In Case You Missed It: Renters Issues in the Media

Here is a slew of links from around the web that remind us that our struggle for residential stability is not ours alone. Beverly Hills is only one of the many jurisdictions across California, and even the western world, where renters are locked in a protracted battle with both landlords and policymakers to remain housed.

Local

The rent takes a big bite it takes out of a household’s budget. The burden is deemed to be onerous once it exceeds 30% of household income. Now consider that 54% of California renting households were paying that much. Read more: For Tenants on the Edge, Paying the Rent Often Takes More Than Half Their Income (And don’t miss the interactive.)

When we think about the rent in terms of income, often it seems beyond our reach. For good reason: the cost of rental housing in California has increased an average of 3.7% every year between 1984 and 2016 while incomes increased at only 3.3%. What if we flip the script? How much would rents need to be reduced in order to make housing affordable to a household with a stagnating incomes? (Spoiler alert: in LA County rents would have to be slashed by 36% to match stagnating incomes.) Must California Rents be Cut by 31% to Reach Affordability?

Data show that evictions across Southern California are on the decline. That’s counter-intuitive given a tight-and-tightening rental housing market. A recent analysis suggests a few reasons: the lower jobless rate and an economic crisis among them. Yet stories abound in this compendium of sad tales from the OC Register. Eviction Decline is No Solace for Thousands of Renters Losing Their Homes.

Speaking of evictions, did you know Beverly Hills allows no-just-cause eviction for the vast majority of renting households? That’s whether a tenant is a senior, disabled, low-income, or even has kids in the schools. Can we change that this fall? We would not be alone in the battle: a push is on across City Councils and ballot boxes to put an end to this sword hanging over so many families here and across in California. As Call for Rent Control Rises, Some Provisions Raise Concern Among Landlords.

Still speaking of evictions, families evicted for no-just-cause in Beverly Hills may find themselves priced out of a tight rental market. And tempted they may be to look locally for replacement housing. As the Daily News shows in this 2017 interactive feature, rental housing on the Westside (and across the West Valley) is less accessible than ever. Asking rents for a 2-BR spread in the region surpass $3K. Thinking of Renting in LA? Here’s What it will Cost You.

Rent Control Update

Sac Bee earlier this year identified Proposition 10 as an ‘extreme’ form of rent control. The measure if passed by voters would repeal the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act. But the November ballot measure is actually a corrective action: it would put rent control back in local hands so city councils like ours could strengthen existing ordinances. Even still, real reform of the housing market is the longest of long shots. ‘Extreme’ Rent Control Could be Coming to California Soon.

More bad news for landlords in an era when tenants are rising up: rent control is now finding support among likely voters reaching 58% in conservative Ventura and Santa Barbara counties and 68% in Los Angeles County. With rent control hotly contested in Long Beach, likely voter support has reached 70%. Now consider that Proposition 10, the Affordable Housing Act, is on the ballot in November. Those rising survey figures suggest that voters may be in the mood to finally take a real step toward affordable housing a human right in California. Local Attitudes, Laws are Split on Rent Control in Southern California Cities

New York Times weighs in on the battle for rent control here in California. Specifically Sacramento, where hand-to-hand combat to put on the ballot a local rent control measure suggests some challenges tenants face in getting the broader electorate to recognize the precarious state of those who rent housing. It’s ironic that this battle plays out in the shadow of the legislature which has historically been hostile to the interest of tenants. Rent Control Campaign in California Is Taken to the Streets.

International

London is one of the most expensive cities in which to live, but renters across the UK’s mid-sized cities struggle with rising rents too. Rents in Bristol, for example, have been riding the rising tide of both the local economy and also an influx of Londoners priced out of apartments. And renters and renters’ rights organizations are mobilizing! The Guardian gets it right here: if we don’t defend our right to secure, affordable housing, nobody will do it for us. Do You Live in Shoddy Housing That Costs a Fortune? Time to Join the Renters’ Union.

Are no-just-cause evictions only a California problem, or even an American one? No! Landlords in a tight rental market overseas are ‘turfing out’ tenants to take advantage of rising rents. Why? Because they can. Seems like the UK is facing exactly the same situation that renters in Beverly Hills face: The right to evict gives landlords enormous power over their tenants…It has also allows the worst landlords to ignore disrepair – they can simply kick out tenants who complain.” Landlords are Turfing People Out of Their Homes Without Reason – And It’s Completely Legal.

The Guardian continues its examination of the challenges facing renters across the western hemisphere. Foremost among them: a court system at best indifferent to tenant claims and at worst a tool for landlords that greases the skids leading to the street. Think about this the next time you hear a landlord bellyache about how difficult it is to get a tenant evicted. Nine-tenths of households don’t even challenge a for-cause eviction notice. ’People Will Sign Anything’: How Legal Odds are Stacked Against the Evicted

AirBnB may seem like an American thing, but the short-term rental platform is damaging rental markets across Europe too. And the continuing threat is real: Airbnb has seen triple-digit growth in several European cities in the past few years. Today there are 20k listed flats in Berlin; 18k in Barcelona; 61k in Paris and 19k in Amsterdam. According to InsideAirbnb, a citizen brigade working to limit its reach in Europe, as many as 85% of those listings are whole apartments – taking these units off the rental market and increasing costs for all renters. How to stop it? Great question when the platform is ramping up its lobbying spend to match its market valuation. EU Blocking Cities’ Efforts to Curb Airbnb, Say Campaigners

Also in the AirBnB department…. Armchair sleuths are holding European cities to account when enforcement of short-term rental prohibition lags. That should be familiar to any Beverly Hills resident: yet another set of unruly temporary-tourist neighbors make their home next door via AirBnB, yet a call to City Hall about it produces no enforcement action. Even though short-term rentals are illegal! Frustrating, right? Well the answer may be to take enforcement into our own hands. Where’s my plastic Cap’N Crunch badge? Berlin and Barcelona Use Sleuths to Root Out Illegal Holiday Lets

Series

One-off pieces are great for tackling specific issues and giving the flavor of the rent control movement sweeping the state and elsewhere. But it is the series that puts all the pieces into place. By far the most insightful and incisive series on the plight of renters in today’s housing market comes from the New York Times. New York is a city of 8 million people but this installment in the series focuses on the breakdown in regulation that is different from Beverly Hills in scale if not in kind. Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation

KCRW steps into the debate with its own series on rent control. “California is in the midst of a housing crisis, with people paying more than ever before to keep a roof over their head.” As if we didn’t know that in Beverly Hills! Asking rents here appear to be increasing by double-digits year-over-year. While we wait for City Council to rein in rents (and landlord abuses), parallel efforts to tame escalating rents are playing out unevenly across the state. This KCRW series identifies many of the key issues. What you need to know about rent control

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