On the morning of December 16, leaders from Eastside Leads, ACCE, SAJE, and KEEP L.A Housed gathered at the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors meeting. They mobilized to call on elected officials to extend emergency protections for tenants. Many in attendance rescheduled shifts (which is not easy) with their employers to show up in person. Many struggled to secure childcare and be present at the meeting to give their testimonials as constituents.
During COVID, general public comment was itemized at the beginning of the agenda for all meetings. To the community’s surprise, general public comment was suddenly moved to the end of the agenda. The local media covering the story of tenant protections was stunned as well.
What started as a group of 100 or so community members and advocates, dwindled to 30 members by noon. Many had to go to work or leave to pick up kids from school. Organizers ordered food for those who stayed and were hungry.
Tenant leaders were already restless because certain supervisors refused for weeks to meet with them personally. One leader stood up and said, “We cannot wait! We don’t want residents to go homeless; if you don’t extend tenant protections, a lot of tenants will go homeless. We are your constituents, meet with us.”
“What do we want!” shouted another tenant community leader. A crowd made up of tenants shouted in response, “Extend emergency protections for tenants!”
“You are disrupting the meeting, please leave” said LA County Sheriffs at the meeting. Slowly folks were encircled by law enforcement and moved out of the room.
Outside, organizers wrapped up the day with members who were frustrated, waiting there since 7:00 in the morning.
Another tenant shared, “I know they say that they are tired of hearing that we need to extend tenant protections, but it’s the truth! This is the reality we live in! We need elected officials to support tenants! Locally and at the state level! People are losing a place to stay!”
For the rest of December, tenants called on all Los Angeles Board of Supervisors to support extending the emergency tenant protections. Their long-term goal is to organize for permanent protections that will prevent the increasing number of tenants losing housing.
After a round of meetings with elected officials, community groups returned to the LA Board of Supervisors meeting on December 20 to make public comment. A motion was made by Supervisor Holly Mitchell to extend the emergency tenant protections until January 31st, 2023.
Supervisor Hilda Solis added an amendment for a report back on January 31st for a possible extension until June 31st, 2023. The motion also included the creation of a $5 million relief program for “mom and pop” landlords who were, according to Solis, unable to collect rent when emergency tenant protections have been in place.
During public comment, tenants and organizers spoke at length. The community called on county supervisors to pass this motion.
Pamela Agustin from Eastside Leads and a tenant in County District 5 stressed the problems of the ERAP program that has left many tenants in limbo.
“I support the motion to extend for a 30-day report back to extend the extension for 6 more months. I have seen how these tenant protections that you have passed have been a lifeline for families — it’s given the ability for families to stay whole and avoid a family member from becoming houseless.”
Pamela Augustin adds, “We are also waiting on ERAP; over 179 tenants were helped by my organization, and they have not heard from the state.”
A tenant leader with Eastside Leads called on the board to champion more permanent protections. “We ask that tenant protections that end this December 31st be extended for 6 more months. It’s important we come up with permanent protections for tenants. There are thousands of families ending up in the street.”
Carla de Paz organizer with Community Power Collective said, “we are working in Lynwood to figure out how to implement more permanent protections, but a 1-month extension is not going to be enough time. Small cities like Lynwood are waiting to work with the board to get the tools they need to implement permanent protections.”
The LA County Board of Supervisors was moved by the power of these tenants and organizers. The motion passed!
For many this is an important win but it was made resoundingly clear that being okay with tenants losing housing cannot be normalized. Whether Sacramento or local governments across California want to hear it or not, people are suffering. We need action in 2023!
As Carla de Paz said in her public comment to the LA County Board of Supervisors, “the best way to fight homelessness is to keep people housed.”
Community members impacted directly by the ongoing housing crisis and the Keep LA Housed coalition will continue their advocacy this month and beyond.
They will continue to mobilize to ensure that the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors acts to protect tenants. Constituents are being evicted everyday in Los Angeles. Tenants will continue to struggle until we reimagine housing as universal human right.