Commentary

The commodification of people’s lives has created a housing crisis

Two-thirds of our city are renters — young people, immigrants, families, seniors, all generally not rich. But this city is increasingly becoming suited only for either new wealthy residents or homeowners who were wise/lucky enough to buy a home before the market exploded.

In 2000, the average home in Glendale cost $325,000; now it is beyond $770,000. Access to homeownership — to the middle class — has evaporated for anyone of modest means. We need more housing stock, but what is actually being built? “Prestigious” new luxury apartments with skin-care product names like Brio or Onyx or Altana. They’re very attractive to wealthy folks who want access to downtown LA and the Valley and they start at around $1,900 for a 400-square-foot studio. No working class folks would choose a burden like that, but these units aren’t being built to address our needs.

In the space of a single year, the average rent in Glendale went up almost 10% to $2,215. Property flippers and corporate landlords are scooping up properties, raising rents, digging up the roots of our community to enrich themselves. People who have lived in the same units for decades are being economically evicted with impossible monthly rent increases of $300, $500 or $750.

We hear, “if you can’t afford it, then move away,” which conveniently glosses over the consequences: the exodus of the non-rich is forcing prices up in adjacent cities as we seek someplace close enough to our families and jobs and cultural centers. Traffic congestion increases as commutes lengthen. Local businesses have fewer regulars and close up shop. Our kids have fewer friends near enough for them to build lasting bonds.

The renters of this city made a commitment when we moved here, either a year ago, 20 years ago, or more. We support our local businesses, attend our places of worship, arrange club meetings, vote, run, pray, build, beautify, celebrate, protect this city. It’s time for the city to make a commitment to us.

Rent control is a first step — a rental increase cap of 3% would allow a reasonable return on a landlord’s investment while assuring renters a long-term stake in the community we love. We cannot maintain our roots in the community with the gallows blade of a 40% rent increase hanging over our heads.

The market cannot be the sole arbiter of a basic human right like housing. Human beings are not points of data on a spreadsheet. We are not a commodity. If you love something, you show up for it. You fight for it. And if you take this kind of responsibility, you deserve a place at the table. Conversely, if the only way that you can prosper is to force families out of a city they’ve known and loved for decades, you do not deserve to prosper.

The Glendale City Council just received a petition with the signatures of 11,000 residents demanding rent control, and while the state rejected it on a technicality, we behind that petition are preparing another, stronger one with legal aid right now. If you feel as strongly as I do, I ask you to write to your mayor, your city council, and the Glendale Tenants Union (www.GlendaleTenants.org) to express your support.

MIKE VAN GORDER is a former Glendale City Council candidate and activist involved in forming the Glendale Tenants Union.

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