Monday, November 9, 2015

San Leandro Landlords Want More Money, More Power.

by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

I have been meeting with some tenants in San Leandro where I live.  San Leandro landlords, many of them investment companies and speculators who own thousands of properties in the Bay Area or even nationwide, want more power to raise rents, I reported on this here. The rent board is discussing this issue again at it's next meeting on November 17th (flier above)and will vote on their latest landlord friendly proposal.

Most people know that these boards are landlord friendly despite claims of "netrality".  The problem is, even if a member is a decent person there is no such thing as neutrality in politics, and in the politics we are dealing with here, money and landlordism sets the agenda. As my earlier report mentioned, rents are pricing working and middle class people out of San Leandro and other communities in the Bay Area. People cannot afford to live where they work placing further stress on people and families.

The flier that one of the tenants put together above, explains the immediate issue that is being discussed by the board that will eventually make recommendations to the city council. The increases they want will be based on "Base Rent" which can include all sorts of added fees including u tilities increasing your actual rent by another $200 or more.
I am appealing to any homeowners in San Leandro to come to this meeting and comment under the public speaking period (a short time as they don't want to really hear the public) and speak in support of renters.

If you are one of those people/homeowners that sees a home as human shelter, as a place to live and raise a family as opposed to a commodity to be "flipped" every few years which artificially raises prices for those that actually need a home to live in, it is important to show solidarity with tenants. We all have issues, homeowners are never secure as the Great Depression showed through some 5 million foreclosures.  By supporting each other we can have more power to affect change in our community and beyond.

A small victory here would strengthen tenants as opposed to landlords but most importantly it will encourage other tenants to get involved.  As I commented in a previous piece on this blog, it is not only the cost of rents that weigh heavily on tenants, it is the fear of retribution from landlords if they speak up or complain. As I said, the mass media is not shy about using the term "Terrorism" to describe any opponent of US government policy including labor strikes, but we should make it clear that tenants, often low income people, single women, senior citizens, immigrants, and many people of color in particular, are the victims of landlords' terror tactics. We should not be shy here, if you fear losing the roof over your head for making legitimate complaints about your living conditions that's terrorism.

In the immediate term, the tenants want to drive back this most recent assault on their living standards and security. But what they also demand is a strong rent control provision and all supporters of this can stand with them Tuesday and at the city council.

The views in this commentary are my own but as we should with regard to work and jobs, we demand what we need not what landlords, the hedge fund managers and the corporations deem acceptable. We demand what we need to live a decent life, not what the two Wall Street Parties and their political representatives claim society can afford. We can afford battleships, drones and a military industrial complex that produces more weapons of mass destruction than the rest of the world put together so we can certainly expect decent housing.

Housing should not be in the hands of private industry, hedge fund firms and the like. We must demand and fight for decent and affordable housing for all, this is a human right and only the public sector can accomplish this, profit should not enter in to it. The propaganda of the bankers says otherwise but we see and experience the private sector's failures day in day out.  Blackrock, a money lending outfit was spending $100 million a week buying up foreclosed homes and short sales in the aftermath of the Great Recession and spent billions overall. These were homes that people lost. Normally these big investor landlords don't like buying single family homes as it's too much work, they like their victims under one roof so they can access them more easily. It's cheaper, but the deal was to good, the profits too lucrative.

Every victory can strengthen  and build a movement. Tenants need a strong independent movement that can represent renters in all aspects of their struggle against landlords and use direct action tactics to win their demands rather than relying on the courts and the political set up that is designed to wear people down until they give up. For homeowners, it is in our interests to ensure that all of us have a safe and secure place to live that doesn't drive people in to poverty as it enriches a minority of mostly absentee landlords. While all tenants deserve protection, I am not referring here to a landlord whose parents died and they are fortunate enough to inherit a home, that is another issue.  I am specifically referring to huge real estate speculators and investors, the faceless people who have too much control over our lives.

Some of us enjoy living in San Leandro, we like it here.  Having decent affordable housing for all residents is a social issue and benefits all of us. Come to this meeting and let the tenants, and the board know whose side your on.

If you want a copy of the flier above you can download it here.

To read about the Campaign For Renters' Rights  successful campaign on behalf of Section 8 tenants download this report.

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