On a summer day last year, a group of real estate tech executives gathered at a conference hall in Nashville to boast about one of their company’s signature products: software that uses a mysterious algorithm to help landlords push the highest possible rents on tenants. “Never before have we seen these numbers,” said Jay Parsons, a vice president of RealPage, as conventiongoers wandered by. Apartment rents had recently shot up by as much as 14.5%, he said in a video touting the company’s services. Turning to his colleague, Parsons asked: What role had the software played? “I think it’s driving it, quite honestly,” answered Andrew Bowen, another RealPage executive. “As a property manager, very few of us would be willing to actually raise rents double digits within a single month by doing it manually.”
Apryl Lewis is in a housing fight — again. This time, she is pushing to keep dozens of families from being put out of a Charlotte extended-stay motel that is scheduled to be shut down in a matter of weeks. Such motels cost as much as $500 each week, expensive compared to long-term housing. But many of these families are living paycheck-to-paycheck or on fixed incomes, and have no other option. “They can’t afford the move-in costs for an apartment,” Lewis said. “Landlords want up-front rent and utilities and a security deposit. Now they are even making people pay for rental insurance.” Others stay at the motel because they are shut out of traditional housing due to a past eviction or criminal record. Some simply can’t find a suitable place to live in a time when rental vacancies are at historic lows.
The 3.8 million facing eviction is the tip of the iceberg. The Census Bureau also estimated that 8.5 million tenants are behind on their rent as the month of August comes to a close. Millions of people are behind on rent and facing eviction in part because of the soaring rent prices. In June of this year, median rents in the US topped a staggering $2,000 per month—the highest ever recorded. Renters across the country have seen rent increase by almost 25% since before the pandemic, with an increase of 15% in just the past 12 months, according to real estate marketplace company Zillow. Nearly half of renters have been hit with rent hikes. Rents have increased dramatically due to high inflation, which the people of the US cite as their top concern by a wide margin.
Oakland, California - When Maria Montes de Oca and her family moved into their apartment in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland fourteen years ago, there were already problems. The apartment clearly hadn’t been maintained; the carpet was stained and damaged, and neither the stove nor the fridge worked. Later on, there were cockroach infestation and mold issues. When Maria tried to get the landlord, Calvin Wong, to carry out repairs or fumigate, he would ignore her requests or tell her he’d use her security deposit to pay for it — a practice that’s illegal in California. Yet in spite of the mounting maintenance and habitability issues, the rent kept going up.
Jacksonville, Florida - As the people of Jacksonville face rapidly increasing rent hikes and evictions, local organizers and residents rallied outside of City Hall on August 9. Before entering the city council meeting, they rallied and chanted, “Peoples Budget now!” “Make housing affordable,” and “Rent stabilization now!” After listening to speakers outside of city hall, many people spoke at the city council meeting, demanding a People’s Budget. The proposal from the Jacksonville Community Action Committee will reallocate funds from the inflated Jacksonville Sheriff's Office (JSO) budget back into the community. The People's Budget proposal focuses on Jacksonville’s city budget and reallocating funds because, under Mayor Curry, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office currently holds nearly 40% of the $1.4 billion budget.
Arkansas state Rep. Nicole Clowney, D-Fayetteville, introduced a bill Thursday that would repeal the state’s criminal “failure to vacate” statute. First enacted in 1901, the law allows landlords to seek criminal charges, which can result in jail time, for tenants who fall even a single day behind on rent and do not vacate a property within 10 days. Everywhere else in the U.S., evictions are exclusively a civil matter. The legislation comes after a ProPublica and Arkansas Nonprofit News Network article in October revealed how criminal charges brought under the statute can snowball into arrest warrants and jail time for tenants. A deputy county prosecutor who criticized the law, saying it essentially criminalizes poverty, was fired for his remarks.
The federal government has given millions of dollars to corporate landlords accused of inhumane eviction practices, poor maintenance of their buildings, and unfair rent increases. These landlords received loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, billed as a means to help small businesses stay afloat during the pandemic. Borrowers don’t have to pay back the loan if it is used for payroll, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities. But some of those companies were corporate landlords accused of mistreating their tenants.
While giving fossil fuel companies access to relief funds ostensibly meant for small businesses struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration on Monday slapped solar and wind power firms with retroactive rent bills dating back two years. The Interior Department is demanding rent payments from renewable energy companies operating on federal lands, two years after it suspended rent for the operators as it investigated whether the Obama administration had charged too much. The administration plans to collect $50 million in rent this year from 96 companies operating on federal property—the same amount of money that a recent report showed is going to fossil fuel companies in loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
On Saturday, April 25th cities and towns around the country will mobilize to demand: A national cancellation of all rents, mortgages for homeowners, small landlords, and small businesses, for the duration of the Pandemic. The patchwork of city and state moratoriums on evictions is not enough. In a few months when these moratoriums are lifted and the rents come due -- we will still not have the money! Join thousands of people across the country in car caravan protests on Saturday, April 25 to demand the cancellation of rent and all debts to landlords for the duration of the pandemic.
Protesting in a method that aligned with the social distancing urged by the state, county and city, tenant advocates climbed into their vehicles and rolled past the traditional Los Angeles Mayor’s residence — Getty House in Windsor Square — in a demonstration intended to urge Mayor Eric Garcetti to support sweeping anti-eviction measures amid the widening coronavirus crisis. The protesters, rolling up and down the street in cars bearing pro-eviction-ban messages, called for a complete moratorium on evictions, full rent forgiveness or the suspension of rent for those who can’t afford it and making hotel and motel rooms available for people without homes. In a marathon meeting on Friday, the City Council passed a collection of measures providing protection for people hit hard by business closures, layoffs and other aftershocks of the pandemic.
More than 400,000 people have signed a petition calling on Congress to freeze all rent, mortgage, and utility payments nationwide in order to prevent a looming "housing catastrophe" as millions of Americans head into April jobless and unsure whether they will be able to afford their bills. "Millions are wondering how they'll pay their rent or mortgage by tomorrow," said Justin Ruben, co-director of ParentsTogether Action, which organized the petition. "We need additional emergency action suspending rent, mortgage and utility payments for the duration of this crisis." On Tuesday, ParentsTogether released a survey showing that just 38% of parents believe they will be able to make their rent or mortgage payments on Wednesday without cutting back on food, medicine, or other necessities.
On June 14, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law new housing legislation that guarantees the “strongest tenant protections in history,” extending rent regulation from New York City and adjacent counties to the entire state, finally closing rent control loopholes and eliminating the “vacancy bonus” that allowed landlords to hike rents once tenants moved out. Some form of rent regulation has been in place in New York City for nearly a century. But the laws that were meant to keep housing affordable and tenants in place by limiting rent increases had been run through with loopholes because they had to be re-legislated...
CHARLESTON, S.C.—Housing Secretary Ben Carson says his latest proposal to raise rents would mean a path toward self-sufficiency for millions of low-income households across the United States by pushing more people to find work. For Ebony Morris and her four small children, it could mean homelessness. Morris lives in Charleston, South Carolina, where most households receiving federal housing assistance would see their rent go up an average 26 percent, according to an analysis done by Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and provided exclusively to The Associated Press. But her increase would be nearly double that. Overall, the analysis shows that in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas, low-income tenants — many of whom have jobs — would have to pay roughly 20 percent more each year for rent under the plan.
By Staff of Homes for All - Hundreds gathered and gave direct testimony about the citywide displacement crisis. Grassroots activists also planned strategies and tactics for passing Just Cause Eviction, breaking down by city council district, and they shared a variety of organizing approaches to the displacement crisis through interactive and cultural presentations. Topics included inclusionary development policy, community land trusts and community control of public land, creation of neighborhood stabilization zones, and struggles for local hiring and community benefit standards. The Right to Remain Assembly culminated in a massive citywide action cosponsored by Boston Tenant Coalition, Right to the City Boston, Alternatives for Community & Environment, Boston Workers Alliance, Chinatown Resident Association, Chinese Progressive Association, City Life/Vida Urbana, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation, Dominican Development Center, Dorchester People for Peace, Fairmount Indigo Community Development Collaborative, Jamaica Plain Progressives, Neighbors United for a Better East Boston, New England United for Justice, SEIU 32BJ.
By Randy Shaw for Counterpunch. Activists in cities that have long had rent control laws are pushing for stronger measures. In Los Angeles, activists like Larry Gross, Director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, want the city to stop allowing tenants to be evicted so that speculators can demolish their rent-controlled buildings (emptying the building through the Ellis Act, a state law that preempts local just cause eviction laws). CES and their allies forced the head of the California Housing Finance Agency toresign over his Ellis Act eviction of tenants. The spread of rent control campaigns goes beyond California. In Seattle, sharply rising rents and tenant displacement led Councilmembers Kshama Sawant and Nick Licata to push for a Council resolutionrepealing of the statewide ban on rent control. On September 21, Seattle’s City Council backed the resolution calling for repealing the state preemption of local rent control enacted in 1981. Portland tenants are also pushing for rent control.