L.A. Times presents Coronavirus in California
Hi I'm Gustavo Arianna with the Los Angeles Times if you liked listening to this is California at the battle. One eighty seven. I want to tell you about another La Times podcast. That I think you'll want to listen to and subscribed to I'm the host. And the PODCAST is called Corona virus in California stories on the front lines every weekday. I'll come to you with dispatches from Californians in the thick of this pandemic which is to say all of us we'll hear from nurses and teachers athletes and parents people from crescent city to Costa Mesa. All reach out to my colleagues at times to get reports from the field. We'll bring you stories that tell you what's actually happening out there in our golden state that make you feel less alone that prepare you for what's to come as you listen to this episode of Corona Virus in California. And if you like what you hear subscribed to the shore and Apple podcasts. Spotify or wherever you listen to your podcast you can also find a link in the episode notes from the Los Angeles Times. This is corona virus in California stories from the frontlines able to pay rent on April first. What about where? Will you get the money to pay for? Food medications necessities. What about your neighbors? Your family your friends. Housing affordability is always a huge issue across the state of course but now corona viruses forcing all Californians to ask those questions there on the homepage of the La Tenants Union. A group devoted to fighting for the rights of renters in Los Angeles. Here about sixty three percent of angelenos. Don't own their own homes. It's one of the highest populations of renters in the United States. Politicians are scrambling to help Californians pay mortgages rents but the Elliott tenants union is calling for landlords to forgive all rents for those who can't pay it because of this damned pandemic the idea might sound radical. But it's a proposal that more and more people are crossed the state not only want to hear about but would love to see happen to explain their 'cause I'm joined by Elliott Tenants Union activists. Being Need Louise let me ask you the question. Your group poses to me that were you and your neighbors family and friends able to pay ran on April first or speak to the building of now. We're all organized here in checked in with everybody and everyone was able to pay rent this month only because our landlord is a small mom and pop owner. They keep rents about fifteen hundred below market. Rate you're an echo park and so we're able to a afford these rents have a two bedroom and I'm I'm paying fifteen hundred below market rate. But I don't know what this means for next month. I don't know if I'll have a job. So this is where the choice between food and medicine and supplies versus rent comes into and that's affected tens of thousands of tenants across Los Angeles. Already with this. What are they telling you about their situation right now? Well they've lost their when mayor. Garcetti and governor newsom sheets. Dan home orders on March nineteenth. A lot of places closed in fact. I was getting a haircut at the time. And the place closed right as they were issuing the orders Those Barbara's went home and they have not been working since and so the tenants union launched a campaign called food not rent or we the the. No it's a guide that helps tenants. Kinda worked through some of these issues and protect themselves because after may thirty first landlords will be able to file a victim even if they've lost work to corona virus or they've gotten sick from the corona virus. Yeah so tell us a story about maybe a family that reflects their struggle to be able to pay the rent right now in this time of Corona virus. There's one tenant that I'm very worried about his wife and kids and he was working in a restaurant in downtown and after the restaurant closed down he you know he was essentially living. Check the check as a bus boy and he also doesn't have papers so he's he's terrified so he's been you know asking neighbors tour and France for short loans to be able to pay the rent and I've asked that he really needs to think about this because he these paying the rent and he's not able to put food on the table without working. You know what is he going to do? This case is special because he doesn't have papers so there's an added level of of Tara for him but there's other stories just like his as well. There are so many in the last God in the last three or four day. We've got hundreds of emails from people who work in the economy from people who were selling food out in those street vendors. We've gotten contacted from You know from all walks of life in Los Angeles enabled to pay for rent because of the stay at home orders and it's unfair that tenets are forced to stay home unable to work and unable to pay rent and still be able to be a victim by their landlord. Tenants are coming together. There are some that are helping each other out with delivering food to their neighbors who are elderly so these are just. Some of the intense situations and tenants are facing. So what are the right of tenants of especially right now to stay where they are? Despite not being able to pay rent basically the stay at home owners issued protects tenants Until may thirty first there are no lockouts. Alonzo cannot file individually against you you do. You won't get overcharged for any late fees or having extra people in your apartment but you do need to let your landlord. Oh in written that the chronic virus has affected you so that you can later use that if you're landlords is is to take you to court in June as a defense and that's where you begin to provide proof you lost your job. You'll have to present that to the court for now. It's just a temporary. Stay on injections so California. Governor Gavin newsom ordered that statewide ban on fictions caused by corona virus and Merrick are here in Los Angeles announce that landlords can increase rent on over the half million apartments under the cities rent stabilization programs. So what are your thoughts on their on their measures. You know the the measures don't go far enough in the crisis we are in now. These orders that they issue would have been great ten years ago or five years ago to address the housing affordability prices and that has resulted in sixty thousand homeless in in Los Angeles alone. And so now. We're in a new crisis now with Kobe. Nineteen so the governor us more responsible in this. He has more powers as the governor to issue a blanket moratorium on all victims no matter what our city local city council members took a vote last week and we came one. Vote Short from a blanket. Moratorium on all fictions I blame council members like You know Mitchell Farrell and Council president nor Martinez. With that. Why do you think there were opposed to that? Well it's interesting. They were more concerned with landlords and they were more concerned. That tenants would take advantage of the situation. By now paying rent and having a not being able to be affected by their landlords so landlords they would argue You know your your group is asking. For forgiveness of rendering corona virus and those landlords would most likely say that rent forgiveness would bankrupt them with put them out of business. What would be your response to them? You know I feel a lot for the mom and pop. But on Lord's own one building two buildings and a pretty fair to their tenants you know. I have no sympathy for corporate developers in corporate boards. Who are buying up all these buildings and victim of their tenants but it's much easier for a landlord to find some kind of forgiveness with the bank. You know we have already seen governor newsom issue of you know a wave mortgage payments for six months and in the case of Bank of America. Only three months you know. They're they're a much better position have equity in their home. But I I you know I still feel for the small mom and pops they should be also part of this Rent forgiveness that interesting actually. Good Union of two. Would you would think it's two completely different sides. I I know the L A tenants union has waged rent strikes in the past but I think a lot of folks can't even comprehend of that idea so talk a little bit about a wet. What a red strike is and whether they can be successful rent strikes have been successful for the tenants. Union before the cove in nineteen crisis rent strikes were used as a way for collective bargaining. They're technically not illegal. If a judge rules in favor of the tenant I wow yes so so. I organized a rent strike at Burlington building. Which is about two hundred families have a neighborhood. It was here in West Lane and also the mud gotcha in In Boyle Heights as well So some of those cases went to court but the conditions of the building were so terrible that the judge ruled in favor of the tenants with the Reno reduced rents and made their rent strike legal. In the case of Burlington we went nine cases to court. Six of them we wan rent strike at three of them. We lost but it's still risky so eventually the landlord dropped all those cases. There were like eighty nine hundred cases that dislike dropped and they got to keep six months of rent during that Red Stripe and this case we have something completely different. It's more organic rent. Strike out of necessity again are not paying rent. Not because they don't want to because they have stayed homeowners the business closed. There is a complete shutdown so this is more of an organic thing that's happening and I think this will only get worse next month. Those who were living check to check in April and you know are not gonNa make it this month. They won't be able to pay and those who have a little bit. That are a little more well to do their jobs and may will be able to pay Dan. So this is only going to increase as time goes on. I don't know that this stay at home. Order will be done in a postseason. You may so. I don't know how much longer this will go on so for a group like yours. You see an opportunity to be able to help tenants if they do. WanNa do a rent strike. Yes it this is. This is the moment where this crisis has exposed. How unfair and the lack of protections tenants have this is not a question. This is a political question. And and it's it's a moment that tenants have to ask themselves. I lost my job. I can't pay my rent in my entitled to my whole and those tenants who are targeted by corporate developers for evictions are the ones that felt that the most usually those communities that are being gentrified but now everyone is feeling it so this is an important moment and I think we cannot miss this moment. Yeah I was GonNa ask you about gentrification obviously housing rates through the roof over the past decade or so a lot of gentrification in downtown in the east side the really side of La at least. How do you see this corona virus crisis affecting all of those different housing movements? While I think it's just going to supercharge them like I said we've had Hundreds at least in our local alone. We've had hundreds of emails tenants who cannot pay their rent and we're talking a lot of people that work in the GIG economy. I mean just a whole range from working class poor to lower middle class and so this is just you know it's just really supercharge. The organizing and people are waking up. Like wait a minute. You know the situation here in L. A. is terrible with rents and with the lack of protections for tenants and affordability. You know things have to change. And it's just things cannot continue the way they are and the governor and the Mayor Local Government and state government are only providing solutions. That would have worked for the previous crisis of affordability. We need something stronger now. And that's not going to happen without tenants coming together so right now in your apartment complex. A lot of you're staying at home. What's the mood like like? How do you folks interact with each other at all in at your apartment? Well there's only four units in my building so we do keep a distance from each other We do sometimes leave notes on each other's doors or slip them under the door. We want to communicate We HAVE SET UP. Watts threads in other buildings. There are twelve twenty units and that were. They're all able to communicate with each other. So the that's the method of communication between your neighbors is very very important. So you said earlier tents especially in southern California they could vary wildly from a retiree on the West side to documented folks to even hipsters. Do you see this corona virus crisis uniting these disparate groups under the banner of not being able to pay rent. Yes absolutely this is again. This is a unique opportunity to really build a movement. That is just not citywide but it state-wide it was already happening before the groundwork has already been laid out and and and this is the moment to really just catcher all that that angst and all that worry and really put hard questions to people. The old system work. How easy is it for you to lose your home if there is no human right to housing? And it's a privilege for you to have your home than that privilege so. This is an important moment that I think is an inflection point for anyone who rents in the city of L. A. And it brings everybody together rich or poor black or brown. I mean this is how we have to see the landscape. Thank you so much for this interview. Absolutely ridiculous though. Thanks for listening to listen to the rest of grown virus in California stories from the front lines subscribed today on Apple podcast Badeah Fi. Or wherever you get your podcasts. See you there and stay safe.