California should stop prioritizing landlord wealth and keep families in their homes | Opinion

In October of 2022, Nilia Soto and her three children were given a 60-day eviction notice to leave the apartment they had called home for over 12 years. The notice claimed a substantial renovation eviction — major plumbing repair and electrical work, and possibly even tearing down the building. Yet 20 days after moving out, which is hardly enough time for a major renovation, Nilia’s landlord had rented out her apartment for twice as much as what she had paid for it.

As a single mom, finding an affordable home for her family was impossible. The 2022 fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in California was $1,538, up 105.89% from 2000.

Now, Nilia pays three times more than what her previous rent had been, meaning 100% of her paycheck now goes to rent with no money for food or other necessities.

If her circumstances don’t change, how long will it be until Nilia and her children become homeless? How long could any family survive this way?

Across our communities, the rising cost of housing have pushed millions of families to the brink of houselessness, or forced them to live in their cars and in tents on our sidewalks. While we may sometimes struggle to see solutions, one that would have helped Nilia and thousands more like her is in plain view: Senate Bill 567, the Homelessness Prevention Act.


The Act recognizes a simple truth: California spends billions of dollars downstream to help our relatives who have fallen into homelessness, but we must go upstream and take proactive measures by keeping families in their homes. To do this, SB 567 strengthens the 2019 California Tenant Protection Act, expanding protections against the kind of evictions Nilia experienced. If passed, there would be more security for the nearly 3 million lower income renter households in California, who would not as easily be put out on the street through no fault of their own and for no reason other than profit.

Currently, a landlord can initiate a “no fault” eviction if they claim they intend to do significant repairs or move a family member in. However, there is little accountability or oversight, and, as a result, countless families are being displaced. SB 567 would tighten the definition of substantial renovation and allow the tenant to move back in at the same rent if no renovation actually takes place. It would also require that the owner identify which family member is moving in, require that this person stay for a year and prohibit tenant displacement if there is already a vacant apartment. It also lengthens the notice period when an owner is intending to remove the entire building from the market, giving tenants like Nilia more time to plan their next move.

In a state where so many are at risk of homelessness, it is no surprise that about eight in ten Californians support rent protections. Indeed, some progressive critics think that the bill doesn’t go far enough, partly because limits on rent increases were stripped out of an early version. But as this critical law moves through the assembly and to the governor’s desk, the strongest opposition for SB 567 is from the California Apartment Association who argue that we already did enough when we struck a deal for tenant protection a few years back. But look around. Are encampments evidence of success? Are the 1.2 million “extremely low-income” renter households evidence of substantial progress?

Research has shown that forced moves result in higher incidences of anxiety and depression. And children often bear the brunt of this, with frequent moves leading to limited educational attainment, behavioral problems and increased stress. Additionally, evidence shows that women of color, specifically Black women, face evictions at a higher rate.

Californians know that when we pull together, we all do better. The housing and homelessness crisis is no different. It’s up to the state assembly to follow suit and send the bill to Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign.

Joseph Tomás Mckellar is the executive director of PICO California, the largest faith-based community organizing network in the state. Manuel Pastor sits on California’s first Racial Equity Commission and is director of the Equity Research Institute at the University of Southern California and co-author of “Solidarity Economics: Why Mutuality and Movements Matter .”