On Dec. 7, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will consider a proposal to amend Ordinance 4444 which aims to expand protection for tenants.
The current ordinance traces its roots back to 2002, when a few landlords in Isla Vista neglected to provide basic services and repairs to their units (insect infestations, no hot water, etc.). Their incompetence was such that the county had to intervene, and deemed the apartments unsafe for human habitation. Thus, the student tenants were left homeless in order to make room for “repairs.”
The Board of Supervisors responded by enacting an ordinance requiring landlords who find themselves in this situation to provide a “relocation” payment, or provide alternative housing. They were to report to the county when such evictions took place in order for the local government to keep records of these not-so-uncommon events.
And everyone lived happily ever after… just kidding.
Mass evictions have continued over the last eight years in Isla Vista and elsewhere in the county. In what can only be described as the gentrification of Isla Vista, low-income tenants are evicted in order for “upgrades” to take place to make way for students who will pay double or triple the original rent. The county has never maintained records of such events, even though it is their responsibility to do so.
These problems prompted the organization of local grassroots groups to end the unjust evictions and address the lack of legal protections for tenants. The Rental Housing Roundtable (RHR) was created from a coalition of more than 30 community organizations, including the Isla Vista Tenants Union and P.U.E.B.L.O.
The RHR proposed a number of amendments to the 2002 ordinance, including penalties for non-reporting landlords; expand protections to include demolitions, remodeling and rezoning; establish a county tracking process; increase relocation payments and provide education to both tenants and landlords on this ordinance.
An eviction leads to copious amounts of stress in a student tenant’s life. The search for adequate housing, losing security deposits and the demands of academia can give students more than a few gray hairs. Increasing tenants’ protections will discourage landlords from evicting students and families and are a cost-effective way for the county to prevent displacement. The amendments would enable tenants to have the money necessary to find a new residence.
Many of you are familiar with the scam that is housing in Isla Vista. Come join the Isla Vista Tenants Union Tuesdays at 7 p.m. above Grafikart (on Pardall Road) and join us in organizing for the passage of this ordinance.