Housing: A Luxury for the Rich?

Across the country, landlords and developers are seizing every opportunity to raise rents, kick out workers and the poor, and bring in families able to pay skyrocketing prices for housing. Housing is becoming a luxury that only the rich can afford.

The U.S. has hit a 51-year low for the number of people who own their own homes, only 62 percent of the population. This means a record number of people are renting, which has given landlords and big real estate companies the excuse to raise rents without any real limits.

In California, the median rental price for a two-bedroom apartment is $2,400 per month, the third highest in the country. In San Francisco, it is $4,000 per month. And the median price for a home in California is 2.5 times greater than the national price. The story is similar in the biggest cities in the country.

The consequence of these astronomical prices has been horrendous for workers. A recent UC Berkeley study shows that about half of all low-income households in the Bay Area are at risk for being priced out of their housing, and may face eviction. And 30 percent of all Bay Area households cannot afford local rents. Nationwide over 25 percent of renters are paying more than 50 percent of their income in rent.

Many workers simply cannot afford to live anywhere near their work. Nationwide people who commute for more than 90 minutes per day is at an all-time record. In California, the number of super-commuters has increased by over 42 percent in the last five years alone, breaking up families and relationships.

Homelessness in big cities is increasing nationwide. California accounts for about 12 percent of the nation’s population, but has more than 20 percent of the nation’s homeless. For every new increase in rent, new families become homeless. Tent cities have been popping up across the country. In Oakland, CA the homeless population has increased over 37 percent in the last two years alone, the vast majority due to housing costs or job loss. Freeway underpasses have started to look like mini cities, which has led to a record number of pedestrian deaths on freeways. The California Department of Transportation has even produced new signs for freeways that say, “Watch For People Walking on Roadways.”

Meanwhile nothing has been done to address any of this. Politicians pretend to offer affordable housing alternatives. But in fact, since 2008 affordable housing development in California has decreased by 66 percent. It’s the same across the country. Politicians cater to big developers, who find all sorts of ways to get around offering affordable housing – raising the income level of what counts as affordable or only offering a few units in a new complex. The waitlists to get access to a reduced rental unit are endless. And there are little to no laws placing restrictions on skyrocketing rents.

The result is that new housing construction is popping up all over the place but it’s only targeting those with high incomes, and is way too expensive for most workers. Developers are seizing every opportunity to make a killing building multi-unit buildings with outrageous rents.

Housing is a necessary part of life and should be guaranteed to every person in society. But under this system of capitalism it is just another way to make a fortune. The number of billionaires who make their money off of rent has been increasing every year as rents go up. All of this extra money being spent on housing is ultimately just going to make the super rich even richer.

When is this going to stop? How many more workers have to pour our entire paychecks into rent? How many more thousands of us will have to move away from our families and friends? How many of us have to become homeless and join a tent city? Soon we are going to have to say that enough is enough. Housing should be a right. But it is a right we are going to have to fight for.

Priced Out of Oakland

According to a recent report by researchers at UC Berkeley, the city of Oakland, CA has one of the fastest growing rates of displacement and gentrification in the country. The outrageous rents and housing prices in San Francisco have spilled over into Oakland, where the median home price has more than doubled since 2011, and rents have increased more than 75% in the last three years.

In 2015, 62% of low-income households in Oakland were at risk of or already facing displacement. From January 2015 to February 2016, an estimated 12,000 eviction notices were served in Oakland, the vast majority to low-income households. To afford an average one-bedroom apartment in Oakland at $3,000 per month, a person needs to make about $120,000 per year – far above the salary of most workers.

The problem goes way beyond those with more money simply moving into Oakland. Affordable housing spending has been cut to the bone. Rent control laws barely exist in Oakland. Large investors have been targeting Bay Area cities to build large housing units to make a killing off the high rent. Ultimately, we’ve been priced out of our own neighborhoods all for the profits of the rich.

 Oakland A’s: Stay at the Coliseum!

The proposal to build a new Oakland A’s stadium near Laney Community College in Oakland, CA would be a disaster for the neighborhood. It will bring higher rents and kick out working families and the poor. The stadium would likely lead to the closing of Laney College as the area transforms into new bars, restaurants, and expensive apartments. And the new developments would likely push out most of Chinatown’s low-income residents.

There is growing opposition to this land grab for the rich. Most Oakland residents oppose the project and think the A’s should stay at the Coliseum. We don’t need their new stadium, bringing high ticket prices and more expensive housing. We must oppose this project and protect Chinatown and Laney College!

From Shelters to Tent Cities

Homeless shelters are being replaced by tent cities across the country. As rents increase in big cities, homeless shelters are being cut back, sometimes even bought and converted into high-priced luxury apartment buildings.

Federal funds for shelters have been cut by more than 50% over the last seven years. In many cases the only place for the homeless to go is a tent city. The majority of those living in the tent cities say they would prefer to live in permanent housing but can’t afford it.

Today the housing crisis in big cities is the worst it’s been since the Great Depression in the 1930s.

Affordable Housing is a Myth

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, only one-third of the nation’s 11.4 million low-income households (with an annual income of less than $20,000 for a family of four) are able to find affordable housing. The rest of the approximately 7.2 million extremely low-income households suffer a crisis every month, cutting back on food, medicine and other necessities.

In New York City, approximately 270,000 families are on a wait list for reduced rent apartments, some for as long as 21 years. In many cities, like Oakland, the waiting lists have been closed for years. Funding for housing assistance has been continuously cut for decades, totaling about 20% in cuts just over the last 15 years. And Trump’s latest budget proposes to cut the Department of Housing and Urban Development by another 17% or $7.7 billion. The reality is affordable housing in this country is a myth.

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