Housing In Brief: L.A.’s Anti-Harassment Law Was Set Up To Fail

Also, mobile home parks are increasingly vulnerable to wildfires.

Firefighters work to contain a wildfire burning in Moraga, California, on Oct. 10, 2019. Police have ordered evacuations as the fast-moving wildfire spread in the hills of the San Francisco Bay Area community. The area is without power after Pacific Gas & Electric preemptively cut service hoping to prevent wildfires during dry, windy conditions throughout Northern California. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

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L.A.’s Anti-Harassment Law Was Underfunded And Is Failing Tenants

A law that opens up landlords to civil and criminal penalties for tenant harassment hasn’t resulted in a single lawsuit or criminal charge, according to Capital and Main. None of the 2,330 harassment complaints filed since the Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance took effect in August 2021 have been referred to the prosecutor’s office. While the law cleared the path for tenant lawsuits, it provided no funding for them, leaving low-income tenants on their own to pay for attorneys.

A Los Angeles Housing Department (LAHD) spokesperson told Capital and Main that none of the harassment complaints were serious enough to warrant prosecution, yet the publication found numerous serious incidents showing a pattern of abuse by landlords. LAHD’s enforcement of the law has consisted of letters to landlords informing them of the legislation. While the ordinance was passed without funding for its first year, LAHD will add four staff and one prosecutor focused on harassment cases in 2023.

Boston’s Mayor Speeds Up Approval Process For Affordable Housing

Boston’s mayor Michelle Wu has announced that she’ll sign an executive order meant to speed up the approval process for new affordable housing on city-owned land. The order intends to cut the current approval process – which the administration says is 337 days – in half. The order also instructs nine separate city agencies, including the parks commission and transportation department, to prioritize approval of affordable housing.

Wu can’t change the approval process unilaterally for parcels on privately-owned land, but she will ask the Boston Planning and Development Agency to study and recommend changes to the zoning code with “clear and accelerated timelines” and return a report in 120 days. While the language of the executive order has not yet been released, it follows a trend of city and state lawmakers attempting to reform their long approval processes for new housing. Public hearings and environmental reviews can be a vital avenue for some low-income residents to voice concerns, but they are often derailed by NIMBYs opposed to affordable housing.

California Mobile Home Parks Are Increasingly Vulnerable To Wildfires

Inside Climate News reports on the disproportionate fire risk taken on by manufactured homes, (also known as mobile homes), whose residents often can’t afford formal accommodations. The article cites American Housing Survey data showing 57% of manufactured homes are in the “wildland-urban interface,” fire-prone areas where wooded and residential areas intersect.

Crystal Kolden, a scientist studying fires who grew up in a mobile home, told the publication: “Mobile homes were never supposed to be permanent housing; their design was temporary housing. And yet we see for a huge proportion of the population, because of systemic inequities and income disparities, the only option they have is to live in these types of housing that’s highly flammable.” The homes are supposed to receive safety inspections, but the state agency responsible neglected to visit at least 5,700 mobile home units between 2010 and 2019, an audit found.

Investigation: Large Swaths Of Bay Area Housing Owned By Predatory Landlords

The San Francisco Chronicle mapped 2.3 million properties in the Bay Area’s nine counties and identified 12 powerful landlords that owned over 7,000 buildings combined. The properties comprise single-family homes and apartment complexes with hundreds of units. They include over 1,600 homes owned by Invitation Homes, a corporate owner of single-home homes that the Chronicle found had an outsized presence in neighborhoods where residents are disproportionately Black. Invitation Homes was among the corporate homeowners criticized in a July 2022 hearing at the House of Representatives and was the subject of a Washington Post investigation into the substandard conditions of its housing.

The landlords also include Michael Marr, who was found guilty in 2017 of rigging foreclosure auctions after a federal investigation. Marr served 30 months in prison and paid a fine of $1.4 million but remains one of the region’s largest private landlords after his release in 2020. The list also includes Greystar, which demolished a 216-unit rent-controlled complex in San Jose to build a luxury market rate building with rents starting at over $3,000.

This article is part of Backyard, a newsletter exploring scalable solutions to make housing fairer, more affordable and more environmentally sustainable. Subscribe to our weekly Backyard newsletter.

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Roshan Abraham is Next City's housing correspondent and a former Equitable Cities fellow. He is based in Queens. Follow him on Twitter at @roshantone.

Tags: affordable housinglos angelessan franciscobostonrenters rights

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