Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

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By Aaron Kopperman

With the eviction moratorium ending in June, landlords are gearing up to kick out as many tenants as possible who can’t pay rent, to replace them with those who can. This will accelerate and worsen Santa Barbara’s already terrible and racist gentrification problem. As the comments section of any housing-related social media post will show you, it seems everyone knows there’s a housing problem here in SB,and everyone seems to have a solution. Conservatives want developer de-regulation, implying that the magical Free Market will solve the issue by the Law of Supply and Demand. Liberals want to allow developers to build more housing, implying that if more gets built, inevitably there will be more affordable housing. 

According to Mayor Murillo, nearly 60% of those who live in the City of Santa Barbara are renters. A much smaller percentage, even among homeowners, could be considered landlords/developers. Why, then, are both Liberal and Conservative solutions financially beneficial to developers, while the well-being of the majority of Santa Barbara residents is treated as an afterthought? 

There are plenty of so-called progressives here in Santa Barbara who rally local politicians to provide temporary band-aids, such as extending the COVID eviction moratorium, and forcing landlords to provide relocation assistance in cases of a no-fault eviction. These are victories, but do nothing to challenge the actual power landlords and developers hold, as made evident by their continued use of loopholes, even during the pandemic. We’ve heard countless stories of landlords “soft-evicting” tenants through inconveniences such as frequent “repairs”, claims of a family member needing to move in, and outright harassment. 

We don’t need more city council meetings begging for more band-aids. We need to make housing a human right, a fully de-commodified public good guaranteed to all.

For this to happen, we need a militant tenant movement to flex the power we do have over landlords/developers - people power. 

What this means is a massive number of tenants (like you and me!) willing to organize into tenant associations with their neighbors to bargain collectively with landlords. These local tenant associations can collectively use different tactics, including the withholding of rent, to flex some real power against abusive landlords. We at Santa Barbara Tenants Union are here to assist in the formation of tenant associations, and facilitate the bargaining process with direct guidance from tenants.

Historically, the biggest gains have been made not by asking for power, but by seizing it. 

There are over 65,000 tenants in Santa Barbara, and if all of us were to unite into a single fighting organization, we could stop every rent hike, every eviction, and every instance of landlord harassment and abuse. We could flex our people power to reduce the landlord lobby influence in local government, and rewrite every law to benefit us as tenants. This is only possible if more tenants join us and get active. 

Join the Santa Barbara Tenants Union if you want to become an active member of a fighting organization led and funded exclusively for and by tenants who wish to make housing a human right!

tinyURL.com/joinSBTU  /   [email protected]


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74 Comments

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SoCalMommy May 07, 2021 12:14 PM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

RENT CONTROL is needed! The prices of rentals - most of which are 40+ years old - are astronomical.

Ahchooo May 07, 2021 02:26 PM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

There is limited supply of housing in SB, and seemingly infinite demand. No amount of new building is going to result in affordable rentals, because land and construction costs are very high. Landlords often have high expenses, especially if they bought their properties in recent years. Maybe there could be some sort of rent control whereby the rent is set at a specific percentage above the actual costs to the landlord...but I don’t see that happening.

dukemunson May 07, 2021 02:31 PM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

We live in a highly desirable spot! This is true the world over...

Pop over to Fresno or Bakersfield if your looking for affordability...

a-1620426114 May 07, 2021 03:21 PM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

Duke, I think you're being a bit SB-myopic. Did you see this headline from the Fresno Bee? Fresno rent increases are biggest in the country — and some workers ‘just can’t pay’

dukemunson May 07, 2021 03:40 PM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

I did read that article! I guess it's all what you focus on, right? I kind of focused on the quote just above that one that said her three bedroom house is $945 per month. Or earlier in that article where two bedroom apartments in Fresno are $725 per month.

letmego May 10, 2021 11:30 AM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

My house is 70+ years old, and mortgage, prop tax, and insurance would be $4700/ month if you tried to buy it today. Still is $3500/ month, and THAT, my friend, is why that's the price to rent a 2BR 1BA house with a very small yard.

CoastWatch May 07, 2021 12:17 PM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

Ummm. In case the poster of this Op Ed hasn't noticed, there is a limited amount of land for housing when you have the Los Padres forest/ Mountains on one side and the Pacific on the other... The Santa Barbara Housing Authority has used it's political clout and bully tactics to take over apartments and create high density and low income, State parolee and drug/alcohol housing all over the City. In fact, more than 20% of all housing in Santa Barbara is taxpayer subsidized... Should it be 50%?, 75%...? I would actually love to live in Pacific Palisades or Malibu- Should I DEMAND my human right to housing there....? Don't be ridiculous. Many, including myself, rented outside of SB for years, then bought a fixer-upper outside of SB (2x) before being able to buy IN SB- It's called personal responsibility- Try it in your life rather than demanding entitlements.

FernaldPoint93108 May 07, 2021 12:31 PM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

What does “housing is a human right” actually mean? Everyone should be given a free place to stay if they can’t or don’t want to pay for one?

d8vanilla May 07, 2021 01:15 PM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

The landlords still have to pay their mortgage, insurance and upgrades when needed, and whatever else. How can they afford to keep their rentals, if they can't charge rent??

d8vanilla May 07, 2021 01:18 PM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

And, the landlords still have to support their own family..... Why should they have to support the tenants / squatters too? OK - where do I sign up for FREE housing, or should I just move into a nice house, and stop paying rent??

bosco May 07, 2021 01:50 PM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

I will refrain from commenting specifically on the OP here. However, I have always felt that there needs to be some form of dissociation from housing being used as a financial tool. A home should be a place for people to live and not an investment or sole source of income. With too many investors, landlords, developers, etc. looking at housing as a purely financial tool there is a strong force to push housing prices up and up. I have always wondered what the nation would look like if rental properties were limited. Maybe allowing people to only own one rental property and prohibit landlords living out of the area. There would still be rental property for people that need it but people and institutions could no longer generate huge profits from owning multiple properties. Local prices would still be driven by supply and demand, but the supply wouldn't be constrained by investors and landlords. Real estate would be freed up and prices would balance to the point many could afford a home. I agree that housing is a right. I don't agree with housing being free, unionized, or subsidized by the government, but we should stop looking at our homes as investments and sources of income. For the record, I am a homeowner.

kohn1 May 07, 2021 02:08 PM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

Hey BOSCO...Allowing people to only own 1 rental property and prohibit landlords from living outside the area? Sounds an awful lot like Big Brother to me.

a-1620422422 May 07, 2021 02:20 PM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

There is a lot of truth to that, Bosco. The stock market is over-heated so investors, institutional and foreign as well as individual, are buying US housing. They're driving prices even higher, and competing against families, who can't overbid the way an investor can. This is happening in this area, too. Lot of investors buying property right now, and the inventory is super low, so prices are way up.

citizenSB May 07, 2021 04:47 PM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

Shanghai does exactly that, it limits the number of properties a person can own to 2. It also limits the total square a person can own (I think it is 1,200 sq feet). But it hasn't worked property prices are still very high. In 2020 the average price was $1,667 per sq foot. So for a small 1,000 sq ft 2 bedroom $1,6M -- and that would be an apartment with no yard.

jak May 08, 2021 05:52 PM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

Citizensb, Shanghai as a model to aspire to? Really? Nice place. Only took 100 million deaths to get it to where it’s at today.

PitMix May 10, 2021 09:43 AM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

Wow Jak, 100M deaths over housing? Because historical deaths over famine or other reasons don't really relate to this discussion. Not that facts matter anymore.

Rypert Johnson May 07, 2021 01:52 PM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

I think he's trying to say the "houseless neighbors" illegally squatting in Isla Vista's People's Park should be allowed to stay indefinitely. That's just one of many examples I'm gathering from this op-ed.

dukemunson May 07, 2021 02:09 PM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

It's interesting/scary when people start openly posting about "SEIZING POWER". I guess Aaron didn't take many history classes during his time in Isla Vista...then again it's UCSB so maybe he did...

Chip of SB May 07, 2021 03:15 PM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

This is not a new idea. New York City was a pioneer for rent control and other tenants rights measures following WWII. Here is an interesting New York Times article from 1976 about how that turned out.

https://www.nytimes.com/1976/04/12/archives/housing-abandonment-spreads-in-bronx-and-parts-of-brooklyn-housing.html

Roger May 07, 2021 04:31 PM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

There's gonna be alot of homeless mother fockers out there starting cooking fires people that don't even have enough moola to get on a greyhound and get the flock out of this rich mans town...Don't cry
anymore about how they are ruining your day. You have no right you farted out your heart this morning when you were doing your B.M. while enjoying your latte supreme sitting upon your golden thrones.

citizenSB May 07, 2021 04:56 PM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

There is plenty of affordable housing --
Bakersfield -- average home price $160K average rent $1k/month.
If that is too expensive Wichita, Kansas -- average home price $60K rent $700/month.
If enough people moved out of Santa Barbara the prices would have to go down. Start a movement -- move out.

citizenSB May 10, 2021 07:55 AM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

The are many places, including Bakersfield that you can live well on service jobs.
When I was a waitress in Santa Barbara I shared an apartment with others and did not have a car but life was good.

Andrea Smith May 07, 2021 05:36 PM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

Yes, they are going to kick you out for someone who pays rent. It's a no brainer. You make enough on unemployment, likely more than you did before Covid so you should be able to pay, if you were able to pay before. There are plenty of jobs out there, businesses are having problems hiring so there are no more excuses. Pay your rent or you don't get to squat.

Andrea Smith May 07, 2021 05:38 PM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

And PS I am a renter and I think it's ridiculous at this point considering how many jobs are out there, how much unemployment is paying, that anyone can't pay rent especially if they paid it before they got the extra $$$ from unemployment.

OGSB May 07, 2021 06:15 PM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

Unemployment pays shit, unless you were making almost nothing to begin with, then maybe the extra $300 a week is more. Still not even close to enough to even rent a room in SB. I DO agree that if you don't pay your rent then you need to go... It's not a landlord's job to support you.

Andrea Smith May 07, 2021 05:37 PM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

And, it's possible that once the unpaying renters are removed, many more units will open up and rents likely or hopefully will go down.

OAITW May 07, 2021 06:08 PM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

Renters such as Aaron need to have a shift in perception when it comes to landlords. Rather than viewing them as evil greedy people preying on the poor defenseless tenants, perhaps the should be viewed as benefactors who are the ones who make it possible for tenants to live in Santa Barbara. How many tenants would be able to buy the properties that they live in. How many have the long income history and high credit score that would qualify them for a mortgage. How many have the 20% down payment sitting in the bank. Renters choose to live in Santa Barbara, one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world. No one is forcing you to live here. It is your choice.

oops May 07, 2021 06:23 PM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

you can't install artificial controls. The market place will eventually figure it out. If you can't afford to live here, find someplace you can, make a killing and come back if you so choose. There is no entitlement living in SB. Folks in other places enjoy their quality of life, people naturally acclimate to what works best.

Roger May 07, 2021 08:33 PM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

Wow there is going to be alot more homeless the poverty pimps will be revealed maybe they should move to Basersfield with the yuppies..

AwareHuman May 07, 2021 11:35 PM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

Fact is many landlords are greedy and buy multiple properties, then fail to maintain their bounty, or do the bare minimum. They collect large damage deposits which they are loathe to return. They can collect interest on this largesse. Tenants cannot. Fairness and decency ate sorely lacking....if you have an honorable , local owner....count your blessing. A tenant who pays their rent regularly and honors the rules of the lease should be treated with respect, and repairs & maintenance not deferred
Again, if you're are lucky ,& in a rarefied situation, please refrain from nasty comments about moving to Fresno . Greed is what allows Santa Barbara from being a real community. The wealthy rule and are happily being snarky & judgmental . Making those who lack a hefty cash flow feel even worse is unkind and results in a very splintered NONcommunity. Next time your auto needs a repair, thank the mechanic who probably drives here from Lompoc....or the clerk at the grocery store who surely struggles to pay rent in SB....and so on. What if they all move to Fresno? Who will do your hair, cook your restaurant food, provide for your clean streets, patrol those same streets and so on. We rely on one another, and WE must recognize & honor all denizens instead of insulting the ones who are not Uber wealthy. If there's a huge natural disaster, many of the functional (not an oxymoron) homeless will have the survival skills & knowledge you will need. The tourists won't . So, be respectful and try some kindness. The Norwegians (in the top five again for happiness and health) have a word that guides their successful country and it means "no one is beneath me or above me.". That is wise, and true...but not acknowledged here. A tenant organization, therefore, is a necessity.

dukemunson May 08, 2021 07:37 AM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

Aware - the problem is you aren’t factoring in (or considering) that Santa Barbara is a wildly desirable place to live... more so than Fresno or Bakersfield. Beautiful/desirable places cost more. It’s pretty straight forward. When I lived in London I would have loved to be in zone 1... Finances though dictated zone 4 and an hour plus travel time. Using your Norway example, rents in Oslo are dramatically higher than Trondheim. It’s life. Most people get to choose, there are tons of jobs available right now in places that are dramatically cheaper than Santa Barbara. But if you choose to live in Santa Barbara (as presumably we all do), it does come with correlating higher living expense. Such is the rub of enjoying (and living in) the American Riviera. I could move to Fresno or Phoenix and have a house that was twice the size and half the cost (with a pool and a new car to boot)... like a couple of friends I know... who are happy! But... they don’t have campus point or east beach. Keep your boat and quad...I’ll take our coast (and the correlating cost) over those toys (experienced in 112 degrees of course). There are much cheaper options 60 minutes away from places Like la Jolla or Presidio heights or zone 1 or the 16th arrondissement... one must choose what they want and value.

CoastWatch May 08, 2021 09:06 AM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

@AWARE- Not sure if you are "aware", but auto mechanics and other skilled trades make a livable and significant wages... It's the recent "graduates" from UCSB whose parents paid for their "education college experience" and now that they are in the REAL WORLD, expect entitlements like high paying jobs, a new car, wardrobe, and afford rent in the area they WANT to stay in....base simply on a piece of paper that states a B.A. or Master Degree... It appears as if the OP is of a similar background, he has been taught that entitlements are part of life. What I don't get is that he is a white kid and state that the S.B. housing situation is "racist"... I guess that taught that in College too.

Roger May 08, 2021 05:58 AM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

Most of you enjoy having service workers aka slaves pampering you then going back to Bakersfield at the end of their shifts some of us choose to stay retire or become disabled.. Just like everyone else what you want and what you get are 2 different things this is a FREE COUNTRY If you don't like it move to Russia.

FernaldPoint93108 May 08, 2021 07:29 AM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

Ironically the Op-Ed poster moved from low rent Bakersfield to live in high rent Santa Barbara. His Facebook page encourages defunding the police, banning guns, eliminating all student debt, and declaring racism a public health emergency.

dukemunson May 08, 2021 07:46 AM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

Well... If you are going to demand/seize free education and housing... definitely makes more sense to demand it of UCSB and Santa Barbara than Cal State Bakersfield....

dukemunson May 10, 2021 10:48 AM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

Pit - well, the quote is:

We need to make housing a human right, a fully de-commodified public good guaranteed to all.

How do you read that? I read that as a guy who chose a stunning spot to go to school and now wants to be subsidised to stay here forever...

PitMix May 10, 2021 01:34 PM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

Duke, still not asking for free stuff. Aaron is just saying that free-market capitalism doesn't work very well in areas where people can create monopolies or it isn't a commodity that can be avoided like eating, breathing, or living. Personally I feel that overpopulation has made many of these problems much worse, but I don't know of a positive solution to that.

dukemunson May 10, 2021 01:46 PM
Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right

Pitmix - I can't believe I'm saying this, but...YES...I agree with you... overpopulation is the long term problem facing us all.

As for housing, again...free market capitalism does work, and is working...it's just not working the way a 20 year old from Bakersfield wants it to be working. It's silly to think you can simply move to a highly desirably (and as such expensive spot) and expect to pay the same rent as the wildly less desirable place you are coming from. It's not only wildly silly and narcissitic...it's downright ridiculous. There is a finite amount of housing in SB...

And again, as per the OP "seize power to make housing a human right, a fully de-commodified public good guaranteed to all." So you are right...not asking for free stuff...DEMANDING IT!!

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