Central Valley tenants face highest eviction rates in California

By Cassandra Drumond

Alianza News

Most residents in California are aware of the lack of affordable housing in the state. Fewer are aware that in the Central Valley, which the fastest growing region in the state (aside from the Bay Area), is also among the poorest and over fifty percent of renters pay more than half of their income in rent. Eviction rates are among the state’s highest.

Edward Orozco Flores, an associate professor of sociology at the University of California, Merced’s community and labor center, explains: “Among California’s twelve regions, the Central Valley has the second highest economic growth, second only to the Bay Area, yet holds the highest unemployment rate and the third lowest home ownership rate. Wages in the Central Valley are the second lowest in the state. Additionally, the Central Valley region has the second-highest complex household rate, meaning multiple families living under one roof. A large number of jobs in the Central Valley are frontline essential workers in either agriculture or food processing, which on average pay lower wages.”

Blanca Ojeda, a community organizer for Faith in the Valley shares a story: “I wanted to share a story of one of the residents I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot, who would like to remain anonymous. She lives with her husband, who was a dairy worker and rented a small trailer home. He worked for the landlord. His rent and utilities were paid for through the work he did. When the pandemic hit, they were told they had two months to find a new place to live. They lived in an unincorporated area in the county and their wages were nowhere near enough to find any type of housing. Situations like these are very common. And unfortunately for undocumented workers, there are a lot of resources but a lot of them they do not qualify for. We gave this family legal resources and were able to talk to the landlord. We started to advocate for rent, mortgage and utilities programs and as of last month it passed through the county and it is available for undocumented workers.”

Jessica Ramirez, a working mother born and raised in Fresno. “I am speaking out because I know it only takes one eviction to change someone’s record forever. The eviction on my record made it impossible for me to find a place for my family and I to live. My landlord denied my rent because of COVID-19 and he evicted me. I had nowhere to go and I was homeless with my kids. I don’t wish this on anyone.”

Claude Bailey, a Stockton senior resident shares his experience: “I had been living in my apartment for over twenty years, and I had always paid my rent on time. One day, I was told to fill out some papers for Section 8 housing and later on, I find out I did not qualify. They gave me a month to move out. I found a room and moved in there. I was mistreated. The lady had cameras all over the place. I thought it would be better for me to move out and stay in my car. So, I lived in my car for 10 months and it was a nightmare. One day you’re on top and then the wheel turns, and then you are on the bottom. This can happen to anyone”

Janine Nkosi, regional advisor for Faith in the Valley, a leading grassroots community organization that covers five counties in the Central Valley explains: “We bring people together. We organize. We pass policies, do research and fight racial injustices across all the counties we work in. We have produced a series of community-based research reports titles ‘Evicted in Series’ to systematically document the eviction crisis in the Central Valley. Before COVID-19, in just the five counties where we work there were twelve thousand eviction cases filed with the courts. And our research shows there are twice as many informal evictions, outside of the courts. At the moment, over half of renter households that have children in the home report they have no confidence or slight confidence in making next month’s rent. In California, we need to urge our state legislature to extend AB 3088. It is currently AB15 and AB16, those are the policies we need to be passed before January 31st. These stories are not unique, this is quite common and can happen to anyone.”