We have lived in San Jose for 16 years, six as renters and 10 as landlords. Our family occupies half of a duplex in a small enclave of duplexes and our kids were born here, play with the neighbors and attend public schools. We love our community and take pride in caring for our home.
We’re proud citizens of San Jose, actual “mom and pop landlords,” and we strongly support the recent actions to freeze rents and evictions.
The Bay Area has more than 28,000 homeless citizens and an estimated 46,000 vacant homes as of January. This is not because people “choose” to be homeless; it is because it is profitable for real estate capital firms and speculating landlords to wait for the next wave of tech workers to drive up market rents. In this system, profit comes first.
Housing is not a right, it is a commodity sold to the highest bidder. The logic is unassailable: “Nothing should regulate the market rate. Not rent control, not public housing, not even for the teachers we hire to care for our children. Sorry, but you should have learned to code.”
But the world has realized that these workers we once called “unskilled” are “essential” to our survival. We discovered that you can’t shelter-in-place if you have no shelter. We learned that even standing 6 feet apart, we draw strength from solidarity, and that if we don’t all work together to keep each other safe and healthy, we are screwed.
If you manage rental property in this community, recognize your power in this crisis. Everyone has bills to pay, but you run a business that profits by controlling someone’s access to shelter during a shelter in place order designed to keep us all safe.
To all the landlords who are living rent check to rent check, your community will stand with you in sacrifice. Take stock of your finances. Waive or reduce rent if you can. Give extensions. If you have a federal loan, apply for mortgage and tax relief immediately. Dip into your rainy-day fund (every business should have one). Stop fighting rent control and instead support rent and mortgage cancellation.
Whatever help is in your capacity to offer, please do so.
Your tenants are doing everything they can to stay in their home — but now, thousands of lives depend on their success. Instead of blaming them for being unable to pay rent, look at who has gotten a helping hand in this crisis, and ask yourself why.
How is it we can conjure trillions of dollars to bail out over-leveraged hedge funds every 10 years, some of the very same people keeping those houses vacant, while your neighbors must choose between paying rent and feeding their families? Whose side are you on?
Side with people, side with your community and remember you are a human first, business second.
David and Amanda Law moved to San Jose for graduate school at San Jose State University in 2004. Dave now works in tech, and Amanda left work when the cost of childcare exceeded her earnings. We strive to be the landlords we wished we would have had when we first arrived in San Jose.