| The Need for Housing
Sep 02, 2009
“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” — Maya Angelou
There are few things more important in life than the need for a roof over one’s head. The very basis of our survival is hinged on adequate housing opportunities. Humans over the centuries have developed many variations on the issue of housing, but one thing remains constant, shelter has always been a necessity for survival.
I believe that housing is a right for all, not a privilege of the few. It is easy for housing to be taken for granted when one already has it. However, there is always a looming possibility that this situation could change, as evidenced by our recent housing foreclosure crisis nationwide. Whether you own or rent, have a house or an apartment, live in suburbia, rural areas, or in a densely populated city, housing is critical to everyone’s existence.
Throughout my legislative career, I have made access to adequate and affordable housing a cornerstone of my work. One of my very first pieces of legislation in the state legislature in 2003 was helping to preserve some of our state’s last remaining affordable housing options. Our legislation, Assembly Bill 1217, became law and allows local governments around the state to prohibit owners of residential hotels from converting these vital housing units for some of our most vulnerable residents—children and families, seniors, the disabled, and the formerly homeless—to other uses through the invocation of the Ellis Act.
California’s onerous Ellis Act was originally adopted in the 1980’s by the state legislature with the intent of allowing long-term landlords to simply “go out of business” should they desire to do so. Unfortunately, the Ellis Act has since been primarily utilized by short-term real estate speculators who are buying up buildings, immediately invoking the Ellis Act, and often leaving stranded families, seniors, and children in order to make a quick profit. I have worked on numerous options to amend the Ellis Act and its flagrant abuse by speculators who are not landlords and will continue to so that more housing options are preserved.
Currently, I am working on two new pieces of legislation in the Senate which will help to alleviate housing displacements for seniors and tenants. Losing one’s home without adequate notice and protections often creates greater difficulties in establishing new housing and can lead to increased numbers in our homeless populations.
Many of our most vulnerable Californians at risk of eviction are seniors who live in residential care facilities. Oftentimes they are not adequately informed of their full range of legal rights, including their right to file a complaint or contest the eviction. Our Senate Bill 781, sponsored by the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, would allow these seniors to have additional protections in notice and information regarding alternative housing prior to being forced to leave their homes.
Senate Bill 290, sponsored by the Western Center for Law and Poverty, would provide continued protection for tenants who are being evicted. Existing law requires landlords to give tenants a notice of 60 days before being forced out of their rental home, when it is for reasons without fault of the tenant. The 60 day notice allows for tenants confronted with these ‘no cause’ or ‘no fault’ evictions to be given adequate time to find new housing opportunities. However, this requirement will permanently expire at the end of 2009 without the passage of our bill, which will keep it in place.
Our work is not yet done to create, provide and protect housing for all of our residents. Safe and secure shelter keeps our communities strong. I will continue to fight for everyone’s right to housing, without which life’s joys, possibilities and aspirations are severely curtailed.
Senator Mark Leno represents the Third Senate District of California, which includes portions of San Francisco and Sonoma Counties and all of Marin County. He can be reached via the web at www.sen.ca.gov/Leno, by phone in the San Francisco District Office at 415-557-1300 or San Rafael District Office at 415-479-6612, or by e-mail, Senator.Leno@senate.ca.gov.
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