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Antioch residents rally against rent increases | Antioch

Antioch About 65 activists rallied recently to demand safe and affordable housing and an immediate end to what they called “extortionate” rent increases.

Low-income tenants of the Delta Pines and Casa Blanca apartments, two government-subsidized affordable housing buildings, face potential displacement after their landlord recently raised monthly rents by up to $500.

Organized by East County Regional Group (ECRG), First 5 Contra Costa and The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, protesters gathered in the nearby Lowe parking lot, then marched to the Delta Pines apartments while holding up signs and singing. People spoke at the rally about their first-hand experiences with unaffordable rents, fears of eviction and harassment from landlords. Speakers also discussed survey data showing the need for tenant protection for families in Antioch.

Residents of Delta Pines and Case Blanca aren’t the only ones facing sudden rent increases. A new survey of Antioch residents reveals that rent hikes and housing instability are widespread across the city. Seventy-nine percent of tenants say they worry about rent increases, while 68% worry about being able to pay their current rent. Local ECRG parent advocates, sponsored by First 5 Contra Costa, conducted the community survey with more than 1,000 Antioch residents to understand their housing challenges and needs.

Lack of access to stable housing “is a threat to our basic humanity,” said Rocheall Pierre, a resident of Antioch and ECRG member. “Living in Antioch challenges every parent, no matter where they are from or what their income, to find a safe and dignified place to raise their family. I live in a corporate owned building and am paying $1800 for a one bedroom apartment for me and my son. After the rent, there is not enough left to cover emergency expenses. I had to take out payday loans, which put me in more debt. Antioch’s housing system is broken and it prioritizes landlords over local families.

The new report “Antioch CHANGE: A Community Housing Assessment of Needs, Gaps and Equity in Antioch, California” is a partnership between ECRG, First 5 Contra Costa, Healthy & Active Before 5 and Urban Habitat. Survey responses were collected in 2021, and the process was guided by resident leadership and community-based participatory research principles. Although the survey can be completed online, 81% of responses were collected individually by ECRG leaders using tablets and paper surveys. The survey was conducted through social media, telephone banking, door-to-door, and discussions with residents at events, vaccination sites, laundromats, grocery stores, parks, clinics, churches and local service organizations.

Key findings of the report include:

• Respondents paid an average of 63% of their monthly income in rent, leaving little for food, medicine, childcare and other basic necessities.

• Fifty-one percent of tenants said they were worried about eviction and 64% worried that their deposit would not be returned to them when they moved out.

• Low-income residents of color and families with young children face the least stable housing, reporting a higher rent burden, fears of displacement and livability issues. Among tenants with young children, 83% worried about rent increases and 75% worried about not being able to pay the rent.

“Everyone needs a safe, stable and healthy place to call home, and this is especially important for young children,” said Rhea Elina Laughlin, community engagement program manager at First 5 Contra Costa. “The early experiences of young children are critical to their future learning and well-being. These egregious rent hikes and the lack of affordable housing in Antioch have only deepened the city’s deep-rooted racial and economic inequalities and put the well-being of our children and the community as a whole at risk. Local tenant protection policies are urgently needed.

More than four in five tenants and landlords surveyed said they want the city of Antioch to take action to limit annual rent increases, prevent unfair evictions, create pathways to home ownership and build housing more affordable. For residents of Antioch, especially low-income families of color struggling with unaffordable rents, housing instability is a daily concern. In addition to rent increases and threats of eviction, families are harassed by landlords and property managers. Without protections, families are forced to make the impossible choice of living in uninhabitable conditions or becoming homeless.

Building on decades of resident organizing and advocacy for housing justice, the report includes policy recommendations for Antioch leaders, including:

• Establish rent control,

• Require a valid reason for expulsion

• Enact tenant anti-harassment ordinances.

Supporters demand that the leaders of the city of Antioch adopt these policy recommendations. On June 14, Concord City Council passed a new anti-harassment policy for tenants. The policy puts in place new protections for tenants facing abusive landlords who threaten, harass and intimidate them. Owners who violate the policy may be fined.

Protesters also said they want strong tenant protections in the housing section of the city’s general plan. The housing section, which is updated once every eight years, outlines how the city will achieve its housing goals and provides an opportunity to address past inequalities.

The full report is titled “Antioch CHANGE: A Community Housing Assessment of Needs, Gaps and Equity in Antioch, California.”