The displacement crisis unfolding across the region is contributing to regional resegregation and widening racial and socio-economic inequalities. Market-driven investments can force residents to leave their communities and move to suburban jurisdictions far from work, social services, faith communities, and accessible public transit, or to move into overcrowded and substandard housing in their own communities. These displacement pressures and cost of housing make it difficult for low-income communities to meaningfully participate in creating and implementing equitable development policies. Each of these outcomes can have long-term, negative impacts on individual health, family stability, community cohesion, and the climate.
Powerful interests continue to advance an agenda of property rights over human rights, and the real estate lobby in particular is expending considerable political and financial capital to undermine local community efforts to advance equitable policies for renters.
To resist this new geography of injustice, there is a growing regional movement for tenant protections. The Regional Tenant Organizing Network (RTO) was first convened in February 2015 by Causa Justa:: Just Cause, Faith in Action Bay Area, and Urban Habitat. There are currently 19 organizations from six counties represented at the RTO, and 15 of these are engaged in community organizing directly.
RTO has already proven highly effective as a platform for strengthening local campaigns through coordination across jurisdictions, building power at the regional scale, and long-term advocacy at the statewide level.
In November 2016, RTO member organizations in five cities gathered signatures to place rent control and just cause eviction protections before voters, representing an unprecedented regional mobilization for housing rights. Despite massive spending by the real estate industry, two of these measures, in Richmond and Mountain View, passed. Although the measures in San Mateo, Burlingame, and Alameda did not pass, these efforts mark important advances in organizing by working-class people and people of color in suburban jurisdictions. The Residents Insisting on Social Equity (RISE) Coalition in Fremont is working on advancing its own rent control campaign to make sure Fremont is an affordable and diverse city for everyone. And the regional movement for renters’ rights and housing justice continues to grow, with new campaigns emerging in places like Daly City, Union City, and Pacifica.
In the News:
Rent control: Mountain View among six Bay Area cities where residents seek historically elusive statute
MercuryNews.com, July 5, 2016
In Silicon Valley Suburbs, Calls to Limit the Soaring Rents
NYTimes.com, June 11, 2016
The Battle for Fair Housing in the Bay Area: An Interview With Housing Activist Tony Roshan Samara
Truth-out.Org, June 6, 2016