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Concerns Growing Over Rent Hikes Ahead Of California’s New Rent Cap Law

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Speaker 1: 00:00 A law that controls rent increases in California officially goes into effect on January 1st the tenant protection act of 2019 caps yearly rent increases to 5% plus inflation on apartments built before 2004. It also protects tenants from being evicted without good cause, but reports from around the state, including San Diego indicate that some landlords are hoping to get a jump on the rent cap by raising rents. Now, sometimes more than 50%. Last night in Imperial beach, a town hall addressed the concerns of renters and mobile park residents. Journey me is IB city council woman Poloma Gary who was a host of the town hall and Poloma welcome to the program. Thank you so much for having me. Maureen, about what percentage of the population of Imperial beach are renters as opposed to homeowners?

Speaker 2: 00:52 Most of our residents, over 70% of our residents in Imperial beach are renters and unfortunately more than 50% of them are overburdened, which means that they're paying more than 50% of their monthly income towards rent. Uh, I just finished my first year in office. So about a year and a half ago I was campaigning and it was, if not the number one, the number two issue that I continued to encounter every day that I knocked on doors. Um, I encountered situations where there were, uh, three bedroom apartments where there up to three families living there because they couldn't afford a rent costs. I, for example, I met a woman, her name was Maria, that she's lived in, in pro beach for over 40 years and she was one rent increase away from being displaced from the town. She's grown to love. So it's, it's a big issue in Imperial beach. Definitely.

Speaker 1: 01:44 So you're hoping this new law could make a big impact in IB?

Speaker 2: 01:48 Absolutely. Absolutely. Uh, just last Saturday, um, we cohost of this town hall with ACE, uh, the Alliance for Californians for community empowerment and we went door knocking last Saturday. I wanted to meet some of the renters in the area and just two blocks down the street from more of the town hall was held. Uh, I met a woman who had just had her rent increased by 25% in the last four months. So, um, the danger of this new law or the, the vulnerability for our residents that are renters is that it is retroactive back to March of this year. So, um, we are finding incidents is not specifically at this point in pro beach, but other areas of the state where people or residents, tenants are being asked to, um, to be evicted, uh, to avoid those penalties.

Speaker 1: 02:37 Now, what are some of the stories that you have heard from people, especially at this town hall last night about their situation?

Speaker 2: 02:45 They're heartbreaking stories. Um, I've been, um, aware of, especially this situation with the siesta mobile park, um, uh, tenants, uh, where we've heard several cases of elderly people on fixed income or disabled people who have lived there for a long time, that are, um, you know, in danger of being displaced that have nowhere to go. And they have actually been told, well, you know, if you can't afford rent here in the U S maybe go to Mexico. And we've had those reports and um, the, the most heartbreaking stories for me last night were, uh, cases of the elderly being so stressed that they've passed away. Um, ACE reports to us. They've been working with this group that there've been a couple of, of, of folks that have passed away. Um, they believe because of stress.

Speaker 1: 03:34 What was the atmosphere at the town hall like last night and how many people would you say attended? What, what, what was it like? It was packed. It was

Speaker 2: 03:42 the a formerly United Methodist church. Uh, I would say maybe between 60 and 70 people. The room was packed. Um, I would say it was a combination of, uh, being, um, empowering but also somber because a lot of folks, I mean this is a reality. A lot of folks are one paycheck away from, you know, being displaced if, if their rents are increased. So I was there primarily to listen to our residents, to listen to my community and hear what their concerns were. And what their thoughts or ideas were for us to take action at council.

Speaker 1: 04:15 Well, one idea you have is a hope. You're hoping to create a housing specialist position in Imperial beach. What would that person do?

Speaker 2: 04:23 That person would be, um, they're full time on staff to provide, uh, information to our residents. Uh, resources. Um, for example, this town hall, we had an expert from community law center who came and explained the 12 listed reasons that are just under just cause eviction, Kurt, right. So, um, this housing specialist would be able to build a bridge between our resident tenants and the resources that are out there because a lot of them don't know what their rights are or may not even be English speakers. And I just want them to feel that it's the city of improv. Each has their back. Is that something that you're going to propose to the council? We actually approve the job description. Last council meeting, which was this past Wednesday. Um, our next council meeting on December 4th, we will bring before the council for consideration the sources of funding for this position. And I'm very grateful with our staff who've been working on this for about a year when I raised it. Um, at last year's a council meeting.

Speaker 1: 05:27 Is it really you concerned that Imperial beach is becoming unaffordable to many longtime residents?

Speaker 2: 05:34 Really? I mean, we are a working class community. We're a predominantly community of color, over 50% Hispanic. We're one of the last remaining coastal communities that is still affordable. Um, we've also seen a lot of progress. Uh, I don't know if you're familiar with the history of impro beach, but way, way back in the day, it was a totally different town. Now it's very safe. We have the one of safest, um, we're one of the safest cities in the County. Uh, we've had a lot of economic development and a lot of economic progress. Uh, but with that comes a, you know, changes in the market and, and I don't think this is an issue specific turn pro beach. I think it's an issue that is statewide. We have a housing crisis in California, and I, I want to make sure that an Imperial beach, we do everything we can to protect our residents. I've been speaking with Imperial beach city council woman Poloma, uh, Geary, and I want to thank you so much for coming in and speaking with us. Thank you. It was a pleasure to be here.

Imperial Beach City Council member Paloma Aguirre co-hosted a town hall Thursday to discuss the community's concerns over recent rent increases and hear from mobile home park residents who are fighting to stay in their homes.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.