Monday March 11, 2024

Press Contact: Jeff Perlstein, Urban Habitat (415) 225-6673
Sumeet Bal, Public Advocates (917) 647-1952

Priced-Out Renters in Affordable Housing Organize for Change,
State Regulators Meet Tuesday for a Public Hearing

New report sheds light on why renters in for-profit affordable housing are advocating for stronger protections and better living conditions

Sacramento, Calif.— A new report, The Failure of For-Profit Affordable Housing and How Tenants Are Organizing for Change, exposes how for-profit developers are exploiting a loophole in state law to impose exorbitant rent increases on low-income residents. The year-long investigation by East Bay Community Law Center and Urban Habitat reveals numerous other violations and features dozens of stories from renters organizing for change, just as state regulators gather tomorrow to consider public testimony on an important proposal to limit rent hikes on some affordable housing.

Advocates applaud the proposed action, but note the dire need for additional action from California’s legislature to stop rent gouging and improve living conditions for the estimated one million current renters in affordable housing who would not be protected under the proposal.

“Many mission-driven affordable housing providers offer high quality housing, but there are also lots of corporations profiting from public subsidies and programs at the expense of low-income renters. Our research shows that policymakers must include accountability mechanisms to rein in these corporate profiteers,” said report co-author Chris Schildt of Urban Habitat.

In 2019, state lawmakers passed the Tenant Protection Act, creating a statewide cap on rent increases for most renters, but affordable housing was exempted from the law. In the years since, hundreds of low-income residents across the state have seen rent increases of as much as 40% in a single year. The Failure of For-Profit Affordable Housing… highlights state and local policy recommendations supported by the personal stories of twenty-four renters across eight affordable housing properties.

“In the past several years my rent has increased 34% to nearly half my income,” said John Geoghegan, a renter living in affordable senior housing in Novato, CA. “It’s hard for seniors on a fixed income to absorb these huge increases. Housing for seniors needs to remain affordable, but these increases are having the opposite effect.”

Renters are calling on state leaders to act. This year the California legislature is considering AB 846 by Assembly Member Bonta (D-Alameda), which would create a rent cap on all Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) properties equal to the cap that applies to non-affordable housing properties under the Tenant Protection Act.

“Most of my neighbors and I received a 30-60% rent increase, which resulted in a $300-$500 rent increase for most of us,” said Teresa Lua, a renter in a multifamily affordable housing complex in Antioch, CA. “Many of us were thinking of leaving the city because we weren’t going to be able to afford the rent increase. I’m a mother of 3, it was a sad and desperate moment for my family, we had been living here for 11 years.” Lua organized with her neighbors and local organizing group Rising Juntos to win city-wide rent control in 2022.

Beyond the issue of unaffordable rents, the report details renters’ challenges with evictions and management relations, maintenance and safety, and accessibility. Overall, these stories paint a clear and concerning picture: scarce public resources going to investor profits; fewer dollars for capital-starved mission-driven organizations; and unaffordable, unstable, and unhealthy homes for our lowest-income community members.

“We did this report because we were hearing from low-income residents in our own backyard that they were experiencing real issues in their senior affordable housing building. And we saw that this is not limited to just one or a few buildings. It is a systemic problem that needs systemic solutions,” stated report co-author Michael Trujillo of East Bay Community Law Center.

View the report:
The Failure of For-Profit Affordable Housing and How Tenants are Organizing for Change

Public Hearing Information – March 12, 2024:
Live stream and in-person meeting details, plus Public Comment info


Urban Habitat is a nonprofit organization founded in 1989 to advance equitable policies to create a just and connected Bay Area for low-income communities of color.

East Bay Community Law Center provides free legal services and conducts advocacy and education, centering women of color in pursuit of a thriving and equitable East Bay.

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