Latino commission finds housing options running out
For desperate situations, there are desperate measures. For the attending crowd at the Latino Affairs Commission meeting, the options seem to be running out when dealing with affordable housing.
Housing is still the topic of much debate and concern. The much publicized Mosswood apartments situation is still unresolved and in spite of an official letter by the district attorney requesting actions to be taken, the conditions of the 12-unit complex remain the same.
“The fact is, it has been almost two months since the issue received attention and the owner has done nothing,” Commissioner Delicia Spees said. The commissioner cited the owner’s reluctance to hire a contractor to fix the dilapidated units. The owner intended to use a handyman for the project. According to Commissioner Spees, the magnitude of the project requires a much greater commitment and as an independent contractor estimated, it will not come at a cheap cost. The range is about $6,000 per unit.
“And that is just to make it livable,” added Spees. “We’re not pretending to turn these housing units into condos.”
Since April the California Tenant’s Guide in Spanish has been accessible to the Hispanic population. According to Pat Banner, who did the research to obtain that guide and make it available, that in itself will not solve the problem for the tenants. People will still fear retaliation, be it by increased rent or receiving notice to vacate. They will not report anything because of this fear and the commission or the city should find a way to be their voice.
“The city could recruit volunteers who would be pre-inspectors”, suggested Banner. “These volunteers would inspect units in the most commonly known buildings and bring a complaint to the city.” After that, an official inspection could then ensue and the tenants would not be directly implicated.
According to Patrick Conway, housing coordinator for the city, that would be a viable option, pending the legality of such a measure. However that would only partially solve the problem. To Conway, the root of all housing woes is the way the rules are set for housing development in the area. All rules favor the development of high end housing while leaving few alternatives to the development of affordable housing units.
Come now the issue of trailer parks.
The lack of regulations on trailer park, allow the increase of rental space fees, almost arbitrarily. Bettie Thompson, the president of Homeowners Coalition in El Dorado County, expressed her concern about how the people in the lower income brackets – a sizable percentage of Hispanics, among the group – get no support from county or city officials. In some parks, the rent was increased by as much as $75 per month.
“There have got to be consequences to all actions,” said Mrs. Thompson.” And if the county or city officials are not doing their job to protect the interest of the constituents, then they should go.”
For now, the only option available to the Latino Commission is to refer all issues through their housing committee which then makes a recommendation to the City Council. Then the council could act upon it.
Citing the lengthy process ahead, for reconditioning dilapidated apartments and mobile home parks alike, Banner concluded, “This is people we are talking about. There is talk of processes that need to be followed. In the meantime these people are living under these conditions. They are people and they have no voice.”
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