Tenants and Activists ‘The Rent Is Too Damn High!’

Slammed by sky-rocketing rents and unscrupulous developers and landlords, Southern California tenants and housing justice activists banded together in Downtown Los Angeles on Thursday to kick off rent-control and tenant protections campaigns. The show of solidarity among more than a dozen organizations spoke volumes about the destructive impacts of California’s worsening affordable-housing crisis.

“The rent is too damn high!” a crowd of tenants and advocates chanted. “The rent is too damn high!”

The kick-off, which took place on the steps of the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration Building, involved Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Los Angeles Tenants Union, Pomona United for Stable Housing, Long Beach Tenants Union, Housing Long Beach, Los Angeles Center for Community Law and Action, Los Angeles Community Action Network, Pasadena Tenants Union, Uplift Inglewood, Chicanos Unidos, Santa Ana Collaborative for Responsible Development, Glendale Tenants Union, L.A. Voice, Housing Is A Human Right, and Chinatown Community for Equitable Development.

Such a coalition should come as no surprise. Lower- and middle-income residents in Southern California cities are grappling with massive rent increases, sudden evictions, and untamed gentrification.

In Los Angeles, according to the city’s Index of Neighborhood Change, residents, particularly those of color, are facing a citywide gentrification crisis that’s fueling sky-high rents, record-breaking evictions, and a shocking homeless emergency. That dire situation is unfolding in other municipalities.

“Every day,” said Derek Steele, a father of two and member of Uplift Inglewood, “we fear that our family will be displaced. It’s not just happening to me. It’s happening to other people, too.”

Jordan Wynne, a community organizer with Housing Long Beach, noted that Long Beach residents have been struggling with rent spikes of 40 to 50 percent and mass evictions without just cause. Yet city politicians, Wynne said, have “abandoned” renters and instead cater to corporate developers and real estate speculators.

In Pasadena, tenants are routinely hit with rent increases of 50 to 60 percent, said Allison Henry, a coordinator at the Pasadena Tenants Union.

“This is a crisis,” Henry said. “To say that housing is just any other commodity lacks critical thinking… We cannot have more people [homeless] on the streets than in homes.”

Mike Van Gorder of Glendale Tenants Union said: “Our communities are bleeding residents to satisfy the unstoppable greed of predatory corporate landlords and the scrappy opportunism of property flippers.”

He added, “We will fight for housing stability for all.”

Many of the activists and tenants urged Californians to join the grassroots movement to repeal Costa-Hawkins. The statewide, anti-rent control law handcuffs local officials from meaningfully addressing affordable-housing and homeless crises in cities and towns up and down California. Already, the movement has collected hundreds of thousands of voter signatures to place a repeal initiative on the November ballot.

“We have to do all this because our elected leaders aren’t doing it,” said Woodrow Curry of Uplift Inglewood.

Instead, activists noted, California politicians, through pro-gentrification legislation and other political giveaways, are doing the bidding of luxury-housing developers and global real estate investors — who tear apart lower- and middle-income communities, almost exclusively build luxury housing, and make billions in profits on the misfortune of working people.

“We’re going to take care of ourselves,” Derek Steele said. “We’re going to win!”

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