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A Letter to Governor Newsom and CA Leadership on Evictions and Racial Justice

The following is a letter from civil rights and racial justice leaders to California leadership on 8/17/20, re-published here in its entirety.

A blue Subarur with blue writing on the back window that says #Evictions Are Police Brutality
(PHOTO: Hannah Won)

Dear Governor Newsom, President Pro Tem Atkins, and Speaker Rendon:

We are writing to ask you to take immediate action to replicate the eviction protections contained in the Judicial Council’s emergency rules, advance AB 1436, and protect struggling families — particularly in communities of color — from eviction and displacement. The looming wave of evictions which has been widely documented threatens to upend California’s efforts to address its intractable housing crisis, protect its communities from the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, and advance equity for all its residents.

Housing is an issue of racial justice. So many elected officials — across California and at every level of government — have made statements expressing their support and solidarity for the current dialogue being advanced across this country around issues of racism and structural inequity. These statements ring hollow if, when presented with the opportunity to act in support of communities of color, our leaders succumb to the pressures of the status quo and fail to meaningfully do so. The looming wave of mass evictions presents you with such an opportunity.

Evictions, plainly stated, are an act of economic violence. In the context of a pandemic wreaking havoc across the country, the single greatest defense to which is the ability to shelter in one’s home, evictions are also an act of physical violence. And when the impacts of both the pandemic and our housing crisis are disproportionately borne by communities of color, a mass wave of evictions is an act of mass racial violence. Ironically, given our current context, it is law enforcement which at the end of the day effectuates evictions in California and which will be the agent of this violence if you fail to act.

In the present moment, Black and Brown families are in an especially precarious position. Nationwide, an eviction is filed every 7 minutes — and black renters are almost twice as likely to be the target of those evictions than renters overall. This is the product of decades of explicit and implicit inequity in our housing policies, which have prevented families of color from accessing homeownership, neighborhoods of opportunity, and a range of wealth generation tools.

This existing inequality combines with the inequities of the pandemic to produce a dangerous situation which has the potential to decimate communities of color in a similar manner as the foreclosure crisis — but with greater magnitude. While the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted our entire economy, those impacts have been felt unevenly. The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies found that renters were more vulnerable than homeowners to the economic impacts of COVID-19, with especially high rates among Black and Hispanic renters. Almost two in every three Hispanic renters lost employment income (64 percent), followed by Black (57 percent), Asian/other (51 percent), and white (47 percent) renters. Among homeowners, Black and Hispanic homeowners were disproportionally impacted.

Evictions are also filed against renters of color at a disproportionate rate. According to an analysis of census Household Pulse Survey data from June performed by Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE), Black and Latinx renters were about 2x (at 14.5%) and 3x (at 22.4%) more likely, respectively, to have not paid their last month’s rent than white renters (at 7.3%). Even more troubling is the variation in rent deferrals provided by landlords to their tenants: while 27.5% of white renters who did not pay their rent reported receiving a rent deferral from their landlord, only 4.2% of Black renters and 4.4% of Latinx renters who did not pay received the same relief.

The precipice on which we stand cannot be overstated. In Los Angeles County alone, almost 500,000 families are on the brink of eviction, with low-income families and communities of color at greatest risk. No substantive eviction protections have been put in place by either the Legislature or the Governor in response to COVID-19, and temporary procedural protections enacted by local governments and the Judicial Council in the face of this inaction will soon expire.

We are at a crossroads. Will you — our elected leaders — maintain the status quo which has hindered efforts to address inequality, produced record high housing insecurity and homelessness, and kept one fifth of California’s children hungry and in poverty? Or will you stand with communities crying out for justice to advance us towards a new reality in which all communities are supported, share in our economic recovery, and are protected from violence in all its forms? We urge you to protect families from immediate eviction, and advance solutions like AB 1436 to enable all California residents to share in our recovery and continue working towards true equity.

Sincerely,

Rev. James M. Lawson, Jr. Pastor Emeritus, Holman United Methodist Church

Dolores Huerta, President, Dolores Huerta Foundation

Eva Paterson, President, Equal Justice Society

Rev. Mac Shorty, Regional Vice President, BAPAC Los Angeles

Peter Dreier, E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics; Professor, Urban & Environmental Policy, Occidental College

Dr. Melina Abdullah, Co-Founder, Black Lives Matter — Los Angeles

Toni McNeil, Community Organizer, Faith in the Valley

Nikhil Ramnaney, President, AFSCME Local 148, LA Co. Public Defender’s Union

Pete White, Executive Director, Los Angeles Community Action Network

Tabatha Yelós, President, Ground Game Los Angeles

Bill Przylucki, Executive Director, Ground Game Los Angeles

Madeline Miller & Amy Tannenbaum, Co-Chairs, Housing Justice Committee, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action Southern California

Evangelist Carolyn Johnson, Los Angeles Crisis Center

Rev. Clarence Moore, Los Angeles Pastors and Ministers Forum

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