On July 24, 2020, demonstrators gathered outside the house of the Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, to request rental protection. (Photo by the Courthouse News Service / Nathan Solis)
LOS ANGELES (CN) – An angry crowd gathered outside the large Getty House in Los Angeles, where Mayor Eric Garcetti lives, and looked for answers to the rent.
The global pandemic has devastated the labor market across the country, and on August 14, the California Judicial Council, the political arm of the state judicial system, could vote to end a nationwide eviction freeze.
Once this protection is removed, non-payment evictions will flood legal systems across the state and tenants will need to contact their local governments for some form of relief.
"Everything is falling apart and Garcetti and the city are doing nothing," said Abel, a 22-year-old former waiter who was released in April and unable to pay his full rent for an apartment he shares with two roommates . Abel does not want his landlord's full name to be published for fear of retaliation from his landlord.
"I'm nothing special, OK. There are a lot of people who can't make a rent. If I become homeless, I'll set up a tent here," Abel said and stomped his foot in front of the mayor's villa.
According to data released in January, around 66,000 people in LA County and 41,000 in the city are homeless. However, these numbers do not take into account the economic impact of Covid-19.
Estimates vary, but hundreds of thousands of LA County tenants could be kicked out of their houses for failure to pay during the pandemic.
Elena Popp, lawyer for the Eviction Defense Network, said Governor Gavin Newsom had given little or no help to tenants across the state, and the only official measure to curb the flood was the Justice Council's Rule 1, which frozen the evictions in March were.
(Photo by the Courthouse News Service / Nathan Solis)
"Rule 1 was a tourniquet on a gaping wound or, to shuffle my metaphors, a 365,000 to 600,000 clearance tsunami that would have hit our shores in the first week of April, May, June or July," said Popp in one Interview. "Our local elected officials looked at this wound and said," Hey, let's put a plaster on it. "
The city of LA pays $ 103 million in rent support to 50,000 randomly selected families. The city pays up to $ 2,000 in rent to tenants who applied to participate in the program last month.
According to city officials, more than 100,000 people applied to open the application window. The program is intended to contain the flood of evictions, but could also have been spent elsewhere, says Gary Blasi, UCLA professor emeritus and lead author of the study "UD Day: Impending Evictions and Homelessness in Los Angeles" by the Luskin Institute for Inequality and Democracy. ”
"This money could have been spent subsidizing unemployed residents," Blasi said in an interview. "It’s really just a $ 100 million transfer to landlords that will only temporarily delay the eviction."
According to the data available, 200,000 to 600,000 people will be displaced at best if the courts again accept illegal applications from detainees.
"This is a really conservative estimate and probably far below the reality of the crisis," said Blasi. He paused to underline how drastic an influx of this number of people who are driven out of their homes would look in a big city like Los Angeles, and wonders why local lawmakers are no longer doing anything.
"Do these people have any idea what's going on around the corner? It will be the biggest civil law event in a modern metropolis," said Blasi.
His study refers to Hoovervilles, the shanty cities that were built for the unemployed during the Great Depression and named after the then president Herbert Hoover.
"My working title for this study was" Avoid the camp "because we go there and it sounds more serious," said Blasi.
Dolores Hernandez from Inglewood spoke on June 27, 2020 during a rent protest in front of her apartment. (Photo by the Courthouse News Service / Nathan Solis)
There has been a booming sound of 200,000 lost jobs in the city of LA since March, an unemployment rate of 20% by June and a rumble of construction cranes that will make up the future home of the LA Rams in front of Dolores Hernandez’s apartment in the city of Inglewood an unemployment rate of 24%.
Last March, her landlord called the police when she tried to hold a tenant meeting in a courtyard outside her home.
Hernandez said she needed to organize under the Lennox-Inglewood Tenants Union to draw attention to necessary repairs in several units of the complex, such as the gaping hole under her sink and mold on her walls from a burst water pipe.
"I have asthma. You want to ignore me," said Hernandez, who worked as a housekeeper until the pandemic. "I told the police when they came to our meeting," Would you like to go to my apartment to see why we are here are outside? "
When she was reached by phone, her landlord Bryan Russo said he called the police to make sure the tenants did not violate the terms of their lease and invite strangers to the property.
"I told the tenants that you have every right to gather," said Russo. "But you can't do it privately because other tenants live here."
His family business bought the apartment less than a year ago and he said city and health inspectors visited the complex, including Hernandez’s one-bedroom unit. Other units in the online listed complex will be upgraded with updated devices, but their unit and some others will remain out of date.
Once completed, NFL games and concerts will take place across the street in SoFi Stadium. Steve Ballmer, owner of LA Clippers, plans to build an adjacent NBA stadium. The development in Inglewood is based on steroids, which causes turmoil in the property market, while Covid-19 has created a unique situation as more people cannot work and cannot pay rent.
The organizer of the Lennox-Inglewood Tenants Union, Tiffany Wallace, who has lived in the neighborhood since elementary school and has been a teacher herself, said that there is real fear of rising rents in the community. She received a rent increase before the pandemic and found that improvements in the area were never intended for residents who had lived there for years.
"It's all about attracting new people. It's hard to see these improvements and see these changes and be happy and remember the years of the shootouts. There is still violence and gunfire," said Wallace during one Solidarity protests in front of Hernandez & # 39; apartment.
"I know that I will be the first to be expelled. But I will be here until the end. Win or lose," said Hernandez.
Russo said he was ready to work with tenants who were in difficult financial times during the pandemic, but Hernandez said he had taken on a combative tone with her.
Protesters gather at the future home of the Los Angeles Rams in Inglewood to respond to rising rents. (Courthouse News Service photo / Nathan Solis)
Other landlords are less formal or forgiving, says lawyer Tyler Anderson from the Los Angeles Center for Community Law and Action, a community organization that offers free legal services and combats the displacement of low-income tenants.
Some of his customers have returned home to find chains or new locks on their front doors, or noisy constructions that tenants are supposed to sell.
"They are mostly low-income tenants who are unable to work from home during the pandemic and are either unable to pay rent or put themselves at risk from the virus," said Anderson.
One of his clients, Laura, an undocumented Mexican living with her family in northeastern LA, said her landlord had threatened to call the police and immigration and customs officials for missing their rent.
Laura's full name is not used to protect her family's well-being, but she said the situation feels like constant harassment that will not subside. Laura thought she had an agreement with her landlord and that he would wait for her husband to find work, but in May the landlord said he wanted to speak. Both she and her husband lost their jobs in the hotel industry during the pandemic.
"He said he wanted the rent and he said go and get the money," Laura said in an interview. "He keeps telling my husband that we are illegal and that he would have no problem driving us out."
Laura lives with her son and she has a family who lives in the United States, but said it would be incredibly difficult to find accommodation if she and her family were evicted.
Popp said the state of California had never passed an eviction moratorium but left the matter to local jurisdictions to decide how they would help tenants. The default rate, ie the number of tenants who do not respond to eviction notices in court, is around 49%.
There are still pending laws, such as AB 1436, that would stop all evictions until the next April or 90 days after the governor's office lifted the state of emergency.
When the Judiciary Council announced earlier this month that it would vote on the eviction ban, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said, “I urge our sister branches to pay attention to this critical work to keep people from the devastating effects of this ban to protect pandemic and its recent resurgence. "
Los Angeles County provides legal assistance to certain unlawful detainees from the county and LA City Hall. Councilors David Ryu and Mike Bonin proposed a ban on vacations and a rental freeze during the pandemic, but no vote has yet been taken. Mayor Garcetti's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
"We are in the middle of a health crisis," said Popp. “Every expert says the best way to smooth the curb is to keep people at home. Orders must be protected on the spot. When people seek shelter on the spot, they must have a place where they can seek shelter. "
"Every landlord who submits a clearance endangers the life of his tenants and the economy."