Antioch Some 65 advocates recently demonstrated to demand safe, affordable housing and an immediate end to what they called ‘exorbitant’ rent increases.
Low-income tenants at Delta Pines Apartments and Casa Blanca Apartments, two government-subsidized affordable housing buildings, face potential displacement after their corporate landlord recently increased monthly rents by as much as $500.
Organized by the East County Regional Group (ECRG), First 5 Contra Costa and The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, protesters gathered in the nearby Lowe’s parking lot and then marched to Delta Pines Apartments while holding signs and chanting. 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 protections for Antioch families.
Residents of Delta Pines and Case Blanca aren’t the only ones facing rent surges. A new survey of Antioch residents finds that rent increases and housing instability are widespread across the city. Seventy-nine percent of renters report feeling concerned about rent increases, while 68 percent worry about being able to pay their current rent. Local ECRG Parent Advocates, sponsored by First 5 Contra Costa, conducted the community survey of 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, an Antioch resident and ECRG member. “Living in Antioch challenges all parents, no matter where they are from or what their income is, to find a safe and decent place to raise their family. I live in a corporate owned building and am paying $1,800 for a one bedroom apartment for myself and my son. After the rent, there is not enough left to cover emergency expenses. I’ve had to take out payday loans, which puts me even deeper in debt. The Antioch housing system is broken and prioritizes homeowners over local families.”
The new report “CHANGE in Antioch: An Assessment of Community Housing Needs, Gaps, and Fairness 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 was available to complete online, 81 percent of responses were collected individually by ECRG leaders using tablets and paper surveys. The survey was conducted through social media, phone banking, door-to-door visits, and conversations with residents at events, vaccination sites, laundromats, grocery stores, parks, clinics, churches, and local service organizations.
Key findings in the report include:
• Respondents paid an average of 63 percent of their monthly income on rent, leaving little for food, medicine, child care and other basic needs.
• Fifty-one percent of renters reported that they were concerned about eviction and 64 percent were concerned that their deposits would not be returned when they moved out.
• Low-income residents of color and families with young children face the least stable housing, reporting higher rent burdens, fears of displacement, and habitability concerns. Among renters with young children, 83 percent were worried about rent increases and 75 percent worried about being able to pay their 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 Officer for First 5 Contra Costa. “Young children’s early experiences are critical to their future learning and well-being. These egregious rent increases and lack of affordable housing in Antioch have only worsened the city’s deep-seated racial and economic inequities and jeopardize the well-being of our children and the community at large. Local tenant protection policies are urgently needed.”
More than four in five renters and landlords surveyed said they want the city of Antioch to take action to limit annual rent increases, prevent unfair evictions, create pathways to homeownership and build more affordable housing. For Antioch residents, specifically low-income families of color struggling with unaffordable rents, housing instability is a daily concern. In addition to rent increases and eviction threats, families face harassment from landlords and property managers. Without protections, families are forced to make the impossible choice to live in uninhabitable conditions or face homelessness.
Building on decades of resident organizing and housing justice advocacy, the report includes policy recommendations for Antioch leaders, including:
• Establishment of rent control,
• Require just cause for eviction
• Pass ordinances against harassment of tenants.
Advocates are demanding that Antioch city leaders enact these policy recommendations. On June 14, the Concord City Council approved a new policy against harassment of tenants. The policy establishes new protections for tenants facing abusive landlords who threaten, harass and intimidate them. Owners who violate the policy can be fined.
Protesters also said they want strong tenant protections in the housing section of the city’s General Plan. Updated once every eight years, the housing part outlines how the city will meet its housing goals and is an opportunity to address past inequalities.
The full report is called “CHANGE in Antioch: An Assessment of Community Housing Needs, Gaps, and Fairness in Antioch, California.”