Experts say rising rents and low vacancies, especially for affordable apartments, are contributing to the increasing numbers of folks living on the streets in Los Angeles. In late July, the nonprofit Coalition for Economic Survival reported that certain kinds of evictions from rent-controlled apartments in L.A. have more than doubled in a year. According to experts, landlords could cash in if they tear down and start over at market rate, which the law allows.
Many Angelenos are desperate to hold on to their homes. Their plight has inspired demonstrations and events through the last weekend of October. The organizers behind the actions, the L.A. Tenants Union, calls the events “Days of Rage.” “We want as many people to come out for the days of action as we can get,” says union member Ben Nicholson, who's helping to organize the events.
The idea, according to a union statement, is to fight “against corrupt property owners, predatory developers and a city government that sells out communities for profit.”
These Days of Rage events are not all about picket signs and halting gentrification, though. Actions include an event Tuesday at which the union will help people apply for cold, hard housing assistance. Thousands of new Section 8 openings in Los Angeles are being made available by lottery.
On Wednesday, the Tenants Union will call on supporters to come to the Westside's Rancho Park neighborhood to call out a landlord who lives in the area. They allege the property owner is responsible for untenable rent increases that are displacing old-school Eastsiders and mariachis in Boyle Heights.
On Friday, the organization is calling on supporters to gather at City Hall to send a message that municipal leadership “has failed to protect tenants in Los Angeles,” according to a union statement. Protesters also will assemble in Hollywood that day to decry new luxury hotels and Airbnb rentals, which the union says are displacing locals.
The union says developers are using tight supply of available apartments in L.A. as an argument for building high-end units that are out of reach for the vast working and middle classes here. The union says new, upper-crust apartment complexes are pushing longtime residents out. “We see it as an eviction crisis, not a housing crisis,” Nicholson says.
“A lot of the groups in favor of developing in the city without regulation use the housing crisis as an excuse,” he says.
The union wants to see stricter rent control, fewer loopholes that allow evictions, and fewer hotel and Airbnb developments and conversions. “We want housing rights for everyone,” Nicholson says.