Tenants vs. Alameda: How Low-Income Tenants Challenged Housing Discrimination in Alameda, California

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Cash-strapped urban cities and suburbs seek to redevelop lands make their locality attractive to high-end residential and commercial developers. These redevelopment efforts potentially displace …

Cash-strapped urban cities and suburbs seek to redevelop lands make their locality attractive to high-end residential and commercial developers. These redevelopment efforts potentially displace low-income and disproportionately people of color. In 2004, one month after the opening of new million dollar homes, over 400 low-income and predominantly African American families in the city of Alameda received tenancy termination notices from the property owner of the 615-unit Harbor Island Apartments. Tenants would have between 30 to 90 days to move or otherwise face eviction. The eight previous years, the owner, Florida-based Fifteen Group, allowed the property to slowly deteriorate. Although the city cited the apartments for numerous code violations, lax enforcement, revolving management companies, and lack of concern for low-income tenants made reform difficult. After tenants plead for assistance, the city council filed for an injunction to prevent mass displacement. Although the court ruled the city lacked standing to file suit, the tenant’s struggles led to moving stipends, rental assistance, and increased criticism of Alameda’s exclusionary land use policies. This study examines the factors that led to the exile of hundreds of low-income families in Alameda, how tenants resisted displacement and criminalization that justified displacement. Examining the social and economic forces that exclude poor people and particularly African Americans from the redevelopment efforts in Alameda illustrates the dynamics of gentrification taking place in cities throughout the United States.

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  • Clayton and Delores Guyton, founders of Buena Vista Community Association

Transcript

  • 1. TENANTS V. ALAMEDA:HOW LOW-INCOME TENANTS CHALLENGEDHOUSING DISCRIMINATION INALAMEDA, CALIFORNIAREGINALD L. JAMESDEPARTMENT OF AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDIESUNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA BERKELEYLEGAL STUDIES UNDERGRADUATE CONFERENCEAPRIL 26, 2013
  • 2. ‘FEDERAL SUBSIDIZEDHOUSING AT RISK’ALAMEDA, CALIFORNIA (1987)• In 1964 and 1965, owner of Buena Vista Apartmentsreceived 40-year, low-interest• Subsidized rents for minimum 20 years• After 20 years, owner prepays mortgage and opts outof rent restrictions, plans to double rents• No Rent Controls in Alameda• Tenants plead with City Council, owners• Owners, leaders obtain Section 8 vouchers for 260very low-income residents
  • 3. 1980S HOUSING CRISIS• Expensive California Housing Market• Increased Population Growth• Reduced Federal Housing Funds• Municipality Competition• Low-Cost Housing Competition
  • 4. GUYTON V. ALAMEDA• Low-income tenants sue city of Alameda forland-use policies:• Discrimination against low-income renters• Discrimination against African Americans• Non-compliance with state housing laws• Judge’s preliminarily rules policiesdiscriminate against low-income peoples• Parties eventually settle case out of court
  • 5. RESEARCH QUESTIONS• What encouraged and enabled low-incometenants to pursue litigation during struggle tomaintain affordable housing?• What possibilities and limitations exist withinlegal system to compel localities to adoptinclusionary policies that encourageaffordable housing development?
  • 6. OVERVIEWBackground on Land Use LawsMethodologyHistorical AnalysisConclusionUpdate
  • 7. LAND USE LAWS• Local land use controls• Cities ‘creatures of the state’• State Housing Element Law (1969)• Regional ‘Fair Share’ Housing Needs• Alameda’s ‘Measure A’ (1973)
  • 8. METHODOLOGY• Court Filings• Government Documents• Newspapers• Oral History Interviews
  • 9. ‘The residents of Alameda don’t wantMeasure A tampered with. There willbe no more apartment complexesbuilt in this city.”- Alameda Mayor Chuck Corica (1988)
  • 10. POLITICAL PLIGHT OFLOW INCOME TENANTSLow-income tenants in suburbs face uphillpolitical battle from political elites, homeownersclass and real estate interests• Alameda City Council• Homeowners• Developers
  • 11. JUDICIAL LIMITATIONS• Tenants lack funds for civil litigation• BVCA used Legal Aid Society• Moderate income peoples lack ‘legal aid’• Litigation does not address immediate needs• Litigation can be lengthy• Litigation outcomes unpredictable
  • 12. ‘By filing the suit, Guyton and Henderson hopeto eliminate all city policies that limit the abilityof the city to fulfill its obligations to providehousing for low-income families.They also hope to educate and go at least part ofthe way towafd changing the attitudes of somecity residents who would see Alameda as theexclusive province of middle- and upper-incomehomeowners.’-Michael Rawson, attorney, Legal Aid Society of Alameda County(1989)
  • 13. JUDICIAL POSSIBILITIES• Judge able to revoke localities’ land usecontrols to compel compliance• Anger of homeowners, developers• Desire for local control• Low-income tenants accessed Legal Aid
  • 14. SETTLEMENT• Exemption to Measure A to replace ‘lost’units during Buena Vista conversion• Developers contribute to Affordable HousingDevelopment Fund or provide affordablehousing units for period of 59 years• City will apply for state Rental HousingConstruction Funds• City to pay Legal Aid’s attorneys fees
  • 15. CONCLUSION• Tenants seeking low-income housing facesocial, political, and economic barriers• Cities best positioned to assist development ofaffordable housing through inclusionary landuse policies• Although limited, judicial enforcement bestmechanism to encourage localities to complywith fair share housing laws
  • 16. UPDATE• In 1992, Alameda refused to apply for stateAffordable Housing Funding• From 1995 through 2011, Alameda’s HousingElement did not comply with state law• After Renewed HOPE Housing Advocatesthreatened to sue in 2011, the city of Alamedaadopted Housing Element• Measure A still legally in place, but arguablylimited by state law
  • 17. WHERE ARE THEY NOW?CLAYTON GUYTON MODESSA HENDERSON
  • 18. MORE INFORMATIONTenants v. Alameda:How Low-Income Tenants Challenged HousingDiscrimination in Alameda, Californiahttp://tenantsvsalameda.blogspot.com