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OPINION – Black Communities Hit by Housing Affordability, COVID Economy Should Vote ‘Yes’ on Prop. 21

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Cynthia Davis is chair of the Board of Directors of AIDS Healthcare Foundation and one of the five citizen proponents of Prop. 21.

It’s no secret there is a housing affordability crisis in California. And a homelessness crisis of epic proportion. Both deeply and disproportionately affect Black communities across the state.

Black people are not only being pushed out of our major cities into the suburbs and exurbs of California but often entirely out of the state to places with more affordable housing. Many were pushed out by gentrification and escalating costs, be it a mortgage, rent, or other unaffordable living costs. 

As California’s population grew from 29 million to 39 million over the past 30 years, the Black population in California dwindled to just 5.8% of the general population.  

Of those African Americans who remain in the Golden State, two-thirds (65.6%) are now renters. At the same time, homeownership rates for Black Americans nationwide have been falling.

What can the African American community do to combat California’s runaway rents and rising housing costs?

Learn about and vote ‘Yes!’ on Prop. 21, the Rental Affordability Act, this election.

Prop. 21 will limit unfair rent increases and preserve affordable housing, especially in historically Black and minority communities that are particularly vulnerable to displacement due to high rents and stagnant wages. 

The law returns the decision-making process on whether to allow or enact rent control measures to local jurisdictions, communities, and local elected officials.  It will not mandate or require rent control anywhere in California. The measure simply allows local communities to decide what’s best for them.

Currently, the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, a one-size, fits-all state law restricts rent control throughout California, while freezing rent control laws that had already been enacted by the time the law passed.

Prop. 21 modernizes rent control by allowing local governments to limit rent increases on buildings older than 15 years, protecting millions of renters while incentivizing new housing construction.

Prop. 21 is endorsed by California Congresswomen Karen BassMaxine Waters, and Barbara Leethe California Democratic Partyactor/activist Danny Glover, Rev. Al Sharpton and his National Action NetworkLos Angeles City Councilman Herb Wesson, SEIU CaliforniaACLU of Southern California, the Los Angeles Urban League, the Brotherhood Crusade and Reed for Hope Foundation. 

The Los Angeles Times endorsed Prop. 21 and the Sierra Club and a dozen or so unions and labor organizations are also backing Prop. 21 including SEIU California, California Federation of Teachers, AFSCME California PEOPLE, United Auto Workers (UAW) Region 8, UAW Local 2865 and many others that have thrown their full support behind Prop 21.

Also endorsing: the California Nurses Association (CNA), representing over 100,000 nurses who have been on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic, bearing witness firsthand to the tremendous medical, humanitarian and economic damage the virus has caused—much of it to Black and brown families.

For Black people in California, these facts remain unchanged: systemic racism and displacement has caused a disproportionate number of Black people to become homeless.

In L.A. County, where 8% of the overall population is Black, Black people represent 34% of those experiencing homelessness. And eviction rates in Black communities are far higher than in white communities. In L.A. County, 30% of all renters facing eviction are African American. 

California remains the epicenter of homelessness in America, with fully 27% of the country’s homeless living in The Golden State. California has the highest poverty rate as measured by the cost of living, and many renters pay half their income or more in monthly rent. 

This means that as a very first step, we need to work now to protect the growing number of African American renters from facing evictions, displacement, and homelessness.

Prop. 21 can be that step.

Prop. 21 gives cities and counties the power to implement and expand rent control policies that limit how much rents can increase each year. It would allow local communities to:

  • Expand rent control to more buildings while exempting newly constructed buildings.
  • Exempt single-family homeowners who own up to two homes.
  • Allow limits on rent increases when a new renter moves in.

 Prop. 21 is one way to help to preserve the social and economic fabric of our state. 

Vote ‘Yes’ on Prop. 21 this election and help keep families — particularly Black families — in their homes. 

Cynthia Davis is chair of the Board of Directors of AIDS Healthcare Foundation and one of the five citizen proponents of Prop. 21.

 

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Activism

State Task Force Getting Closer to Identifying What Reparations Look Like

The five-member expert panel, appointed by the task force, is quantifying past economic injustices African Americans faced in the state and elsewhere, and determining what or how much compensation should be made to Black people living in California.

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The five-member expert panel, appointed by the task force, is quantifying past economic injustices African Americans faced in the state and elsewhere, and determining what or how much compensation should be made to Black people living in California.
Economic experts for the California Reparations Task Force Dr. Kaycea Campbell, right, and Williams Spriggs, left, explain to the 9-member panel in Los Angeles that the group has “rough estimations” for five harms that could be used to determine compensation. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.

By Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌
California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media‌

The California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans will be conducting its last meeting of 2022 on Wednesday, Dec. 14, and Thursday, Dec. 15, at Oakland City Hall Chambers located at 1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza adjacent to 14th Street.

The start time is 9 a.m. for both days beginning with one hour of public comment. The meetings will be live streamed via the official Task Force website or ETM Media on YouTube.

Task Force Chairperson Kamilah Moore says that the next meeting is of high importance “for a few reasons,” and will include an in-depth conversation about redress and repair.

“No. 1, we will begin to refine community eligibility standards (including residency requirements); No. 2, we’re inviting leaders from local/municipal reparations efforts from across the state to share their incredible work (i.e., Oakland, Los Angeles, Berkeley, Russell City, Palms Springs etc.),” Moore said in a written statement on Dec. 1. “No. 3, it will be the first-time task force members will collectively discuss and begin to determine what types of reparation proposals will be in the final report that will be released in June 2023.”

The task force’s two-year charge is scheduled to end in June 2023.

California’s AB 3121, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom into law in 2020, created the nine-member task force to investigate the history and costs of slavery in California and around the United States.

The law charges the Reparations Task Force with studying the institution of slavery and its lingering negative effects on Black Californians who are descendants of persons enslaved in the United States.

From the information they collect, the task force will develop reparation proposals for African Americans and recommend appropriate ways to educate Californians about the task force’s findings.

After the task force decided who would be eligible for compensation in March, the panel approved a framework for calculating how much should be paid — and for which offenses — to individuals who are Black descendants of enslaved people in the United States.

An expert panel reported to the task force in March that a “conservative estimate” of 2 million African Americans in California have ancestors who were enslaved in the United States. According to the U.S. 2020 Census, there are about 2.6 million Black Californians out of a total state population of nearly 40 million residents.

The five-member expert panel, appointed by the task force, is quantifying past economic injustices African Americans faced in the state and elsewhere, and determining what or how much compensation should be made to Black people living in California.

The expert panel includes William Spriggs, chief economist for the AFL-CIO and former chair of the Department of Economics at Howard University; Thomas Craemer, Public Policy professor at the University of Connecticut; Dr. Kaycea Campbell, CEO for Ventana Capital Advisors and Los Angeles Pierce College associate professor of Economics; Dr. William A. “Sandy” Darity Jr., director of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University; and Kirsten Mullen, a writer, and lecturer whose work focuses on race, art, history, and politics.

All five experts participated on the first day of the two-day meeting held at the California Science Center in Los Angeles two months ago. Spriggs and Campbell attended the event in person, while the other three experts appeared virtually.

Campbell and her colleagues discussed with the task force the “models” to provide a “road map” that would determine how reparations would be “paid and measured.”

Milagro Jones, a participant at the Reparation Task Force meeting in Los Angeles, holds up a 500-page interim report that was submitted to the California Legislature in June 2022. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey, Sept. 23, 2022.

Milagro Jones, a participant at the Reparation Task Force meeting in Los Angeles, holds up a 500-page interim report that was submitted to the California Legislature in June 2022. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey, Sept. 23, 2022.

The experts presented “five harms or atrocities,” down from the 13 they originally proposed, that could be used to determine compensations.

Campbell said the five categories under review will not be “exhausted” until they have received enough data to complete the process.

“This is not to say that other harms and atrocities are not important. As soon as, or if we get better data or more recent data, then we can, in fact, go through the process of what these look like,” Campbell said.

The experts made “rough estimates,” of property unjustly taken by eminent domain, devaluation of Black businesses, housing discrimination, the disproportion of mass incarceration and over-policing, and health inequities as the major harms.

Task Force Member Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Inglewood) released the following statement as clarification that the task force has not proposed that California compensate descendants of slaves with direct compensation for historical housing discrimination.

Bradford said, “Since its formation, a lot of misinformation and willful misrepresentation of the work from the Task Force has been released. The fact is that the Task Force has not completed its work and has made no formal recommendations to the Legislature. It’s important that we be deliberative and get this right because the nation is watching and it’s more than likely ours will be the model for all to follow.”

Members of the community and media are encouraged to visit the Reparations Task Force website and subscribe to the task force’s mailing list for updates at: https://oag.ca.gov/subscribe or call (213) 519-0504.

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Activism

Proposed Bill Could Stop Landlords from Charging Costly Security Deposits

The author of the bill, Assemblymember Matt Haney, D-San Francisco, said that in San Francisco, tenants could be subject to paying an additional $15,000 to move into a $5,000-a-month apartment — the average cost of a two-bedroom unit in the city. Those up-front fees are causing renters to take out predatory loans, go into debt or not move at all. “Landlords lose out on good tenants and tenants stay in apartments that are too crowded or have unsafe living conditions,” Haney said in a press release. “Creating a rental deposit cap is a simple change that will have an enormous impact on housing affordability for families in California.”

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Supervisor Matt Haney speaks at the press conference outside Boeddeker Park in Tenderloin, San Francisco, Calif., on Aug. 5, 2021. Supervisor Haney announced the city’s plan to expand funding for the City’s Pit Stop public restroom program. (Harika Maddal)
Supervisor Matt Haney speaks at the press conference outside Boeddeker Park in Tenderloin, San Francisco, Calif., on Aug. 5, 2021. Supervisor Haney announced the city’s plan to expand funding for the City’s Pit Stop public restroom program. (Harika Maddal)

By Olivia Wynkoop
Bay City News Foundation

A new bill would protect California renters from paying more than a month’s rent for security deposits.

Announced during the first week of California’s new legislative session, Assembly Bill 12 would prohibit the frequent practice of landlords charging two to three times the amount of monthly rent for a security deposit.

If passed, California would be the 12th state in the county to cap security deposits.

The author of the bill, Assemblymember Matt Haney, D-San Francisco, said that in San Francisco, tenants could be subject to paying an additional $15,000 to move into a $5,000-a-month apartment — the average cost of a two-bedroom unit in the city. Those up-front fees are causing renters to take out predatory loans, go into debt or not move at all.

“Landlords lose out on good tenants and tenants stay in apartments that are too crowded or have unsafe living conditions,” Haney said in a press release. “Creating a rental deposit cap is a simple change that will have an enormous impact on housing affordability for families in California.”

San Francisco-based speech therapist Alexis Ewing said it took her a decade to save up enough money to afford the security deposit that would allow her to move from her previous apartment into her new home.

“I’ve been able to afford higher rent for a while now but saving up the 10,000 dollars in move-in costs took me years,” Ewing said. “That’s a down payment on a house in the rest of the country.”

Often times landlords say these extra fees help them keep up with the increasing costs of repairs for units. Haney said the bill would not prevent landlords from fining tenants who cause damage to apartments that is higher than the amount of the security deposit.

“This bill will remove a huge barrier to housing access and affordability,” said Haney. “Our state can’t just continue to do things like we always have. We need to make common sense, immediate changes to make things easier for the people of California during this housing crisis.”

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Activism

New Affordable Below Market Rate Homes for Sale in San Leandro

The six new large three level BMR townhomes, within a total of 39 townhome units, are located at the new Maple Lane Development (687 Manor Drive). The BMR homes include: two low-income 1,605 square foot two-bedroom homes; and four moderate-income 1,760 square foot four-bedroom homes. All the homes will have two car garages. The projected BMR sales price of the homes will be approximately $275,000 for the two-bedroom homes, and $575,000 for the four-bedroom homes.

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All households interested in purchasing a BMR must submit a Lottery application to BAAHA by no later than 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 6, 2023.
All households interested in purchasing a BMR must submit a Lottery application to BAAHA by no later than 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 6, 2023.

Application Period to Apply for Lottery Now Open Until Jan. 6

Under the City of San Leandro’s Inclusionary Housing (IH) Program, six new Below Market Rate (BMR) homes will become available for sale starting in January 2023. The City’s IH Program requires that at least 15% of homes sold in new developments are set aside at prices affordable for low to moderate income households.

The six new large three level BMR townhomes, within a total of 39 townhome units, are located at the new Maple Lane Development (687 Manor Drive). The BMR homes include: two low-income 1,605 square foot two-bedroom homes; and four moderate-income 1,760 square foot four-bedroom homes. All the homes will have two car garages. The projected BMR sales price of the homes will be approximately $275,000 for the two-bedroom homes, and $575,000 for the four-bedroom homes.

To qualify for the BMR homes, a household’s gross combined incomes must be below the maximum income requirements. For the 2-bedroom BMR units for low-income households, the maximum income limits by household (HH) size are: $87,000 for 2 person HH, $98,650 for 3 person HH, $109,600 for 4 person HH and $118,400 for 5 person HH. For the 4-bedroom BMR units for moderate income households, the maximum income limits by household size are: $171,350 for 4 person HH, $185,050 for 5 person HH, $198,750 for 6 person HH and $212,450 for 7 person HH. There is a preference applied in the lottery toward first-time homebuyer households who live and/or work in the city of San Leandro. Households should also have savings in an institutional account to apply 3% towards a down payment; have at least a 640 FICO score; and the capacity to be approved by a Program certified lender for a mortgage to purchase the home.

The lottery intake, screening, administration, and IH Program underwriting for the Maple Lane BMRs, is conducted by a City contracted nonprofit, the Bay Area Affordable Homeownership Alliance (BAAHA). The private developer for the Maple Lane Development, DR Horton, is separately marketing the remaining 33 market rate units. To get more information on this BMR homeownership opportunity visit BAAHA’s website at https://www.myhomegateway.org/sanleandro-maplebmr.html.

All households interested in purchasing a BMR must submit a Lottery application to BAAHA by no later than 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. Applications can be obtained at BAAHA’s website https://www.myhomegateway.org/sanleandro-maplebmr.html. For more information contact BAAHA by email at info@myhomegateway.com.

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