Housing Justice for Working Families
With some of the highest levels of rent burden in the nation, an increasing number of Central Coast families face housing insecurity because of unaffordable rents and unjust evictions. The region’s immigrant neighborhoods, home to many farmworkers and service workers, are the hardest hit by gentrification and displacement. CAUSE has successfully led campaigns in multiple cities to bring housing relief and justice to our communities. Over the years – along with community members and partner organizations – we have secured eviction protections and stabilized rents to keep families housed in our region. We’ve passed a rent stabilization and just cause eviction ordinance in the city of Oxnard, just cause eviction protections in the city of Santa Barbara, and protections against unjust “renovictions” in Santa Barbara and Ventura. We’ve also worked with our statewide coalition partners to achieve policy change defending our communities from extreme rent increases, unfair evictions, and the wave of evictions that loomed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The path for rent stabilization in Oxnard took three years of grassroots organizing and the voices of thousands of community members. CAUSE began organizing in 2019 when our adult committee came together to discuss the increasing rents and to strategize getting rent stabilization added to the City Council’s agenda. Despite early success with getting the topic on the agenda, the campaign efforts to convince the council to support the policy proposal took years of work alongside our key partners, MICOP and Lideres Camesinas, who were central to gaining support for rent stabilization in Oxnard.
To display the magnitude of families being priced out of their homes to the Oxnard City Council, we had to organize the community. Through our efforts, we engaged over 10,000 residents to take action by signing petitions and emailing council members. The campaign also generated buzz on social media, with residents sharing personal stories about how the housing crisis impacts them and their families, which captured the attention of council members. We organized hundreds of residents to provide testimony at city council meetings explaining the need for rent stabilization in the city. This mass mobilization convinced the council to approve a 4% annual rent cap and a just cause eviction ordinance in Oxnard.
The campaign’s success made Oxnard the sixth largest city in California to pass rent stabilization and the strongest tenant protections of any city between the Bay Area and Los Angeles. CAUSE knew that passing policies wasn’t enough to make sure the community benefited from the new rules. We needed to make sure that the community knew of their new rights so our Oxnard chapter launched an outreach campaign. Since 2022, CAUSE has contacted hundreds of residents and key partner organizations to inform the community of their new rights
Ventura residents are also struggling with drastic rent increases, especially with the rapid gentrification of the city’s predominantly Latino Westside.. In addition to raising rents, renovictions – the practice of evicting tenants from their homes under the pretext of necessary renovations or remodeling that typically result in significant rent increases – has become a common practice for landlords to avoid eviction laws.
In April 2022, 12 families renting at the Casa del Pueblo apartment complex in Ventura received eviction notices from the new property owner. Tenants at the complex organized with the support of Ventura Tenants Union, Manos Unidas, and CAUSE to call on the Ventura City Council to stop this mass eviction and create protections for future tenants.
Through our collective efforts, the Ventura City Council passed an eviction protection ordinance that provided the city’s tenants with stronger eviction protections and additional support if renters are pushed out of their homes. The new ordinance now requires property owners to have valid permits prior to delivering eviction notices to renters for a substantial remodel and requires two months’ rent of relocation assistance for tenants instead of the one month mandated by the state law.
Despite these new protections that strengthened the existing laws for at-risk tenants, unfortunately the Ventura City Council only protected tenants from future evictions and chose not to retroactively protect the families at Casa del Pueblo.
In Santa Barbara, despite our successful passage of a Just Cause Eviction ordinance in 2019, out-of-town investors had begun buying buildings to use the “renoviction” loophole to kick families out of their homes. Tenants were not just facing eviction notices but also property owners' tactics of cutting off essential services to get lifelong renters to vacate their homes. CAUSE, working in close partnership with the Santa Barbara Tenants Union, spearheaded a grassroots campaign that engaged strategic advocacy to resolve the pressing housing challenges faced by tenants in the city and throughout the county.
A 17 unit apartment complex on La Cumbre Road in Santa Barbara and 243 units bought by Corespaces in Isla Vista, were at risk of being displaced for the property owner to undergo minimal renovations which would lead to substantial rent increases and the possible exclusion of previous tenants returning to their homes.
Through tenant organizing, protests, negotiations, and advocacy campaigns, CAUSE and the Santa Barbara Tenants Union have not only shed light on the issue but also effectively resisted tenant displacement during the proposed renovation projects through increasing a protection ordinance on the city level. These critical measures provided immediate protections for renters experiencing housing insecurity, offering relief from unjust evictions.
The collaborative work of CAUSE and the Santa Barbara Tenants Union extended to advocating for stricter eviction regulations in both the city of Santa Barbara and unincorporated Santa Barbara County.
The collective efforts have highlighted the need for fair treatment and instituted safeguards to preserve the rights of tenants to remain in their homes.
Although we have strengthened the rights of hundreds of thousands of renters in the Central Coast, the crisis is still alive and growing. CAUSE remains committed to keeping our Central Coast families housed and will continue organizing for housing justice in all five of our chapter cities. From passing rent stabilization and eviction protections to keep families in their homes now to winning resources for building permanent affordable housing for the future, our momentum continues to grow for housing as a human right.
If you want to get involved in our movement for housing justice, reach out to a city organizer today!