Editorials

Tenants say they are being mass evicted. Will Sacramento County help them?

The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors may have a chance to save residents from becoming homeless for the holidays — but it must act quickly.

Tenants of Bell Oaks Apartments say their landlord has sent dozens of them eviction notices. They’re asking the board to approve a moratorium on “no-fault” evictions, where landlords throw out tenants who have done nothing wrong.

Residents facing these immoral evictions desperately need such protections, assuming the county can grant them. Sacramento County Counsel Lisa Travis said in an email that her office needs to determine whether the board has the authority to implement a retroactive moratorium for no-fault evictions. Board member Phil Serna requested the board take up the issue at its next meeting, Nov. 5.

Opinion

A state law capping rent increases and putting new restrictions on evictions goes into effect Jan. 1. The deadline may tempt greedy landlords to bounce tenants in order to hike rents without limit.

Fifty-four tenants at Bell Oaks, which is in Arden Arcade, received 60- and 90-day eviction notices, according to Chad Osborn, an organizer with grassroots renters’ advocacy group Sacramento Tenants Union.

“That means that they will be kicked out right before Thanksgiving, and then before Christmas,” they said. “So we kind of have a moral obligation to make sure that these folks aren’t being put on the street, because a lot of these people are handicapped, on Social Security, fixed incomes.”

Beahm Living Trust owns the complex, according to the county assessor. The Sacramento Bee left voicemails with building managers associated with the property.

Some of the residents have housing vouchers from Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Authority (SHRA.)

Resident Debbie Stollery, 68, told the board during public comment Tuesday that she received a 60-day notice. She said she requested a 30-day extension by certified mail, and despite confirmation that building management received her request, received no official response.

“My rent takes up most of my Social Security check,” she said, adding that she’s partially disabled and has nowhere to go.

In an interview with KCRA, she said she could end up living in a tent.

Another resident told KCRA he had already been homeless before.

“I’m asking you, please do the moratorium, we need help, because it’s going to be a lot more people in our group,” Stollery told the board.

County Deputy County Executive for Social Services Bruce Wagstaff said SHRA and the county Department of Human Assistance are working to provide housing alternatives “for as many as possible that are there.”

Outreach is good, but the problem in our region is that alternatives are hard to come by. The county’s homeless population ballooned 19 percent from 2017 to 2019, to more than 5,500 people. If we allow needless evictions, the trend will continue.

Los Angeles City Council just passed a no-fault eviction moratorium that lasts until the state law goes into effect. The ordinance stalls any no-fault eviction, provided the move-out date has not passed or there is an ongoing lawsuit over the eviction.

State law did not preclude the council from passing the ordinance, according to Star Parsamyan, legislative director for LA Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell.

That’s a positive sign for Sacramento County — if it’s serious about protecting renters.

“If we do nothing, the end of 2019 will see a surge in homelessness because of landlords trying to evade these new protections,” said Osborn.

It’s a valid fear. And it’s easier to help people stay housed than to get them into housing when they’re already on the streets.

“It’s not about a dollar bill. This is our lives,” said resident Migashia Lee, 46, who has lived in the complex five months and pays for housing with a voucher from SHRA. “You know, and if they want to make money, make money somewhere else, but when you come over here to this family-oriented type building, then you’re going to go for a fight, and we’re not leaving.”

LA has set an example. The county should follow it.

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