Hedge Fund Housing Horror Stories in California

San Jose       At the University of California at Santa Cruz in the question and answer period after THE ORGANIZER, I got what has become a standard question about the role of social media in organizing.  I’m always kind but clear.  Social media is a fantastic and inexpensive communication tool that is invaluable for organizing, but it is not a substitute for the face-to-face work in the streets and workplaces where people can participate in the dialectic of direct back-and-forth conversation, listen and learn.

Talking to a young man involved in the social documentation program at the university who had been filming lots of tenant organizing work in Sacramento with his help I was finally able to understand why hedge funds, like Blackstone, have built a business model out of various rental schemes for the tranches of houses they acquired by sucking up foreclosed properties from banks, FNMA and others.   Rather than sprucing up and trying to resell these properties as the market has improved, they have either rented them or in many cases used various installment land purchase contracts to keep collecting, evicting, and holding onto the properties.  This is big business in Sacramento.  It turns out that single family homes in California are exempted from rent control restrictions there, allowing hedge funds sums to jack the rent at will taking advantage of the absurdly inflated rents and shortage of affordable properties.  ACCE, the former California ACORN, is helping lead the effort to put a ballot proposition forward in Sacramento to close that loophole, but it’s tough sledding on the signature drive and unclear if they will succeed in getting the measure before the voters this round.

A statewide initiative to repeal the law that blocks cities around the state from imposing rent control seems in better shape to make the ballot, and support may be both wide and deep there.  Talking to my cousins living and going to school in San Jose and Los Angeles they couldn’t believe the price of rentals in Texas, Louisiana, and Florida compared to these areas.  One talked about paying $1000 to share a room in LA for example.  Repealing Hawkins will definitely pull young voters to the polls!

Talking with the leaders of the Everett Program, ACORN’s great partner at UC Santa Cruz, we found ourselves all shaking our head in agreement when we talked about the end of the so-called American Dream of home ownership.  It seems to have already happened in California.  When I speculated that it would be commonplace around the country in ten years, there was no argument.   One of my cousins astutely observed in an early morning conversation that the only way most Californians would ever own homes is if they “were gifted.”  A similar point was made by a Santa Anna, Orange County Everett staffer.

How wide will we allow the housing divide become between the rich and the rest of us?


If It’s Not Racism, What Else Could It Be?

Greenville     Why bend over backwards anymore trying to figure out some rational reason that Washington politicians and policy makers are enacting some of their new policies and rollbacks?  If it quacks like a duck, swims like a duck, it is probably a duck.  If some of these policies are not blatant racism, what else could it be?   The cases, one after another, are marching in lockstep behind each other.

The House of Representatives joined the earlier Republicans in the Senate in rolling back an Obama-era rule that had prevented racial discrimination in auto loans.  You understand what I’m saying, they just made it legal to charge African-Americans and others higher interest rates when getting auto loans than they charge white families.  How is that not racism?

Fair housing groups both nationally and in Texas have been forced to sue Ben Carson and HUD to get enforcement of an Obama-era rule that had been promulgated after two years of hearing that amended the 50-year old Fair Housing Act that would mandate that housing recovery money be spent for those in the most need and without discrimination.  Suspending the rule has allowed Hurricane Harvey money to not be spent by those guidelines in Houston’s recovery.  How is that not racism?

President Trump has ranted for months about a caravan of families that assembled in Central America in a march that more than 200 successfully completed in order to petition for asylum in the United States because of violence and attacks against them in their countries.  Trump spoke of this as an “invasion” in order to stoke the anti-immigrant bias and hate from his base.  Now the Justice Department is calling for criminal prosecution of all border crossers and breaking up families.  Trump’s director of Homeland Security called for immigrants to go to recognized ports of entry to appeal for asylum, which is exactly what the caravan walkers had done.  How is that not racism?

I’m not saying it’s a surprise.  We all knew this was coming.  What’s shocking is how blatant it all is.  The level of impunity is amazing.  Watching the clock turn back more than 50 years in front of our eyes is devastating.

Recently I’ve been hearing the advice, “When someone shows you who they are, listen to them.”  I’m listening and looking, and there’s no denying who they are.  The question is increasingly how we stand together against them when it is pure and simple racism?


Please Enjoy Matthew Logan Vasquez’s Sierra Blanca.

Thanks to KABF.