By Dr. John E. Warren,
San Diego Voice & Viewpoint Newspaper
There is much discussion today about homelessness. To his credit, President Biden has increased the amounts of the housing subsidies for the second time in his administration in an effort to encourage more landlords to provide more rental housing.
In California alone, it is reported that there are more than 160,000 homeless people on our streets, including families, and that number is growing each day for one simple reason: a lack of strong renter protection laws and the greed on the part of landlords and developers. While we applaud the major steps taken by the City of San Diego in its recent passage and implementation of its Renters Protection Ordinance and strong efforts to get people off the streets and into housing, the problem continues to outgrow the assistance because of one simple but often undiscussed reason: landlord greed.
It’s the landlords in our city and state that have raised rents to the point of making housing almost unobtainable. The rental increases and the deposit requirements outpace the income of many families and individuals seeking housing. The increases in rents since the moratorium on evictions during the pandemic suggest a pattern of attempting to make up for lost time during the eviction freeze.
In the midst of this crisis, there are more and more high rise apartments being built and sitting empty in San Diego while people live on the streets outside of these structures. Let it be known that not all those people are drug addicts, mentally ill, or criminals.
But enough of the problem. Now for some solutions.
First, there is a need to inventory the building permits that have been issued and that are about to be issued for apartment and condo structures in San Diego and all cities with a homelessness or “unsheltered people” issue. Only then will we have an idea of the number of available units existing and under construction. Second, there is a need to look at who is building those units. Most of these projects are being done by deep pocket investors. While there are some agreements on mixed use of these projects with some set aside for mixed income housing, there is a need for improvement and strengthening such requirements. Third, the use of credit information and deposits must be tightened up including how evictions on the records of potential renters are handled by prospective landlords.
For example, we know that when the Moratorium on evictions was lifted following the pandemic, many landlords implemented pending evictions. That part on the records of people seeking new housing can not be overcome without some interceding legislation noting the circumstances behind the eviction itself. Many of these issues must be looked at from local, state and federal legislative levels. These efforts, plus the dollars being put into housing will make a difference and produce some real results.
Politicians will not do this on their own. Too many are captives of the “Kryptonite” of wealthy contributors.
These efforts will have to come from the grassroots level of “We the People” with some organized efforts before such people become homeless themselves. Where will you be involved?