National Rent Control Day in San Diego and the Infrastructure Committee
Sep 22, 2016 (San Diego) Today is national rent control day nationwide. This is quite real ant in San Diego, where the rent continues to climb out of the reach of renters, and this is no longer just those of lesser means. The problem is so bad that residents are getting pushed out of the city and to more affordable areas of the county. Meaning outer areas of the City of San Diego, as well as cities such as El Cajon and Lemon Grove, as well as Vista. We are seeing a process of gentrification.
This is the big picture. According to city residents who came to the demonstration and later spoke at the Infrastructure Committee we are seeing more than just lack of affordability. Charles Oakey is retired and has lived in San Diego for over 40 years. He told Reporting San Diego that he lived “in an apartment building (in City Heights) for 12 years.” He always paid his rent on time. “A year ago the building was sold to new ownership, and it underwent massive renovation. It meant that all 11 units has to be vacated. Nobody was evicted, but we had to vacate.” This is perfectly legal under the law.
“Upon renovation I discovered that the apartment that I rented for $1025.00 dollars, which was a two bedroom apartment in City Heights, the rent would be increased to $1750.00 dollars.” He was in for sticker shock after he told the owners no thank you. ‘I decided to check out other places. I discovered that rents were much higher than I anticipated.” He soon found out that a one bedroom apartment was going for $1500.00 dollars, in City Heights and in El Cajon. Two bedroom apartments were going for $2,000.00 dollars.
This is the reality of the city. He tried to get into senior housing, even if he is not ready to live with other senior citizens, but he qualifies due to age. The waiting time ranges from 2 to 10 years. Then he tried to get into some of the somewhat subsidized housing. For that there is both a minimum and a maximum incomes. You still need an income and as a retiree he has no income. He is not drawing from social security yet either. He later told the Infrastructure Committee that he was told that his assets, that be savings, life insurance and bank accounts, are worthless. He also told the Committee that due to all these catch 22 situations he will be sleeping in a canyon tonight.
He also told Reporting San Diego that he tried to rent a room, but he could not do that either. He is ready and willing to rent an apartment right now, but cannot find anything that is affordable.
Francisco Olave relayed to Reporting San Diego what sounds like red lining, which is a policy used mostly by lenders, but also by landlords, to keep certain people out of an area. It is illegal. He said that he went to a place and “saw the place. We were all the way in there, and we told them we had a family. All of a sudden she said the place was taken.”
A friend of theirs called the same property owner two days later. The friend happened to be white. This taken place was now available. This is “discrimination because we had the place.” He also said that the cost of rent is out of control because there is no rent control. The city does not have any kind of rent control, which leaves this to whatever property owners want to charge, while there are a few limits, it is still pretty much whatever they charge. The supply is so low that people feel they need to put up with whatever is done.
San Diego City Council has declared a housing emergency for the last 12 years and currently, depending on what survey you read, we are anywhere from number 4 and number 1 in rental costs.
We also spoke with Rafael Bautista, a housing activist. Bautista confirmed that red lining is happening. He said that this is related to what is happening. ‘Historically red lining has been dl e to cage people in certain areas of the county, the country and the city. Currently they are doing the red lining to get them out of San Diego. They are also raising the rents to the point that people cannot afford them with their income.”
Affordable housing is defined by paying at most 30 percent of their income in housing costs, whether this is a rental or a mortgage payment. If the person also has an Home Owner Association (HOA) payment, it should include that in that number. In San Diego the cost of housing is so high, that at times people are paying upwards of 50 and 60 percent of their income.
He added that landlords do treat people differently, especially when they seemingly have less knowledge of their rights as renters. This is something we have also observed in our coverage of these issues.
The group of upwards 20 people, walked over to City Hall. They were not intending to talk to the full council, since it meets on Monday’s and Tuesday, but to the infrastructure committee, which held it’s monthly meeting today. The regular agenda included the public facilities financing plans for several areas of the city. This includes the payment of fees by developers to the city to develop infrastructure. These are known as Development Impact Fees.
In a moment of clarity council-member Lori Zapf revealed her frustration with these fees. The city has to charge developers these fees, which raise the cost of housing. Developers are essentially charged to put in the city services that the city should pay for. This may drive developers out of the city. This is partly a consequence of Prop 13, which limited the raising of taxes that used to go into paying for these amenities, such as parks, libraries, fire stations, and American with Disabilities Act access. So she did tie her committee squarely to the issue being raised by the protesters, but was at a loss for a solution. Though it was suggested that the city should explore lower fees for smaller dwellings, like HOAs do.
Jose Caballero, who stood for District 7 this time around but did not qualify for November also spoke to the committee, and pointed out that rent control is a reality in a variety of cities in California, among them Los Gatos, Los Angeles and San Francisco. He raised the issue as a policy matter that the city should take on. The city of San Diego should be in that list, instead of continuing to have an out of control rent problem. It is time for the city “to do something for workers.”