Op-Ed: For Housing as a Human Right
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!
Do you have an opinion on something local? Share it with us at. The views and opinions expressed in Op-Ed articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of edhat.