California Allows Discrimination Against Low-Income Renters

Rent-Screw-Sect-8

Many Californians Have Low Income

Many renters in California are individuals and families who are struggling to get by on low and very low income. These renters include folks who are elderly, disabled, women with children, veterans, and other low-income members of society.

Many of these renters wait years on a waiting list to receive vouchers that allow them to rent apartments and homes, and pay 30% to 40% of their income to the landlord, and HUD’s section 8 Voucher program pays the rest.

Property Owners Discriminate

Unfortunately, many property owners refuse to rent to people with Section 8 vouchers. Despite this being a clear case of class discrimination against the poor, California allows it. While it is illegal in California to discriminate against someone – in housing rental, based on one’s source of income – discriminating against people with section 8 is not included in that prohibition.

Bill to Make Discrimination Against Section 8 Illegal

California Bill SB 1053, the Voucher Nondiscrimination bill sponsored by Senator Mark Leno, would have made it illegal to discriminate against renters based on their source of income because they get Section 8 financial assistance. This bill was supported by Tenants Together, the Western Center on Law and Poverty, Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, National Housing Law project, and Public Advocates. Unfortunately, the SB 1053 died in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Property Owners Greed

The California Apartment Association (an association that clearly favors property owners gouging renters for profit) fought against SB 1053, and California legislators quickly buckled. They clearly put profit above the safety, health and welfare of human beings.

California Allows Class Discrimination

What this means is that California legislators are actually allowing discrimination against low income people because they receive Section 8 rental assistance.

In the current rental market environment, far too many people are actually paying up to 50% – and more – of their income just for housing. Property owners are gouging renters by taking advantage of the fact that there are far more people needing housing than there are housing units available. Because there are too many people and too few available housing units, property owners are raising rents far beyond what is reasonable. Because they can. And they are not only getting away with it: California is openly allowing it to happen.

“Screw Those Who Can’t Afford It”

What that means, literally, is that people are being forced out of places where they were born and raised (too many actually becoming homeless), because they can no longer afford the ridiculously high rents. What is even worse is that there are people who, with Section 8 help, can afford to rent homes – but are actually being forced into homelessness because property owners refuse to accept Section 8 vouchers. These property owners would rather raise rents as high as the market will bear in order to keep increasing their profits. Their attitudes are, “Screw those who can’t afford it.

What If It Was You?

If you are someone who feels unaffected by any of this … take a moment to imagine that an unexpected series of events rendered you unable to generate the level of income you currently enjoy, or cause you to lose your home, and you were left struggling to get by in an increasingly hostile environment. Believe me, it is NOT impossible. What if you were denied a place to live, just because someone didn’t like where you got your money from? What would you do? You have little money, no home, and even with help to pay for one, no one will allow you a home …

Every person with a conscience should find discrimination against people with Section 8 vouchers not just wrong, but disgusting, revolting, and unacceptable.

You Can’t Appeal to Their Compassion: They Have None

Greed drives them. Greed rules their actions. They really couldn’t care less about their tenants, and many of them don’t even care about keeping their buildings safe and in good repair (In the article below, one image shows that property management painted over mold growing in the wall). And if kicking old tenants out can get them more money from newer, more affluent tenants,  the old tenants are shit out of luck.

From the Sonoma County Press Democrat:

 SR-Evictions

Santa Rosa evictions trigger new fight over rights of tenants and landlords

A cluster of seven apartments off Todd Road has become the latest focal point in a legal — and increasingly political ­— battle over evictions in Sonoma County’s tight housing market.


Compare-IPOs-with-Renters

Investment Property Owners (IPOs) Have Renters “Over a Barrel”

Greedy Real Estate Investors: More money. Let’s manipulate the market so that making higher and higher profits is the only possible outcome. We have the power: we are investment property owners, and we have organizations lobbying to have cities and counties and the state legislate in our favor. The more money we make, the more power and influence we have over people on all levels. And if you don’t have enough money, we will boot your ass out. If you can’t make us richer, you’re an unworthy human being. Renters have some petty protections, but not really that many. We can take advantage of that. In California, on rental properties – as long as we give 60 days notice – we can charge any amount of rent we like! Better yet, we can boot old tenants, make cosmetic improvements (lipstick on a pig), hike the rent, and get more affluent renters.

They work through greedy real estate agents who are living it up at the expense of cash-strapped individual homeowners going through foreclosure. They make a killing on re-sales to investment property companies. It’s a win-win for IPOs and a “screw you” to the “little guys (i.e., renters).”

http://www.propertywire.com/news/features/us-foreclosure-property-misery-200904082843.html

In the Sonoma County Rental Market (as in many places around the nation), the abysmally low supply of rental units (averaging around 1%) creates an environment where rental property owners can jack up the rents endlessly, and renters have no choice but to pay – or go elsewhere.  For many, “go elsewhere” is not an option. Lesser income Seniors and disabled people have even less choice than most, and are disproportionately harmed by this hostile rental environment.

Government leaders need to either get significantly more rental units built to handle the demand and keep rents as reasonable as possible, or we need to institute rent control/rent stabilization laws. Renters (and individual property owners, too, since the greed is hurting them, as well)  need to stand up against these greedy real estate predators and stop them. Otherwise, more people are going to be displaced, homeless, financially ruined, or worse.

Yes, it’s THAT bad.

People Shun What They Don’t Understand

Have you ever been poor? Do you understand what like to not have money? I don’t mean just not enough money to buy something you want, I mean you do not have enough money at all for something you need. Say it is the beginning of the month, and the total of all your bills are, for illustrative purposes, $2000 a month. That includes rent, electricity, groceries, transportation, clothing, etc. – all of the essentials. Yet, your total income is only $1500. What do you do?

Before you answer with “But I would never let myself get into a situation like that,” or “my wife/husband/partner takes up the slack,” or “that’s not realistic,” or “this is just an imaginary scenario,” – try to give it some actual thought, anyway. What would you do? Please stop reading long enough to think about that scenario and imagine yourself in it.

Okay, did you think of what you would do? – How you would handle it?

Here is a reality: Most low income people cut back on groceries, buy cheap, sew or patch clothing instead of buying new clothing, cut back on transportation, do not take vacations, combine several tasks into one trip, or take the bus. They do not get cable TV, expensive cell phone plans, computers and laptops, and do not buy little fun things on impulse. They find alternate ways to live with less, and/or they do without.

Let’s Put That Into Perspective

In fact, did you know that (as a percentage of their total income) people with low income spend more on everything than wealthier people do? Think about it. When a wealthier person, making $82,0001 per year, buys a cell phone at, say, $100, they spend .015% of their monthly income. A low income person, buying the same cell phone, spends 6% of their income on that same phone (for someone earning $18,000 per year).  If percentages were dollars, wealthier people would spend 1.5 pennies for that cell phone. Low income people would spend $6 dollars for that same phone.  (Did you know that millions of Americans actually live on less than $18,000 per year?)

And so it goes for everything else they buy: they spend more, as a percentage of their income, than wealthier people do. The more money you make, the less you pay (as a percentage of your income, and actually).

So why should wealthier people want to understand what it’s like to be poor? Well, bluntly, in straight language, the wealthy people are getting richer off the backs of those with less. In fact, most people don’t even know how bad the income disparity is.

income distribution

Here is a video that I think everyone should watch. It shows, graphically, what the actual income disparity is in the U.S.

 You’ll be shocked.

“We may not want to believe it, but the United States is now the most unequal of all Western nations. To make matters worse, America has considerably less social mobility than Canada and Europe.”

Source: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/economic-inequality-it-s-far-worse-than-you-think/

This is a growing national problem, and the theme of this blog. Income disparity causes class conflict, increases crime, fosters societal bias, promotes unrest – on top of pushing even more people into poverty and making life harder for those with less as well as those who are the most vulnerable (i.e., the elderly, disabled, single parents, children). It violates the very principles this nation was founded on – that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

This reality is reflected in many areas: the “Occupy” movement (the 99% v. the 1%); the push for increases in minimum wage, the expanding push for rent control; the growing contempt for the wealthy; increases child mortality rates; increases in incarcerations; increasing cost and declining quality of medical care;  forces Americans into debt; makes America sick; males Americans less safe; makes America less Democratic; undermines the American Dream; and undermines long-term economic growth.

1I use the amount $82,000 per year (or $6833 per month) because that’s what should be a “reasonable wage” for a family in order to rent a 3 bedroom home at an average $2200 per month rent/mortgage based on realistic housing costs in this area (Sonoma County, California, USA).

Income Inequality Hurts America and Most Americans

 

I sometimes hear (or read about) people with good jobs and a good income talking about how we need to reform government to curb spending, reduce the deficit, make government more accountable and more efficient … and I believe that is a proper goal. Unfortunately,  when “reform” is actually implemented, guess what happens? The first wave of action nearly always involves cutting spending on social programs that help the poor and the needy. That is, the government takes even more away from programs that provide money, food, medical care, and support services for the nations’ weakest and most vulnerable folks: the elderly, disabled, “working poor” and single parent families with children.

Legislators – most of whom have personal incomes of $200,000 per year and more – cut payments to people with incomes below $15,000 per year. Voters – most of whom earn a “living wage” or better – actually vote to support support this “reverse Robin Hood” tactic so city, county, state and federal legislators can increase their own salaries well over what most people in their districts make.

That is, (for example) county supervisor Jimmy Doe, earning $212,000 per year can increase his income to $265,000 per year (to keep up with expenses, you see …) while Mary Smith’s Social Security check remains at $962 per month for the third year in a row. Her monthly expenses increased by $120 in ways that are not considered when calculating Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment calculations (which do not include rent increases), but Mary doesn’t get to have any increase in income (And it doesn’t even rate consideration that Mary was a helicopter pilot in Desert Storm who took a bullet for her country while serving the people of that country).

Incentives for the rich

I like to read many different sources of information, because I want to get my facts straight before I post. I came across an article that already addressed much of what I intended to discuss here, so without permission, I copied a portion of that article below. I believe it falls under the “Fair Use Doctrine” (17 U.S.C. § 107).

Here are some things I think most people may not even think about:

(Article dated 11/7/2013) by Tyler Durden

In millions of families, both the husband and the wife work multiple jobs and it is still not enough.

If we truly did have a free market capitalist system, the entire country would be a land of opportunity and things would be getting better for everybody.  Unfortunately, that is not the case at all.  The following are 21 facts about “wealthy America” and “poor America” that are hard to believe…

#1 The lowest earning 23,303,064 Americans combined make 36 percent less than the highest earning 2,915 Americans do.

#2 40 percent of all American workers (39.6 percent to be precise) make less than $20,000 a year.

#3 According to the Pew Research Center, the top 7 percent of all U.S. households own 63 percent of all the wealth in the country.

#4 On average, households in the top 7 percent have 24 times as much wealth as households in the bottom 93 percent.

#5 According to numbers that were just released this week, 49.7 million Americans are living in poverty.  That is a brand new all-time record high.

#6 In the United States today, the wealthiest one percent of all Americans have a greater net worth than the bottom 90 percent combined.

#7 Household incomes have actually been declining for five years in a row and total consumer credit has risen by a whopping 22 percent over the past three years.

#8 According to Forbes, the 400 wealthiest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans combined.

#9 The homeownership rate in the United States is at an 18 year low.

#10 The six heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton have as much wealth as the bottom one-third of all Americans combined.

#11 18 percent of all food stamp dollars are spent at Wal-Mart.

#12 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the middle class is taking home a smaller share of the overall income pie than has ever been recorded before.

#13 It is hard to believe, but right now 1.2 million students that attend public schools in America are homeless.  That number has risen by 72 percent since the start of the last recession.

#14 One recent study discovered that nearly half of all public students in the United States come from low income homes.

#15 In 1980, CEOs at S&P 500 companies made 42 times as much as their employees did on average.  Today, CEOs at S&P 500 companies make 354 times as much as their employees do on average.  In fact, there are many CEOs that make more than 1000 times what the average employees in their companies make.

#16 U.S. families that have a head of household that is under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent.

#17 At this point, one out of every four American workers has a job that pays $10 an hour or less.

#18 Today, the United States actually has a higher percentage of workers doing low wage work than any other major industrialized nation does.

#19 Approximately one out of every five households in the United States is now on food stamps.

#20 The number of Americans on food stamps has grown from 17 million in the year 2000 to more than 47 million today.

#21 At this point, the poorest 50 percent of all Americans collectively own just 2.5 percent of all the wealth in the United States.

——

So who still thinks we should not do everything we can to reduce income disparity in our country – allegedly  the “best country in the world?”

People Pay More Than Half Their Income on Rent

I was looking through some statistics today about the economy in Sonoma County (California), and I couldn’t help but think to myself, “This rental housing crisis is out of control. People are paying out the nose for housing, while income property owners/developers are making a killing. It’s just wrong on so many levels.”

CrazyRent

According to Realtor.com, the average monthly rent for a two bedroom unit in Sonoma County is $3108. For a year, that comes to $37,296.00. The average yearly income in Sonoma County is $67771. That calculates at $5648 per month income, and $3108 per month for rent. As you can see, the average rent is over half of the average income. Half of $5648 is $2824 – or $284 over half of what the average income worker earns in a month. 

More and more people are being gouged and even displaced by skyrocketing rents – in a tight rental market that is increasingly catering to the more affluent, at the expense of ‘average folks’. According to the North By Business Journal:

“Median-income households in the Santa Rosa metropolitan statistical area, which includes Petaluma, spent an average 39.8 percent of their monthly income on rent at the end of 2013. That rate represented a 49.1 percent increase compared to the Zillow benchmark for average share of income used for rent in the period between 1985 and 2000, beating the rate of increase for the high-rent stalwart of San Francisco over the same period by 3.7 percent. “

Similar news is reflected in these sobering statistics compiled by the North Bay Organizing Project (.pdf document).

Meanwhile, wages have remained relatively stagnant, or are even shrinking, over the last 15 or 20 years.  Income property investors, property management companies and individual rental property owners typically place their desire for increasing personal income over the personal health, safety and welfare of those who rent from them. That is, they make their money on the backs of the people who are often circumstantially forced to pay their increasingly ridiculous rents.

Largely as a result of these runaway housing costs, more and more people are being displaced and far too many end up homeless.  Among rental property owners, who cares who they displace? A Veteran who fought in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan – people’s sons and even daughters who served their country honorably … so? If they can’t pay, then screw ‘em. Elderly folks who are vulnerable to the whims of these property owners … so what? Peoples’ fathers and mothers … they’re old and have lived beyond their usefulness, so who cares? As long as we get our money, who cares.

And what about the County government? What are they doing to help combat runaway rents? Well, as reported in the Press Democrat

“The Santa Rosa City Council rejected a hastily proposed moratorium on rent increases of more than 3 percent Tuesday but embraced expanding services to help more homeless people get off the streets. “

“The council unanimously agreed to boost support for the county’s new Homeless Outreach Services Team, backing a plan endorsed by city staff to spend nearly $500,000 on new services in and around the city.

“These include a 24/7 hotline for people facing homelessness, stipends for people willing to help clear out encampments and a “rapid rehousing” program that gives homeless people vouchers for a place to stay — such as a hotel, motel or campground — while they explore other housing options.”

Landlords fought against the proposal and whined about losing money, and about increases in their costs that they say justified rent increases.  The people who can’t afford their housing units are facing poverty, displacement, and even homelessness – and in some cases, even loss of life. Being homeless is exceptionally hard on older and disabled persons.  But we landlords … we just can’t take not being able to raise rents! Our renters have to pay our bills for us!

In the meantime, check out the lavish kind of house many of these property owners live in, compared to what we pay out the nose for  … while we feel sorry for property owners having to delay increasing our rents.

fancy home          apartments

Investment Property Owners May Force Rent Control

 

rent-prices

I just read a blog entry from an investment property owner complaining about the prospect of rent control. According to him, rent control is bad, because it “destroys the availability of good housing”; it allegedly “punishes” property owners by not allowing them to charge [exorbitant…] market rate rents; it discourages developers from building new housing; it cuts into profits; it is “socialist”; it “reduce[s] the amount of capital to invest in multifamily housing; and “existing market rates are higher than they would otherwise be if it weren’t for rent control”; it brings more regulations from cities with rent control that allegedly cost the property owners more … and he complains about a [hypothetical?] “story of a heart surgeon making $500,000-a-year who wants a pad in SF and gets to enjoy the benefit of rent control.”

Then, he goes on to complain about lower return on investment in interest charged on debt (i.e., bank loans), corporate and municipal bonds an dividend-paying stocks as well … all (according to him) because of rent control.

This person’s entire argument is based on his claim that property owners (i.e., he) will not make as much profit as he thinks he should. Instead of profiting (hypothetically) three million on his properties, he thinks it will hurt him to only make 2 million [profit ].

But, by charging market rate rent, he is helping to price more and more people OUT of the market. “Market rate rent” – today – is just another way of saying, “let’s extort as much money as we can possibly get from as many people as possible by gouging people in a market where low housing availability exists.”  When supply is low, demand higher and higher prices. Because that is exactly what investment property owners and landlords are doing. A 2014 New York Times article reports:

“Nationally, half of all renters are now spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing, according to a comprehensive Harvard study, up from 38 percent of renters in 2000. In December, Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan declared “the worst rental affordability crisis that this country has ever known.”

Meeting astronomical rents is hard enough for middle-class Americans, but it is especially hard for lower-income people which includes the elderly, disabled, and other folks who are less fortunate. In fact, for many, it’s virtually impossible. The number of homeless Americans is growing larger than ever before. Some of the biggest factors contributing to homelessness are a growing lack of affordable housing, stagnant and shrinking incomes, government budget cuts, and a shameful lack of effort (by government, corporations,  businesses, real estate companies and individual owners and … well, society in general – to overcome this income and housing disparity problem.

The Elderly and Disabled Get Screwed Again

 

disabled

An article published on CNN.com titled “No Raise for Social Security Recipients” this year. The formula that the Social Security Administration uses to track inflation based increases on CPI-W (explained here).

Basically, the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA ) is tied to economic factors that actually do not apply all that well to people for whom Social Security is a major (or only) source of income (for retired and disabled persons). But for many recipients of Social Security Retirement (SSA) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), the failure to increase benefits results in an actual net loss of income, since the actual cost of living has increased considerably more than what the Social Security Administration accounts for in its COLA formula. For example, rents have been climbing way faster than wage or COLA increases have addressed. One SSDI recipient’s rent (alone) has increased $100 per month, yet his income remains the same as it was last year. Groceries are costing more, and medical costs are already out of control. An actual monthly increase for a disabled SSDI recipient might be over $150.00, so instead of income remaining the same, it’s actually decreasing  by $150 per month.

The government is screwing Social Security recipients. As has been the standard for the government (and the right wing), those who are hurt the worst by changing economic factors (deficit reduction, spending “reform” or, in this case, “no significant change” in the CPI-W) always include the most vulnerable in our society: the elderly and the disabled.  Why must the poorest Americans be expected to pay more with less income than … the rest of Americans?

Sonoma County Cities are Selling Out to Greedy Investment Property Owners/Developers

greedy-hand-grabs-money-4468387.jpg

June 15, 2015: Landlords and developers from other cities and states are buying up property in Sonoma County – and evicting lower income tenants so they can make cosmetic improvements on apartment buildings (i.e., “put lipstick on a pig”) so they can charge higher rents that are fast growing above and beyond the ability of the poor (and even many middle class) to afford.

As is usually the case in investment properties, when the wealthy owners/developers want to get wealthier, they do so by displacing those who are most vulnerable: those with low income – which includes the elderly, disabled, lower income working families, young people starting out, and those with the least resources ($$) with which to defend themselves against gentrification by these greedy, fascist bullies.

It is literally “war against the poor” when the poor don’t even have the “weapons” ($$) to defend themselves. Not only is it shameful and immoral – it is potentially dangerous and even fatal to these being displaced, since a surprising number of the displaced end up homeless.

Runaway rent increases like this exacerbate the burden not only for those poor who are directly affected, but also in additional costs to the local and federal governments via homeless prevention programs, housing subsidies, incentives to build more low-income housing, and even medical and emergency services, urgent assistance programs … and more.

Everyone loses – except for the property developers, investment property owners and landlords. They are sitting back, reaping the profit, living very large (compared to those who are displaced), while the government, business, and others pretty much kiss their backside and protect their money grabbing activities. They have millions to spend. The poor often can’t even afford decent food, and now can’t even afford a home without help.

And, on top of that, there is a strong wave of discrimination against the poor – BECAUSE they are poor. It is beyond shameful: it is pathetic for a society to allow its most vulnerable citizens to be financially raped and grievously harmed in this way.

Most Unequal $tate in the U.S.

https://yesteryearsnews.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/animal_farm-some-animals-are-more-equal-than-others.jpg?w=315&h=386

Remember that line from the book “Animal Farm” by George Orwell? — “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” Of course, that was a statement about people, instead of animals …

A CNN article reports that California has that biggest income disparity in the U.S.. The reasons implied are education and opportunity which are tied to location. See the article here:

http://money.cnn.com/2015/05/05/news/economy/california-unequal/index.html

The article addresses statistical differences, but it doesn’t touch on the hardships experienced by those at the lower end of the income scale – or how opportunity for the lower income folks is actually curtailed by the wealthy – who are often heavily biased against “poor people.”

For example: Many lower income people do not have the educational opportunities the wealthier folks have. Universities are just too expensive. In some areas in the U.S., government and nonprofit programs assist people financially to go to trade schools, junior colleges and even to earn bachelor degrees. Most programs stop there. A person with a bachelor degree should be able to find a good job, right?  Think again.

If you are disabled, it’s even harder to find a decent job – or to become employed at all. If you are an older person, finding work that pays a living wage is next to impossible. Employers (the “wealthy”) discriminate against people because of disability, age and even obesity. Of course, they aren’t going to say that’s the reason, but for anyone in these “classes” who has been turned down for work just knows that is the reason. It’s illegal to discriminate against people because of age or disability … but how does one prove that discrimination? And how can one NOT be poor, when no one will hire them?

The Wealthy Are Screwing People with Housing Costs


TENANTS TOGETHER

I am not currently a member of any tenants organization (or any organization) at this time (although that could change, if there is anything I can do to help, even on a microscopic scale) – but there are organizations that fight for peoples rights – and one of them is Tenants Together – “California’s Statewide Organization for Renter’s Rights”.

The cost of rental housing is increasing faster than wages and larger and larger percentages of peoples’ income are going toward these astronomical (and-rising) costs. Additionally, unscrupulous landlords and charging rents far higher than what many of their properties are worth. Many do not properly repair and maintain these properties, and too many keep getting away with it.

Gouging people who pay for the necessity of having a home … is a demonstration of some of the most despicable behavior of property-owning Americans that is still legal. In many places in California, If you want to live near where you work, “pay up or get lost.” And “pay up” all too often means pay half of your income (or more) for rental housing.

We need to grow and strengthen organizations that fight for the rights of those with lesser income, which includes millions of people who rent homes (because for many, buying a home is just impossible).