As local and state redistricting processes come to an end, I am left wondering why renters are not recognized as a “community of interest.” During the redistricting process, input from many underrepresented communities of interest were considered. But one community of interest that was not is the majority of our region’s residents: renters. If renters are not recognized as a “community of interest,” will we be effectively represented?
As home prices increase, so does the renter population. Renters comprise above 50 percent of the population in most Central Coast cities. Where renting used to be a rite of passage into adulthood, eventually leading toward home homeownership, renters now encompass a multitude of demographics from students to seniors – populations that will never benefit from homeownership as a means for accumulating generational wealth.
Wall Street may be doing well, but that’s not the case over on Main Street. Wall Street controls the housing markets as large corporate investors purchase single-family homes as rental investments and gigantic investment companies like Blackstone and Greystar purchase and operate hundreds of thousands of units, including swaths of rental housing right here in Monterey County. With this share of the market, these investment companies establish the so-called “market rates” that are used to justify rent increases not only on their very own tenants but on everyone else.
One legislative solution is a renter income tax credit.
While California’s Assembly Bill 1482 did establish maximum allowable rent increases for housing, the 10-percent cap compounds annually – all while wages have remained stagnant. Additionally, AB 1482 has loopholes such as claims that a landlord will be engaging in major renovation as a means to evict tenants and then raise the rent. Corporate landlords are solely focused on profits no matter the cost to our communities, including homelessness.
One legislative solution to this crisis is a renter income tax credit. For a century, homeowners were allowed deductions on income taxes – a benefit the permanent class of renters in this country will never have access to. Guidelines from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for 30 percent of gross income for housing assistance are unrealistic. All renters deserve a tax credit on what they spend above 30 percent for housing.
It has been decades since safe and secure housing was declared a human right in this country in 1948. Affordable housing is a human right and governing bodies must address it as such. Renters must be represented by candidates who understand that we cannot address affordable rentals by only adding additional housing supply. Affordable rents in the current rental housing stock must be addressed simultaneously to new, proposed housing supply.
I worry that if the redistricting process overlooked renters as a community of interest, so will the elected officials who ultimately represent us.