Opinion: San Diego faces a looming eviction crisis if the city council doesn’t act

San Diego real estate
A property for rent in University Heights. Photo Credit: Courtesy

San Diego could soon face a looming eviction crisis. California’s moratorium on evictions has just ended for millions of renters who have not applied for a state rent rebate.

Unless the city acts and expands eviction protections in San Diego, thousands of local families will be vulnerable to the traumatic experience of a no-fault eviction and the possibility of homelessness. Renters in San Diego must act immediately to prevent a disaster.

The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment works every day to support tenants at risk of eviction and being harassed by unscrupulous landlords working to evict tenants for dubious, rapacious, and often discriminatory reasons.

In recent months, due to the widespread economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and many other factors, ACCE and other organizations have seen a sharp and steady increase in the number of renters seeking help.

The Legal Aid Society alone, an organization that provides legal assistance to low-income residents, received nearly 1,400 applications for housing assistance between July 2021 and January 2022. This is a steep increase from last year and is in line with pre-pandemic levels, despite eviction moratoria at various levels of government.

Many tenants are just a 60-day eviction notice away from taking to the streets. As a San Diego-area renter, one of the authors, Chantelle Harris, knows firsthand the anxiety people go through when they don’t know if they’ll still have a roof over their heads.

As a child, her family was evicted from their home simply because the landlord no longer wanted to pay for the house. The family moved because the bank accepted a cash offer instead of the offer from their single mother, who was just finishing college. The move left the family devastated.

Eventually, the family moved to a smaller, cramped three-bedroom apartment. The stress and anxiety Harris’ mother was experiencing almost certainly led to the instability in her family’s home.

Landlords throughout the region are also recognizing this crisis. Another author, Ginger Hitzke, owns 455 units in San Diego but grew up renting and knows how disruptive it can be for families to routinely pick up and move.

When Hitzke became an apartment owner, nothing was more important to her than keeping her children in her own apartment until she moved out. If she made her mortgage payment, no one could get her family to leave their 17-year-old home. If the family has moved, it is because they made the decision.

Unfortunately, this is not the reality and for thousands of other renters in a similar situation. Paying thousands of dollars a month to put a roof over your head doesn’t guarantee renters won’t have to move out suddenly and without notice.

Currently, under the City of San Diego’s Right to Know Regulations, renters can be evicted for no fault of their own even if the renter has not violated their lease, has maintained their rent, and was lawfully residing in their home. Even so, a landlord may evict them to move themselves or their family into the home, or “take the home off the market” to draw out low-income tenants and remodel them to charge higher rents.

The fear of the tenants is real and leads to general instability in the family. Putting food on the table and leaving the lights on is hard enough. We should not add to the fear of renters and the burden of struggling families.

Now that government eviction protection has ended for those tenants who have not applied for a rent reduction, action must be taken to prevent thousands of other families from being left on the streets and facing housing insecurity. The right to safe and stable housing should not be a party issue. It’s a human rights issue.

On Monday, San Diego City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera will propose a moratorium on no-fault evictions, and we are calling on the council to approve this necessary relief for tenants. It’s time for the City of San Diego to step up our local emergency response for tenants and promote family resilience because what’s good for tenants and their families is good for San Diego, our state and the country.

Chantelle Harris is a mom with a bachelor’s degree in Business Studies and small business owner. She lives in Lemon Grove. Ginger Hitzke is President of Hitzke Development Corp. in San Diego County and lives in Temecula. Jose Lopez is the director of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment-San Diego. He lives in Imperial Beach.


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