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Covid Eviction Crisis

Pasadena Tenants Union

Imagine a false allegation that can throw you out of your house again and again—that is eviction.

600,000 people in LA County were spending 90% of their income on rent prior to the COVID public health and economic crisis. Today, over 300,000 are at risk for eviction in LA County according to the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy. And from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) Homeless Count 2020 data and COVID19 Recovery Plan we see that the inflow into homelessness winds through a foundationally rotten eviction process and system.

Evictions—legal and illegal, judicial and extra-judicial, fall disproportionately hard on the poor, people of color, and women. Recognizing that generations of racial and gender biases have resulted in stagnant or lower wages, women and tenants of color have a great battle with housing costs outpacing wages. I know I was paid less than my male counterparts, but I never received a “chick discount” for my rent. We are having to do more with less. And for women especially, housing means security and independence for their children, for themselves. Many women remain in violent situations because it is safer than winding up homeless.

Even before the service of formal (or formal looking) 30 day or 60 day notices, it is easy to intimidate tenants into surrendering their keys and their home. Much like the criminal justice system is stacked against someone if they are poor, black or brown, and not a member of law enforcement, the eviction process is stacked against the tenant.

That means that even if the landlord is going against local law, the tenent can still lose because tenants must respond, with a legal response in a particular legal form

Serving a tenant with even a bullshit notice to vacate or an unlawful detainer (the formal eviction paperwork) is protected speech. That means that even if the landlord is going against local law, the case can proceed and the tenent can still lose because tenants must respond, with a legal response in a particular legal form, or the tenant loses.

Eviction Tidal Wave

Tenants must respond to the ensuing paperwork, using legal forms usually without the assistance of an attorney. And then the tenant must show up to court, most likely without an attorney, and actually be pressured by the judge to negotiate a settlement with the landlord—even if the case is bullshit and against local law.

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It falls to the judge to dismiss the case, and that is a huge risk. And there is no recourse for incorrect decisions. Because the vast majority of tenants are without an attorney or funds for an attorney, a novel recourse “motion for summary judgement” that could bring an early halt to the case is not utilized.

But that is just one example. There are many other nooks and crannies of the eviction process that render it systemically unjust and deserving of dismantling and rebuilding. It is also one that contributes to the displacement, disappearance, and disenfranchisement of our communities.

The eviction crisis not only harms tenants, but it also harms our public schools, our community supports that rely on long-term residents. Ant it harms our democracy.

Displacement makes political participation difficult if not impossible. And with mail-in ballots being promoted this year by LA County for public health reasons, having an address to receive your mail-in ballot is essential. What do you do if you are in the process of moving or have just moved? If you are trying to find housing or a friend’s couch to crash on, or your family is worried about how to keep your child in school and now also trying to learn from a home the child just lost, elections just don’t seem so urgent. These economic injustices become injustices that harm our great community structures.

While there is “information out there” for tenants with the rise of the tenants' movement and some strong local organizations, non-property owning residents are typically the majority in their city or local area but have no representation in these elected bodies. In fact, most elected bodies work against the interests of tenants as these elected officials are typically landlords themselves, or serve real estate interests in such a manner as to promise maximum return on investment, and high housing costs as a value add to investors.

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e need to address the systemic challenges and rot of the eviction system through a legal, economic, and social justice framework. I hope all freedom seeking individuals, activists and organizations like the ACLU and its members will stand with tenants to keep them in their homes and communities, and to address the eviction process.

#stopCOVIDEvictions #housingcrisis #Evictioncrisis #noevictions

Allison Henry