Statement on CASA Compact

On January 17, 2019, The Hayward Collective sent a statement to the Association of Bay Are Governments (ABAG) regarding the CASA Compact. We have reproduced our letter here.

RE: CASA Compact: A 15-Year Emergency Policy Package to Confront the Housing Crisis in the San Francisco Bay Area

Dear Executive Committee Members,

When tenants’ rights and housing concerns in Hayward became a priority for The Hayward Collective (THC) in 2017, CASA almost immediately came across our radar. CASA seeks to put forward regional solutions where local governments have failed to act. In our community, our City Council has failed to expand tenant protections despite an ongoing outcry from impacted community members (overwhelmingly working class and overwhelmingly people of color). Just as CASA strives to encourage housing production where local processes have obstructed new development, CASA must also bolster stronger tenant protections so that communities will have a fighting chance at cultivating economic and racial justice despite unsupportive local governments.

In reading through the CASA Compact and listening to what our colleagues on the technical committee were able to share about their experience; we cannot endorse the current iteration of the compact, and we hope you will not endorse it either.

The CASA Compact simply does not go far enough to stabilize our most vulnerable communities. The bare minimums offered in the compact are essentially business as usual for landlords and property managers who have not demonstrated any concern for the high-volume of displacement happening across the Bay Area.

  • Compact Element #1: Just Cause Eviction Policy

    • The Waiting Period that states “the protections should apply only after a tenant has been in occupancy (with or without a lease) for at least 12 months” unjustly leaves tenants who don’t have long-term leases unprotected.

    • The Relocation Assistance states “relocation assistance should be provided in all covered no-fault causes where tenants have been in occupancy for at least 12 months, except in cases where the owner is moving into the unit” and, again, unjustly penalizes tenants who don’t have long-term leases. And there is no just basis for exempting a landlord who wants to move-in to the unit.

  • Compact Element #2: Emergency Rent Cap

    • CPI+5% favors landlords wanting to continue business as usual and does nothing for communities seeking relief from unjust rent increases. For the past 2 years CPI has been over 2% which means landlords would have had the liberty to raise rents at least 7% year after year. Those are unjust rent increases for low-income and fixed-income community members. The most recent cost of living increase for Social Security was only 2.8%; how is a senior on Social Security supposed to make ends meet with a 2.8% income increase and a 7% rent increase? How are low-income wage earners living paycheck to paycheck meant to maintain housing and an equitable living with a 7% increase? While we know that simply because landlords and property managers can raise rents upwards of 7% doesn’t mean they have to, we’ve routinely seen these parties maximize thresholds at the expense of the livelihoods of current tenants.

    • The Vacancy Provision states “the cap on rent increase should apply to the renter, not the unit”; as part of an emergency package to stabilize communities - all units that can legally be covered by a cap on rent increases should be covered during a vacancy. Otherwise; we will find ourselves with more landlords intentionally trying to mislead renters in order to evict them and gain higher paying renters; as we’ve seen happen in Hayward.

We stand in solidarity with and support of our fellow advocates and activists who continue to express their own valid and important concerns. Tenants Together, a tenants’ rights organization, participated in the CASA process on the technical committee. We urge you to take their perspective and concerns seriously. The Compact needs to be revised and problem areas need to be addressed so we can meaningfully address the current housing crisis, prevent further tenant displacement, and inject racial equity into the process.

Since the original drafting of this letter, additional organizations and grassroots groups have come out against the CASA Compact, including Urban Habitat. We strongly urge local Hayward leaders to consider the implications of the proposed compact from the tenant perspective. One thing we did not note in our original letter was the fact that there is no mention of any strategy around how the bills will be introduced. Before everything else; legislative action that protects tenants must be prioritized.

Alicia LawrenceComment