People speaking out for fear of losing their homes. Stone cold faces staring back at them from the city council as they assess the situation. I have never been in a room full of so much uncertainty. Not a smile in the whole room. This was the scene on February 13 at City Hall Meeting in Hayward California. Since then, each City Hall meeting regarding housing has been a sequel to the scene described above.
“I believe a significant part of the problem is the explosive high-income job growth primarily centered in the south bay area commonly known as Silicon Valley and in the City of San Francisco, where the affordability problem is much greater than it is here in Hayward,” said Mayor Barbara Halliday.
Gentrification has hit Hayward, with minimum legislation prepared to protect the afflicted; people are on the brink of leaving their homes. “We are in the midst of a new form of colonization, people forcing people out of their homes.” One gentleman said during his public comments. Followed by a woman who said, “I yield the rest of time, that man before me summed up how I feel.”
More affluent people are ready to pay a higher price for their homes. Management companies are doing what they can to get a piece of that pie, even if their actions aren’t legal. More commonly, exploitation of ignorance of our rights is the best tactic for them to use and not necessarily illegal. This has been the case for the tenants of Solis Gardens apartments and Aloha Gardens.
“When managing properties and or facilities you are an agent of the landlord and must always manage in the best interest of the landlord while abiding by real estate laws. When managing any type of facility safety should also always be a top priority.” Myrna Santos, Assistant Real Estate Manager, Coldwell Banker Richard Ellis (CBRE).
Some companies like FPI management, owners of Solis Gardens and Aloha Gardens apartments think otherwise.
“During a fire last year in February, which one unit was severely damaged with smaller damages in up to 4 other units, ALL units received eviction notices, even units on the unaffected side of the building. Most of my neighbors left out of fear and ignorance,” said Javier Delgado, a resident of Solis gardens.
Evictions are not monitored by the city unless a tenant files a petition to review. Evictions carry a lot of weight on your record and will jeopardize many business decisions in the future. It is very difficult to study the law especially if you are not getting paid for it.
Victoria Alvarado, a tenant of Solis Gardens, says, “It is overwhelming, all the stress over this situation on top of being pregnant, working full time and raising two teenagers.”
Evictions are one tactic; unwarranted rent increases are another. At Solis Gardens, Kathleen Souza, the 69-year-old tenant moved out after receiving a rent increase of 135.7 percent, from $700 to $1,650 without utilities included.
The Hayward Rent Stabilization Ordinance is the most prominent piece of legislature that is helping tenants legally. However, there are still pieces that need revising to increase the range of how many people it can protect.
Many are speaking out and becoming aware of their rights. If you or someone you know has received eviction notice or rent increase, do not panic. There are resources available and organizations ready to help!
El Centro Legal De La Raza is a non-profit organization ensuring access to justice for low-income and immigrant communities through workshops, and legal representation. The Hayward Collective is a grass-roots organization that facilitates workshops and advocates for solutions. Both organizations are constantly represented at each city hall meeting.
At the City Hall meeting held on March 27, Maria Oseguera said, “I’m nervous speaking again at city hall, last time I spoke and paid the rent the next day, management made a remark because I spoke up.” Her original comment was speaking out against her management company charging her extra utilities during the month her family was gone and construction ran rampant at the apartments.
There are countless stories of malicious behavior regarding this one management company, who are in multiple lawsuits including a class action lawsuit regarding tenant harassment and retaliation.
Hayward believes increasing resources for organizations like Eden Council for Hope and Opportunity (ECHO) housing and programs like meditation will help tenants and landlords solve their problems. Mediation takes place with a city employee as the mediator, a neutral host who guides the conversation towards solutions. Both, El Centro Legal de la Raza and Hayward Collective believe otherwise.
Solutions are needed for many: tenants, developers, and landowners. “Many don’t understand that solving the housing crisis means changing the way we live, changing our lifestyles, changing our comfort level living close to each other. Until current Bay Area residents embrace the need to change how we live and support the creation of new housing, this crisis will continue.” David Stark, Public Affairs Director Bay East Association of REALTORS.
The City Council has inherited the Hayward Rent Stabilization Ordinance and must now interpret and adjust to save its citizens. “More people are moving to the Bay Area every year and we need to build enough housing for all of them. Until the supply of housing is able to meet the demand, the problem is likely to continue.” Declared, Council Member Al Mendall.
We are in need of solutions but before we reach that far we need to pull all ideas together from all perspectives. “Council is exploring other creative options to address the housing crisis like: “tiny homes”, increasing the density bonus for affordable developments, flexibility in paying utility and other permit fees, and parkland fee exemptions. But we need more input from students and young people.” Marvin Peixoto.