’re bodily challenged due to well being points, fragility, (and) mobility challenges. So the laborious half is I believe they’ve been ignored and marginalized on this dialog. And yeah, so I believe we have to converse, elevate and amplify their voice.”

Housing activists mentioned Wednesday a various coalition of religion leaders, tenant teams, group members, and seniors, will maintain a press convention and rally at 11 a.m. Thursday in entrance of Harmony Metropolis Corridor earlier than delivering 1,000 signatures to the Metropolis Council, calling for tenant protections. Harmony Vice Mayor Edi Birsan will be part of the occasion as a speaker.

Copyright © 2023 Bay Metropolis Information, Inc.

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