Real estate is an active investment that has inherent risks. But when faced with the downsides, many California property owners skirt their responsibility to the homelessness crisis by displacing tenants, argues a Southern California landlord and developer who supports renter protections.
Where I live, in San Diego County, homelessness has grown twice as fast as those finding housing.
Between 2017 and 2022 alone, homelessness increased nearly 30% across the state, faster than anywhere in the U.S. If homelessness continues to increase in California at its current pace, by 2050 the homeless population will reach over 500,000 people.
That means that by the time my children reach my current age, there will be more people grappling with homelessness in California than the population of cities like Oakland, Sacramento, Fresno or Long Beach.
As a commercial and residential real estate developer and landlord for 455 apartments and homes in Southern California, I am clear that building more housing is one significant part of the solution to this crisis. We have a vast shortage of all types of housing, and we certainly need to build more.
But building housing is not the complete answer. Building doesn’t prevent the hundreds of thousands of families currently on the verge of becoming homeless from being pushed out of their homes by big rent increases or no-fault evictions.
Production without prevention in California has still led to a dramatic increase in homelessness. Homelessness prevention necessitates stronger renter protections.
Real estate has, and always will be, an active investment. Investments come with inherent risks. When those risks become reality, shifting blame and consequence would be laughable in every other investment vehicle, but not real estate. When face-to-face with the downsides of active investments, some of my fellow landlords and real estate owners are skirting their responsibility – which is inherent with that investment – by simply displacing tenants with evictions or rent hikes.
They push them into a housing market where there are nearly no other housing options available. It’s simple: higher rents and more evictions lead to more tents.
Let me be clear – I don’t develop housing for charity. This is a business. My income comes primarily from building and operating residential and commercial real estate so I am more than cognizant of the difficulties presented to real estate professionals and how the pandemic has exacerbated them.
But I am able to make plenty of profit and live a very comfortable life without harming the families that rent in my buildings.
Other corporate landlords in the industry will argue that bills expanding renter protections will worsen the housing crisis by killing production. This couldn’t be further from the truth. All rent control and just cause eviction laws currently exempt new construction and will not impact development. My developer colleagues will still be able to build more housing with demand as high as it’s ever been.
Now that eviction moratoriums and many of the pandemic protections that kept families in place are gone, homelessness will continue to rise at an even faster rate. To slow the stream of families pushed into homelessness, we need to pass renter protections at the local and state level. Senate Bill 567, authored by state Sen. Maria Elena Durazo of Los Angeles, which seeks to close loopholes under the Tenant Protection Act of 2019, would be a good start.
Learn more about legislators mentioned in this story
María Elena Durazo
State Senate, District 26 (Los Angeles)
State Senate, District 26 (Los Angeles)
Time in office
Union Vice President
Sen. María Elena Durazo has taken at least $1.4 million from the Labor sector since she was elected to the legislature. That represents 54% of her total campaign contributions.
Renter protections are homelessness prevention. Our children should be able to grow up in a California where all families have a healthy, safe and dignified roof over their head. Our seniors should be able to live without fear of living their last years on the streets and in shelters.
We can do this, and we can build the housing we need to, but it will also require us to stop pushing people out of their homes. We cannot build our way out of the homelessness, but we can keep families housed by passing strong renter protections.
My fellow landlords and colleagues in real estate development need to get on board.