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Oakland sued by disabled renters being excluded by the Rent Adjustment Program
by Lynda Carson (tenantsrule [at] yahoo.com)
Friday Aug 30th, 2019 9:39 PM
On August 28, 2019, plaintiffs Ian Smith, Sunday Parker, and Mitch Jeserich sued the City of Oakland on behalf of themselves and other Oakland renters that have mobility disabilities who need accessible housing. According to the lawsuit, Plaintiffs, and all other Oakland renters who need accessible housing, are being discriminatorily excluded from the benefit of Defendant City of Oakland’s (“City”) Rent Adjustment Program (“Program”).
Oakland sued by disabled renters being excluded by the Rent Adjustment Program

By Lynda Carson - August 30, 2019

Oakland — According to Zumper, the median monthly rent for a one bedroom apartment in Oakland during August 2019 is $2,300. Oakland has the fastest pace for gentrification and displacement in the Bay Area, and it is very difficult for those with mobility disabilities to find housing that is protected by Oakland’s Rent Adjustment Program, because many are being excluded by the program.

Making matters worse, the Trump regime and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are trying to make it much harder to prove housing discrimination.

Disabled Renters With Mobility Problems Being Excluded From Oakland’s Rent Adjustment Program:

Just try to imagine being disabled with mobility disabilities and having few options during the horrific existing housing crisis in Oakland when faced year after year with major rent increases by greedy landlords just because the disabled persons are being excluded from Oakland’s Rent Adjustment Program. This is not fair to those facing such a terrible situation, and some are fighting back on behalf of themselves, and others.

On August 28, 2019, plaintiffs Ian Smith, Sunday Parker, and Mitch Jeserich sued the City of Oakland on behalf of themselves and other Oakland renters that have mobility disabilities who need accessible housing. According to the lawsuit, Plaintiffs, and all other Oakland renters who need accessible housing, are being discriminatorily excluded from the benefit of Defendant City of Oakland’s (“City”) Rent Adjustment Program (“Program”). This is because few if any of the more than 64,000 rental units covered by that Program in Oakland are accessible to renters that have mobility disabilities.

Additionally, the Plaintiffs believe that the City of Oakland is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) 1 and analogous state law for failing to ensure that Plaintiffs and other people who need accessible rental housing have the same opportunity to benefit from its Rent Adjustment Program that renters who are not disabled enjoy, on the same terms.

The Plaintiffs and other people who need and are being excluded from accessible housing, according to the lawsuit, “are uniquely barred from the Program’s benefits because the Program excludes all rental housing built afterJanuary 1, 1983, from its coverage, and all or nearly all of Oakland’s accessible rental units were built well after that date.”

Examples of disabled persons being excluded from Oakland’s Rent Adjustment Program:

As quoted in the lawsuit. “The consequences of this exclusion can be extreme. For example, since moving to his accessible Oakland apartment in 2012, Mr. Smith’s monthly rent has increased by over 70%, including a 37% jump in 2015 alone. Mr. Smith now pays over $1,200 more per month than he paid in 2012 for the exact same apartment.

If Mr. Smith had been able to rent an accessible apartment that was covered by the City’s Rent Adjustment Program, his rent could have gone up by a maximum of about 14%during this period. This would amount to an increase of only $233, or roughly $980 less per month than he pays now. In other words, the lack of accessible units in the City’s Rent Adjustment Program—and Mr. Smith’s consequent inability to participate in that Program—is now costing him almost $12,000 a year.

Plaintiff Sunday Parker has faced similar rent increases since moving to Oakland in 2014. Like Mr. Smith, Ms. Parker has been unable to find an accessible apartment covered by Oakland’s Rent Adjustment Program, and she has repeatedly been forced to find new housing because the accessible apartment she was living in became unaffordable. Though she would prefer to live alone, Ms. Parker now lives with a roommate to offset the high and ever-rising cost of living in accessible apartment that is not covered by the City’s Program.

Because they cannot afford the rapid rent increases that exclusion from the Rent Adjustment Program entails, other people with mobility disabilities choose to “make do” with inaccessible but rent-stabilized apartments, even if doing so means struggling every day to do simple things like entering and exiting their home, using the bathroom, cooking a meal, or turning on the lights. These are all harms that Oakland’s non disabled renters need not endure as a condition of enjoying the benefit of the Program’s protections.

Plaintiff Mitch Jeserich—who needs an accessible unit but has lived in an inaccessible rent-stabilized apartment since 2015—falls into this latter camp. Mr. Jeserich’s apartment is covered by the Rent Adjustment Program but is inaccessible in ways that impact his daily life.” End of quote:

According to the lawsuit: “On June 6, 2019, Plaintiffs sent a letter requesting that the City of Oakland modify its Rent Adjustment Program to encompass accessible units, so that people with disabilities who need such units have the same opportunity to access the Program’s benefits that the City’s non disabled tenants currently enjoy. However, the City has not made the necessary changes, leaving Plaintiffs no choice but to file this lawsuit.”

The attorneys for the Plaintiffs include attorneys with the Disability Rights Advocates in Berkeley, and the Public Interest Law Project in Oakland.

Disabled persons and Seniors are also being excluded from affordable housing projects because of minimum income requirements:

The average Social Security benefit was $1,461 per month in January 2019, however many people have social security benefits much lower than $1,461 per month.

For the disabled and seniors including those needing affordable housing, it goes from one extreme to another for them. There’s those seeking affordable housing that may, or may not be covered by rent control or local rent adjustment programs. And there are the disabled and seniors who are on a fixed income including Social Security or SSI, and they are being excluded from affordable housing projects because of minimum income requirements being imposed by non profit affordable housing developers.

For a few examples during March 2018, to rent a studio apartment at Crescent Cove in San Francisco owned by China Town Community Development Corporation, a renter had to have a minimum income of $28,430 per year, which is way above what the average social security recipient receives on an annual basis. At El Bethel Terrace in San Francisco which is also owned by the China Town Community Development Corporation the minimum income requirement is $28,430 per year for those wanting to rent an apartment, which is way above what the average social security recipient receives on an annual basis. Minimum income requirements also exist at 808 Senior Housing in San Francisco, Rotary Plaza in South San Francisco, 732 Haste Street in Berkeley, the San Pablo Hotel owned by EBALDC in Oakland, the Bella Monte Apartments in Bay Point, Belle Terre in Lafayette.

For a few more examples, during June 2019, to rent a studio apartment for $1,043 per month at the Curran House in San Francisco you need to have a minimum income that is 2x the rent. To rent a studio apartment at Martin Luther Towers the minimum income requirement annually is $28,219, which is way above what the average social security recipient receives on an annual basis. Other affordable housing developments with minimum income requirements that may or may not exclude the disabled or seniors include Piper Court Apartments in Fairfax, Doretha Mitchell Apartments in Sausalito, Alto Station in Mill Valley, Martinelli House in San Rafael, Rotary Manor in San Rafael, The Arbors in Hercules, Camara Circle owned by Resources for Community Development in Concord, including many others.

Lynda Carson may be reached at tenantsrule [at] yahoo.com

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§Oakland’s Rent Stabilization Program Excludes People With Disabilities
by Posted By Lynda Carson Sunday Sep 1st, 2019 3:16 AM
People with Disabilities Charge That Oakland’s Rent Stabilization Program Excludes Them and Must Be Fixed Notwithstanding Costa-Hawkins

Click below...

https://dralegal.org/press/people-with-disabilities-charge-that-oaklands-rent-stabilization-program-excludes-them-and-must-be-fixed-notwithstanding-costa-hawkins/

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