by Alex Garcia, Community Organizer with CAUSE
As a community organizer I regularly talk to longtime residents about the countless sacrifices they make year after year to keep up with rising rents. I recently met Maria O. in her home where she has lived for the past 11 years with her husband and 3 kids located on the Avenue. I was shocked to hear that in 2016 the new property owner who bought her building raised everyone’s rent $600 dollars extra per month. When I asked how they were able to cope with such a significant rent increase she said, “the only option was to leave or find a renter to sublease a room in our apartment. “ She mentioned that even subletting a room hasn’t solved the issue because the rent keeps rising – they just received another rent increase of $250 earlier this year which has forced them into even harder financial times. To make ends meet they have accrued a lot of credit card debt, have had to ask relatives for loans, and they’ve even had to start difficult conversations with their kids about the possibility of moving out of state where housing is cheaper.
There are thousands of families in similar situations because the 10% state rent cap is simply not enough to keep families in their homes. This is why the Ventura City Council needs to make rent stabilization and other tenant protections a priority this year.
Renters have been raising concerns about the housing crisis, rising rents, and unjust evictions for years. In early 2021, tenants brought forward the need for stronger tenant protections, but ultimately city council decided not to take action. In 2022, renters called on the city council to act once again and they decided to push the conversation for another year. Ventura tenants have been holding their breath hoping this year the city would adopt local laws to protect them from unjust evictions and drastic rent increases, but instead the city council remains apathetic and refuses to make this issue a priority this year and plans to delay once again.
Ventura residents need strong and bold leadership like we’ve seen in Ojai recently. In March, the Ojai City Council listened and acted on the pleas of already displaced tenants and families at the brink of being priced out due to crushing rent prices by passing an ordinance to provide stability to renters with a 4% annual rent cap and relocation assistance of two months or $5,000 for no-fault evictions. Ojai council member Andrew Whitman expressed his support for the ordinance explaining that it provides tenants with some security that their rent is not going to continue to rise dramatically, and that stability will help hundreds of residents stay in their home. Mayor Betsy Stix has described this as a moral responsibility to protect the residents of Ojai since housing prices have continued to increase while wages have not. This is the type of leadership that is desperately needed in the City of Ventura.
The Ventura City Council needs to stop making excuses that there isn’t enough staff capacity to bring forward these protections. If they really wanted to get it done, they would shift their priorities to reflect the will of the people. In reality there’s very little political will in the current council because they are siding with the financial interests of the property owners – in other words they are putting profits over people.
How much more do working families need to suffer before Ventura City Council gets the courage to act on protecting their constituents?