Mass Evictions in Long Beach so Investors Can Double the Rent
by John Lawrence
A recent LA Times article elucidated how investors are buying up old apartment buildings in Long Beach, evicting current tenants, doing some refurbishing and then doubling the rent for new tenants. These older units had been renting for about $800. a month. There are seniors living there on fixed incomes who can barely pay $800. Nevertheless, it's an investment opportunity for investors in a white hot California housing market. Rents are skyrocketing, and tenants can easily be removed with a 60 day notice because there's no rent control in Long Beach.
The article continues:
Life at The Driftwood apartments was far from perfect. Tenants said the plumbing was prone to leaks and once in a while a cockroach might scamper through the kitchen.
But rent, at $800 or less a month, was doable. And the cream-colored building on Pacific Avenue in Long Beach held special memories.
But in January 2017 the last of those owners died and soon after a commercial brokerage posted an online advertisement: “CBRE is pleased to present The Driftwood Apartments, a 13-unit building located in non-rent control Long Beach.”
The ad said it was a “unique” investment opportunity with rents about 30% below market — the clear implication there was plenty of room to hike.
Orange County investors purchased the property in May 2017, and in January, a firm they hired, Beach Front Property Management, told all residents they had 60 days to leave.
A week later, Beach Front followed with the same notices at another property just two blocks away, and the clock started ticking on what advocates say is an increasingly common crisis for California renters: a mass eviction.
Driven by a white-hot real estate market, investors are snatching up older apartment buildings and clearing out tenants to renovate units and re-market them at sometimes double the rent. Other times, buildings are leveled to build pricier apartments or condos.
Displaced residents must find more expensive lodgings — if they can.
For the dozens of people living at The Driftwood and the unnamed 26-unit complex on Cedar Avenue, the drama played out over the next six months in scenes of quiet desperation and public pleas.
Sources: Nextzen, OpenStreetMap
Emotions of the residents — who include seniors on Social Security, blue-collar workers and college students — could swing from helplessness to anger in the course of a day.
I’Esha Caldwell, 35, who works as an account manager and hair extension specialist, said her blood pressure skyrocketed when she discovered the eviction notice on her door.
Neighbor Victor Chacon, 81, and his wife Marlene, 69, who live on fixed incomes, say they can’t sleep and Victor’s heart problems have worsened.
For Harvey and her daughter, the notice tipped a precarious existence into acute crisis. The 58-year-old cancer survivor struggles with the effects of a stroke, lung disease, diabetes and chronic back pain. Unable to work, she sometimes uses a walker and relies on disability payments of about $911 a month. That makes it a constant challenge to pay the monthly $750 for a one-bedroom with worn brown carpet that smells of their two dogs.
Chadwick has tried to help. But the recent high school graduate said applications for retail jobs turned into dead ends.
Finding another home after their 19 years at The Driftwood looked impossible: In early June, Zillow advertised only three non-subsidized rentals in all of L.A. County for less than $800 — all studios or single rooms.
“We are going to be homeless,” Harvey said, tearing up as she sat on the stairs leading to her apartment.
This is exactly why homelessness is skyrocketing in California. Rents have become unreasonably high. People just can't afford them, and homelessness is the only alternative. For people living paycheck to paycheck it is impossible to come up with first and last month rent plus security deposit when they are forced out of their current rental situation. Rent control in any meaningful way is probably not going to happen. Even if it did, a whole lot of people would not be able to afford the initial rent even if it did not go up.
The only solution is government supported housing or public housing, but politicians and taxpayers are loathe to set aside any money for that unless it's a tourist town and the amount of homelessness starts to overwhelm the tourists. Then business interests might do something. Maybe it will be a coalition of businessmen and billionaires that will solve the problem. In the meantime people are forced out onto the streets or are trying to live in their cars despite city ordinances against that.