Activists push for more affordable housing, rent control in Santa Ana

Activists push for more affordable housing, rent control in Santa Ana

File photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG
By | JeffCollins@scng.com | Orange County Register

September 18, 2017 at 7:51 pm

A coalition of Santa Ana community groups has launched a “week of action” to highlight renter’s rights in Orange County’s second-largest city, with the goal of enacting protections like rent control and “just cause” evictions.

Local activists also are pushing Santa Ana leaders to develop more than 90 city-owned parcels for public benefits such as open space, affordable housing and economic opportunities.

Activities from Monday through Saturday include a renter’s rights workshop, a march on City Hall, a bike ride, and a film and art exhibit. Participants also will join an annual church drive to wash the clothes for the homeless.

“We need protection for renters in Santa Ana,” said Luis Sarmiento, a member of the year-old Community Lands in Community Hands coalition. “There’s a huge, huge population of renters who are facing inhumane conditions and rising rent and evictions.”

An Orange County renter has to earn almost $35 an hour to afford the typical rent for a two-bedroom apartment of $1,813 a month, according to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition’s 2017 report. That translates into an annual income of $72,520, or 3.3 minimum-wage jobs. The county has the fifth-highest “housing wage” needed in the state, the 2017 report said.

The Santa Ana coalition cited recent polling data showing that 84 percent of Santa Ana voters surveyed are concerned about rising rent and the rising cost of living, while one in four is very concerned about losing their current housing. Almost half — 45 percent — said they know someone who has been evicted or forced to move.“We need a policy that will put a stop to unjust evictions, which disproportionately affect vulnerable groups,” said Isuri Ramos, a community organizer with the Kennedy Commission.

Sarmiento said the coalition is pushing for rent control and for “just cause evictions,” which would require landlords to state a reason for evictions such as destruction of property or non-payment of rent.

Currently, landlords can evict tenants for any reason so long as they give adequate notice. An Orange County Register investigation published in May showed eviction rates have been declining steadily in Orange County and throughout Southern California since 2009 as employment and the economy rebounded from the Great Recession. But evictions still are devastating for those going through the process, creating a black mark on their record which makes it harder to find new housing, the Register report showed.

“Evictions are happening, leaving a lot of people to either move into overcrowded housing situations or, in the worse-case scenario, people are ending up on the streets,” Sarmiento said. “There’s this growing fear of displacement and a growing fear of eviction.”

Coalition members include such groups as Santa Ana Building Healthy Communities and the Kennedy Commission, an affordable housing advocacy group, Sarmiento said.

Community activists long have advocated for more open space in Santa Ana, saying that obesity problems, especially in lower-income neighborhoods, are due to a lack of public land. Other proposed uses of city-owned land include micro-farms to grow produce, a “mercadito” or marketplace for locally produced crafts and other types of economic development.

Santa Ana is one of 46 U.S. cities participating in a national Renters Day Of Action organized by the Renters For All housing group. Local activities this week include:

  • Monday, Sept. 18: A renter’s rights workshop in the Lacy neighborhood sponsored by VELA or Vecindad Lacy en Accion from 5-8 p.m. in the parking lot at North Garfield and Brown streets.
  • Tuesday: A renter’s rights march on Santa Ana City Hall from 5 to 8 p.m. starting at Latino Health Access at 450 W. 4th St. A press conference is planned outside City Hall.
  • Thursday: A bike ride and Laundry Love event. The ride will be from 5:30-7:30 p.m. starting at the El Centro Cultural de Mexico, 837 N. Ross St. The clothes washing event for the homeless is planned from 7:30-10:30 p.m. at 406 E. Santa Ana Blvd.
  • Saturday: The showing of the KCET film “City Rising” about anti-gentrification efforts and an art exhibit will take place from 4-7 p.m. at the El Centro Cultural de Mexico.

Activists push for more affordable housing, rent control in Santa Ana

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