On September 24, the San Francisco Chronicle published an important article that helps Californians understand why they must vote “yes” on Proposition 21.
“Millions of tenants are hanging on by a thread,” State Assemblyman David Chiu told the newspaper, “and anything we can do to stabilize their situation and prevent people from being kicked out on the streets, we need to do.”
Yes on 21 Campaign Manager René Christian Moya added, “This is not the moment for half-measures. I will never stop being shocked by the greed of these corporate landlords — their ability to see dollars and cents out of people.”
Prop 21 is the November ballot measure that puts limits on unfair, sky-high rent increases, reins in corporate landlord greed, and prevents homelessness. Top experts at USC, UCLA, and UC Berkeley agree that sensible rent limits are key for stabilizing California’s housing affordability crisis. It’s why the California Democratic Party, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, labor and civil rights icon Dolores Huerta, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, the Los Angeles Times, among many others, have thrown their full support behind Prop 21.
In the San Francisco Chronicle article, reporter Alexei Koseff explained that California’s housing affordability is a dire situation, with “half of renter households in the state spend at least 30% of their income on housing, the level that housing experts consider overburdened, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.”
As a result, a statewide coalition of housing justice groups, social justice organizations, and civic leaders strongly support Prop 21. AIDS Healthcare Foundation and Housing Is A Human Right are two of the top organizations for the Yes on 21 team.
The No on 21 campaign, though, looks much different: corporate landlords are leading the opposition of Prop 21.
“Those groups — led by investors including Equity Residential, AvalonBay Communities and San Mateo’s Essex Property Trust — have raised more than $52 million to defeat the initiative,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The piece then reveals the all-too-common story of senior citizen Vanessa Bulnes (pictured above).
Like many tenants, Vanessa Bulnes is unsure what awaits her. Since the early childhood education center where she works shut down in March because of the pandemic, she has not paid the $2,500 monthly rent on her three-bedroom house in Oakland.
She said it would be a “humanitarian act” if Prop. 21 enabled Oakland to extend rent control to single-family homes. Even before she lost her job, Bulnes, 61, said she was paying about 70% of her income toward rent. Now she faces a proposed rent hike of $225 a month.
Downsizing to an apartment is not an option, Bulnes said. She cares for her 72-year-old husband, who had a stroke in 2008 and needs the space to get around comfortably with his walker.
“We don’t live an extravagant life. We live just with the bare minimum of what it takes to be comfortable,” said Bulnes, who returned to the early childhood education center part-time this month and is also an organizer with ACCE Action, a tenant rights group. “It’s like a never-ending vicious cycle.“
Sadly, Bulnes’ story summed up only too well the urgent need to pass Proposition 21 in November.
(Photograph by the San Francisco Chronicle.)