Senior Evictions

93-Year-Old Woman Spends 2 Nights In Jail After Eviction From Senior Housing

By Senior EvictionsNo Comments

Florida authorities released an elderly woman from jail on Thursday after police arrested her when she allegedly refused to leave her home in a senior housing community after being evicted.

Juanita Fitzgerald spent her 94th birthday Friday in a motel room, The Orlando Sentinel reported. The day before, she had been released from Florida’s Lake County Jail, which is where police took her after she was evicted from her home at the National Church Residences’ Franklin House in Eustis. The facility accused her of refusing to leave.

Clad in an orange jumpsuit, Fitzgerald told WFTV reporters earlier this week that she did not understand why she was being evicted. She had lived there since 2011.

Bodycam footage from the arrest showed her screaming and sliding to the ground in an apparent attempt to avoid being taken away. A police report obtained by The Miami Herald noted that Fitzgerald had told officers, “Unless you carry me out of here, I’m not going anywhere.”

Franklin House spokeswoman Karen Twinem told the Sentinel that Fitzgerald was evicted “based on her refusal to pay rent” and that the complex had been trying to work with Fitzgerald “for months” to “get her to agree to get more help so she could live in a situation that was more suitable.”

Fitzgerald countered that she had previously attempted to pay rent that the facility rejected, though Twinem has said Fitzgerald only presented a partial rent payment.

The police report stated that Fitzgerald was transported to jail without handcuffs because of her age. However, she can be seen wearing handcuffs and ankle restraints at the jail in an on-camera interview with WCMH-TV. Her wrists and forearms appear deeply bruised.

After her release, she showed the Sentinel bruises and scratches on her ankles that she said were from the prison shackles. A jail spokeswoman told the site that it was typical for inmates to wear restraints, but could not confirm anything specifically about Fitzgerald’s situation.

Fitzgerald was released from jail on her own recognizance on Thursday. Since then, she’s been meeting with the Mid Florida Homeless Coalition to find permanent housing.

This story has been updated to note that Fitzgerald can be seen on camera wearing restraints at the jail.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Fitzgerald was arrested for allegedly refusing to pay rent. She was arrested for allegedly refusing to leave her home when she was evicted.

Coronavirus Hasn’t Stopped Jared Kushner’s Real Estate Empire from Hounding Tenants with Debt Collection, Eviction Lawsuits

By Senior EvictionsNo Comments

JARED KUSHNER’S family real estate company, which owns and manages thousands of apartment units, continued its aggressive eviction practices and debt collection lawsuits as Americans wait for government relief. Well into the coronavirus crisis, which has led to skyrocketing unemployment, court records show properties owned by Kushner Companies are still filing new eviction lawsuits.

At least 15 tenants in New Jersey and Maryland have been on the receiving end of lawsuits from Kushner-owned properties even after both states declared states of emergency. Govs. Phil Murphy, D-N.J., and Larry Hogan, R-Md., have both called for a moratorium on evictions and courts have been closed, postponing hearing dates for a range of debt collection-related activities.

The Maryland and New Jersey moratoriums on evictions, however, do not prevent debt collectors from filing new lawsuits.

On March 25, Westminster Management, a unit of Kushner Companies, filed a lawsuit requesting sheriff services to enforce an eviction against a man residing at the company’s Harbor Point Estate apartment in Essex, Maryland. Days later, on March 30, Kushner’s company filed a collection lawsuit against another man in the same complex.

The previous week, on March 19, Oxford Arms, a Kushner-owned apartment complex in Edison, New Jersey, filed six lawsuits against tenants. Other lawsuits have been filed in recent weeks against tenants by legal entities tied to the Whispering Woods complex in Middle River, Maryland; the Cove Village complex in Essex, Maryland; and the Pier Village building in Long Branch, New Jersey — all of which are owned by Kushner.

Experts say the continued collection filings and letters threatening financial penalties in the near future could cause undue stress during a period in which Americans are already reeling from the trauma of mass layoffs, social isolation, and health care issues fueled by the pandemic.

“Not being able to sleep, eat, stress with the marriage, and stress with the family is typical for somebody being hounded by a debt collector,” said Peter Holland, a consumer rights attorney based in Annapolis, Maryland, “and I can only imagine it’s even more typical now.”

Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, serves as a senior adviser at the White House. His role in the Covid-19 response effort has come under fire in recent days after the promise of a nationwide network of drive-through testing sites never materialized. Kushner also tapped his brother Joshua to build a federal response website promised by Trump, which was ultimately scrapped.

Kushner, whose estimated net worth is around $800 million, has said in the past that he has stepped away from day-to-day management of the real estate firm, though he has not relinquished his ownership stake. Ethics disclosures show that he still receives millions of dollars a year in income from rent collected by his assorted real estate portfolio, including the chain of apartment buildings.

Kushner Companies, as well as New Jersey and Maryland attorneys representing Kushner’s real estate subsidiaries, did not respond to requests for comment.

“We’re doing all we can for tenants. I’m not answering any questions, OK?” said a staff member at one Kushner-owned apartment complex in Baltimore County.

Kushner Companies owns a vast array of commercial and residential real estate units around the country. The firm, founded by Kushner’s father, has come under fire for predatory business practices. Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, in a lawsuit filed last year, accused the company of failing to address rodent infestations while forcing tenants to pay illegitimate fees.

The real estate firm’s debt collection practices, which involve hundreds of lawsuits pursuing tenants often for small amounts of debt, have been detailed in reporting in ProPublica and the Baltimore Sun. In the past, Kushner’s attorneys have gone so far as to pursue civil arrest warrants for at least 105 tenants over unpaid fees and rent.

Last month, Netflix released “Slumlord Millionaire,” a mini-documentary about the abusive practices of Kushner’s real estate companies. The feature describes Kushner as a “tier one predator,” who has used harassment tactics to drive tenants out of rent-stabilized apartments in New York, while systematically imposing hefty fees on tenants in Maryland. The feature shows tenants dealing with debt collection letters, eviction notices, water damage, mold, fire code violations, and shoddy maintenance.

The court docket of March cases in New Jersey and Maryland list a variety of eviction and landlord-initiated collection lawsuits. Some of the filings do not list the underlying reason for the case. New Jersey law, for instance, allows eviction lawsuits over unpaid rent, drug conviction, or a violation of the terms of the lease agreement.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Kushner Companies is pivoting to suburban markets without rent control laws. After offloading 666 Fifth Avenue, a New York commercial real estate building in Manhattan plagued by vacancies and soaring debt in 2018, the firm increased its low- and middle-income housing portfolio. Last year, the company spent over $1 billion to purchase 6,000 suburban apartment units in Maryland and Virginia from Lone Star Funds, a Texas private equity fund. The acquisition was funded in part by Freddie Mac, the government mortgage provider.

Laurent Morali, president of Kushner Companies, has said that the new multifamily apartment building units will drive growth because rent can be increased by about 3 percent annually.

The Kushner real estate interests, responsible for the family’s vast wealth, have notably benefitted widely from government largesse. The Baltimore Sun found that three Maryland apartment complexes owned by the family have received $6.1 million in federal rent subsidies from 2015 through 2017.

The bailout could be an even bigger boon for the business. Under the new CARES Act, mortgage payments for low- and middle-income housing developments may be suspended in exchange for freezing evictions on those who cannot afford rent. The law applies to units purchased with government-backed mortgages, which may apply to the apartment units purchased through Freddie Mac last year, as well as another tranche of apartment units purchased by Kushner in 2012. It’s not clear whether Kushner meets the statutory threshold to qualify, and his company has not responded to reporters’ questions on the issue.

California senior citizen fighting her eviction passes away at 97

By Senior EvictionsNo Comments

Senior fighting to save her home passes away

Weeks ago, 97-year-old Marie Hatch received an eviction notice, informing her she had to leave the suburban San Francisco house where she had lived for the past 66 years.

Friends and neighbors — and a high-powered law firm — became her advocates, and her plight received national media attention. Efforts were underway to stop Hatch’s eviction when she was sickened by a respiratory virus.

After a brief hospitalization, Hatch died at home Thursday night, one of her attorneys confirmed to The Washington Post.

Hatch, who was battling cancer and had agoraphobia, died from apparent natural causes after a severe cold, family friends told the San Francisco Chronicle.

“It’s so sad — we will miss Marie,” Hatch’s next-door neighbor Cheryl Graczewski told the Chronicle. “She was a real sweetheart. There was a lot of spirit in that woman.”

Hatch, a retired bakery worker, had lived in the two-bedroom cottage in Burlingame for decades with her roommate, 85-year-old Georgia Rothrock. The notice came on Feb. 11 to move within 60 days or face eviction by sheriff’s deputies from the $1.2 million home in a Northern California neighborhood where property values and rents have skyrocketed.

“They’re trying to take away everything from me here,” Hatch told the Chronicle last month. “Gee whiz, I don’t know what I’ll do if I have to leave.”

She added: “I have a lot of tears, a lot of happiness, a lot of memories in this house. It is my home. Where can I go?”

— Elahe Izadi

Student charged with posting teacher’s photo

Authorities say a high school student who went through his teacher’s cellphone, found a nude picture of her and posted it online has been charged with a computer crime and voyeurism.

Chief Sam White of the Public Safety Department in northwestern South Carolina said the 16-year-old was taken into custody Friday at Union High School.

The boy, charged as a juvenile, is being held for a hearing in family court. The teacher has said she had made a nude selfie to share with her husband. She has quit her job teaching at the school.

— Associated Press

Brown autopsy shows recent use of cocaine

Bobbi Kristina Brown’s autopsy shows evidence of recent cocaine use by the daughter of Whitney Houston before she was found unresponsive in a bathtub in her Atlanta home last year, but a medical examiner’s office said Friday it could not establish whether her death after months in a coma was accidental or intentional.

The 22-year-old Brown, the only child from Houston’s marriage to fellow Grammy-award-winning singer Bobby Brown, suffered brain damage and died of pneumonia resulting from drug intoxication and her face being immersed in water, the Fulton County medical examiner said.

— Reuters

She’s 91 and Is Being Kicked Out of Her Apartment

By Senior EvictionsNo Comments

Dozens of residents of an independent living community in Manhattan — some as old as 99 — are being forced out of the homes they thought they’d die in.

Gabrielle Wagner, 91, moved into the Riverview Senior Independent Living facility last April after her identical twin, whom she had lived with, died in 2018. She had been lonely and the modern apartment tower in Hell’s Kitchen felt less like assisted living and more like a comfortable community for active seniors where she could live out her days.

“I thought I’d go out feet first,” she said just before Christmas. “I thought I’d finally found a place I can stay in until I die.”

Muriel Fisher, 86, left her $811-a-month, rent-controlled, two-bedroom apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens, to move in to a studio at the Riverview in 2018. Her grandson, who lives on the same Manhattan block as the center, insisted it was no longer safe for her to be alone.

Milton Gluck, also 86, moved in three months ago to be closer to his son, after his partner of 30 years entered a nursing home. He hasn’t yet fully unpacked.

Then, on Dec. 3, the building’s management distributed a surprise letter to all the residents. Riverview was being sold, it said, “sometime in the first few months of 2020.” Everyone would have to leave.

The nonprofit that owns the building said the center, which opened less than two years ago, had been losing money and it could no longer afford to run it. The group was seeking a market-rate buyer.

The news sent the 31 residents of Riverview — who are nearly all in their 70s, 80s and 90s — into a panic, unsure of where they would go.

New York City is in the grips of an affordable housing crunch for seniors — the latest data shows an estimated 200,000 low-income seniors were on waiting lists for federally subsidized housing in 2016 citywide — and middle-income seniors are also struggling to find homes that fit their needs.

At the high end, there are luxury independent living options in Manhattan like the Atria on West 86th Street, where fees soar to over $11,000 a month for a one-bedroom, and the Inspir, an even more expensive option opening on the Upper East Side.

For older New Yorkers in the middle — even those who can afford Riverview’s rates of about $4,000 a month for a small apartment, three meals a day, housekeeping and some social events — the options are limited. And when you’re a nonagenarian looking for what may be your last home, it’s not just about finding an open spot.

The EastView, a new independent living facility that the Salvation Army just opened in Harlem, has space, but many residents felt it was too far from their families. The West 74th Street Residence, which has interviewed several Riverview residents, was less expensive, but had less charm, some said.

Nothing felt like the Riverview, a 14-story building at 49th Street and 10th Avenue in the heart of Midtown. Several residents described falling in love with its hotel-like hallways, modern finishes and Hudson River views. So its residents, many using pensions from careers as educators, engineers or public servants, sold homes, left friends and moved in.

For Stuart Dunn, 90, it was the second time that his senior living landlord was asking him to move in order to sell the property. Until 2018, he lived in the Williams on the Upper West Side, a Salvation Army-owned independent living residence that was closed to make way for luxury housing.

“It is a societal issue that we really are at the cutting edge of,” he said, of the difficulty of finding a quality place to live with other independent seniors. “What is society going to do about the elderly?”

He said he most feared losing contact with his fellow residents, particularly Ms. Fisher, with whom he had become very close.

Some residents are meeting with lawyers to see what else can be done. About five have already moved out.

One has died, and another, who has been in the hospital, has not been able to deal with the news completely. “They are fearful of what is going to happen, and overwhelmed,” Joel Riff, 68, who is among the younger residents. “The mood is pretty depressed.”

They were particularly surprised, they said, because Riverview is owned by a nonprofit corporation that largely operates homeless shelters, Homes for the Homeless. After losing its city contract to run the building as a family homeless shelter in 2015, the organization decided to renovate and reopen the facility as an independent living building in early 2018, said Ralph da Costa Nunez, the chief executive officer of Homes for the Homeless.

The organization had succeeded with a similar conversion in Staten Island, and thought it could do the same in Manhattan. But Riverview never filled more than 35 or so of its 82 apartments, he said.

The residents felt that Riverview had not adequately marketed itself. Some said that they knew seniors who had reached out to explore moving in, but that the management had not followed up with them. Mr. da Costa Nunez disputed that account. He said there were likely not enough interested residents because Riverview did not offer assisted living services, and some families wanted the option of more comprehensive care as their family members aged.

Assisted living centers are regulated by the New York Department of Health, which provides additional protections to residents. But the Riverview, though it marketed itself as a place where seniors could bring private aides, had no such designation. As a result, the seniors, who had only month-to-month contracts, were vulnerable to eviction.

Mr. da Costa Nunez said that his organization could no longer afford to run the facility at a loss. “We are getting killed” with the costs of food, staffing and utilities, he said, adding that part of the issue was that the seniors were keeping the heat too high.

The losses, which he said amounted to “several million dollars already,” had started to threaten the operation of the senior facility in Staten Island, he said.

“No one wants to shut this down,” he said, “but Economics 101 is Economics 101.” He added that the closure “won’t happen before April for sure,” though the management had not stated the same in writing to the residents.

As the losses spiraled, residents said, the nonprofit repeatedly reassured its tenants not to worry and kept signing new contracts. Among the most fragile residents are a 99-year-old Holocaust survivor, who has no family and is looked after by an organization, Selfhelp Community Services, and Mildred Burt, 95, who arrived in March at the urging of a niece.

Ms. Burt had come from a public-housing project where she had lived for 60 years. Her niece, Pat Jackson, said: “Where does that leave me? With an aunt who is 95 years old who is basically homeless, and not much time to look. This is just heartless.”

Determined to fight back, the seniors formed a committee and contacted their elected officials. Five local elected officials signed a joint letter to Mr. da Costa Nunez demanding more time and support to the displaced seniors.

“They are slipping through the regulatory framework,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman, who represents the area, vowing to look into the matter further. “That seems to be duplicitous.”

Mr. Nunez himself earned over $620,000 in 2018 as the director of Homes for the Homeless and its nonprofit affiliates, according to tax documents. At a heated meeting with elected officials on Dec. 19, he claimed to be surprised by the angry reaction to the closure and “questioned why these seniors can’t fend for themselves,” Mr. Hoylman recalled.

As the issue gained attention, Riverview sent residents a follow-up letter on Dec. 20, saying that the building would “likely” not be sold until April.

“No one is being thrown out,” the letter said.

“We are going to run the place until we can transition every person out of there appropriately,” Mr. Nunez said in the interview.

Amid the uncertainty, the seniors have begun to plan their next steps. Both Mr. Dunn and Ms. Fisher have put deposits down at the Carnegie East House on East 96th Street, where assisted-living studios with meals start at $6,400 a month, a stretch for them. Ms. Wagner is moving March 1 to the EastView in Harlem, selling some of her furniture to do so.

“Luckily for me, I was a Navy wife, so I know what moving is all about,” she said. “Not that I am looking forward to it.”

Seniors facing eviction fear homelessness and isolation as California’s housing crisis rolls on

By Senior EvictionsNo Comments

Mario Canel met his wife inside the apartment where he’s lived for the last 33 years.

Canel, a house painter, was at the Silver Lake complex off of Sunset Boulevard on a job, but he and his customer quickly connected over their shared Guatemalan roots. It wasn’t long before Mario and Sabina married, and her home became his. For years, they basked in such comforts as plucking chayote from a vine outside their front window.

When his wife died in April 2005, Canel was consoled with walks throughout the neighborhood and his connection to people inside the eight-unit bungalow court. It also helped that even as the surrounding neighborhood gentrified, rent control held his rent below $400.

But three months ago, a real estate investor purchased the complex and soon told all tenants to leave. Suddenly, Canel faced the prospect of having to find a new home in a market where nearby studios rent for more than his monthly Social Security benefits — his sole means of support.

The threat of displacement and loss of community and routine can take a mental and physical toll. Experts say that’s especially true for seniors, who are perhaps the most vulnerable to California’s rising rents and evictions of any age group, and the fastest growing in the state.

There are signs that seniors are disproportionately affected by the types of evictions Canel now faces. Households with at least one person 62 or older made up 26% of no-fault evictions in Los Angeles city rent-controlled buildings between June 2014 and May 2019, according to the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department. By comparison, 13% of rental households in properties built before 1979 are headed by someone 65 or older, according to 2017 census estimates. (Most rent-controlled buildings in Los Angeles were constructed before 1979.)

The eviction threat was given a face in May when news spread on social media that 102-year-old Thelma Smith faced a lease termination in an unincorporated area of Los Angeles County. Smith had lived at her Ladera Heights residence for nearly 30 years when her landlord gave her notice to leave. Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a friend of the woman, was one of many who expressed outrage over the lawful action.

But even when not facing eviction, seniors who depend on a fixed income have a harder time weathering rent increases, even the modest rises allowed under rent control. In 2016, 29% of all renter households in California spent more than half their income on housing, according to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. That figure rises to 35% of renters ages 65 to 79, and 42% of renters 80 or older.

Overall rent growth has slowed in the last two years. But the average price for a vacant apartment in L.A. County is nearly 40% higher than it was in 2012, at $2,329 a month, according to Zillow.

That swift rise has been blamed for driving people of all ages into homelessness, but living on the streets can be particularly traumatic for seniors. In 2018, when overall homeless numbers went down, the tally of homeless people 62 and older in the greater Los Angeles area surged 22%, to nearly 5,000. According to the latest count by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, that number has since increased to 5,231.

Moving is tough at any age, said Tracy Greene Mintz, a senior care consultant based in Redondo Beach. “[But] if you didn’t hear what someone said to you about what [housing] is available, or you can’t read your eviction notice or rental agreement and if you can’t comprehend and problem solve, how are you going to survive that? … You either adapt to a new routine or you completely fall apart.”

Canel’s new landlord is a limited partnership — a popular real estate investment vehicle. Attempts to reach Stephen Williams, who is listed in a state filing as a representative for the partnership, were unsuccessful. A letter left for Williams at the El Segundo office the partnership lists as its address was not answered and a man there declined to comment. Emails to an address the new owners gave tenants also went unanswered.

On Bellevue Avenue in Echo Park, a short drive from Canel’s complex, Luis Contreras, 63, and his family are also looking for a new home after another limited partnership purchased their rent-controlled building and gave the tenants an eviction notice. The partnership also lists Williams as a representative.

Contreras, a retired “jack of all trades” who worked in factories and painted houses, has had two open-heart surgeries and said his health is now worsening. But mostly he worries about how his family will find another safe and affordable home on their limited income.

A day after the family of four received notice to leave their $837-a-month, one-bedroom unit, Contreras went to the hospital with chest pains. But he didn’t stay long, despite the advice of the emergency room doctor.

“I’m afraid to leave the apartment unoccupied, because they could come and change the locks,” he said.

Because Contreras is at least 62, city rules allow the family up to a year to move. Kevin Contreras, a security guard in Beverly Hills who is helping his mom, dad and sister search for a new place, said they can afford rent of $1,100 a month. Landlords have told him they won’t accept more than two adults in a one-bedroom; he’s hoping someone will make an exception for his sister, who is disabled. In any case, a recent search on Zillow showed only five one-bedrooms under their price in the entire city of Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, the state is only getting older. The Public Policy Institute of California predicts the number of Californians age 65 and older will grow by more than 4 million come 2030, nearly double what it was in 2012.

In many ways, tenants such as Canel and Contreras who live in rent-controlled buildings have more protections than others. Landlords for those properties, which in the city of Los Angeles were generally built before 1979, can raise their rent by only a limited amount each year and tenants generally can’t be evicted unless they fail to pay the rent or break other rules.

Property owners, however, can charge as much as they want each time a unit is vacated. And, under a state law known as the Ellis Act, they can get rid of rule-following tenants if they permanently remove units from the rental market — something that is often done in order to convert units to condos or build new, more expensive housing.

Tenants removed that way get additional leave and relocation assistance, though that money can be eaten up relatively quickly by moving costs and today’s sky-high rents.

Canel, for instance, can receive a year to move and $21,200. If he were approved for the cheapest place in Silver Lake that’s advertised on Zillow — a $1,225 studio apartment — that would cover the difference between his old and new rents for two years, not taking into account moving costs and a deposit.

In non-rent-controlled buildings, landlords can raise the rent as high as they want and can usually tell long-term tenants to leave in 60 days, as long as doing so wouldn’t break a lease. In those cases, relocation fees are not typically required.

A possible relief valve — subsidized senior housing and Section 8 federal vouchers — is in short supply, forcing people to tough it out in the open market. “On a fixed income, there is just no way you can keep up with changing market rates,” said Steven Wallace, associate director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

The high proportion of seniors in no-fault evictions may reflect that many have stayed in their units for decades and their low-rent units make their properties especially attractive for redevelopment.

As with so many aspects of the housing crisis, the crunch for seniors is most obvious in gentrifying neighborhoods. Rents in Silver Lake and Echo Park have soared as those and other longtime working-class Latino communities near downtown have seen an influx of wealthier residents.

Pricier restaurants and bars moved in, catering to a clientele who will pay $16 for a bowl of chickpeas and poached eggs.

“There are a lot of white people moving in” who can afford more in rent, said Dora Obando, who moved in next to Canel 25 years ago. Obando, who is in her 70s and also got an eviction notice, feels the Latino community is now being pushed out of the neighborhood.

“We live in such a peaceful environment,” she said, referring to her complex. “For them to not have any mercy and want to evict us feels very unfair to us.”

Richard Green, director of the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate, said gentrification was being driven by supply and demand. Higher-income individuals increasingly want to live in urban centers. An underlying shortage of housing kicks off a chain reaction, pricing middle-class households out of wealthier areas and forcing those people to seek homes in more affordable neighborhoods.

Seeing an increase in demand, Green said, landlords in low-income areas raise rents or redevelop their properties to make more money and cater to wealthier individuals.

But Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal of the L.A. Tenants Union says that view glosses over the role investors can play in kick-starting and accelerating the process by, for instance, marketing an area as “hip.” The union, which is working with the Echo Park and Silver Lake tenants, says government should pass strict rules against speculative investments made to replace one demographic group for another.

Fred Sutton, vice president of public affairs with the California Apartment Assn., said the industry group encouraged its members to think about the “social impacts as they review the operational realities” of their buildings. But he says some old housing needs to be replaced. Rather than control rents, he encouraged cities to expand housing supply and provide direct rent subsidies to those most at risk.

There are ways to cushion the blow of relocation, said Nicholas Castle, a professor at West Virginia University and senior-care expert. In addition to finding a place and moving, seniors need help adapting to a new routine, meeting neighbors and finding the nearest supermarket or church.

Tenants like Canel don’t get that level of help, but a housing department spokeswoman said a relocation consultant can provide people with listings that fit their criteria and transportation to view the rentals.

Then there are the complexities of navigating any assistance program.

You either adapt to a new routine or you completely fall apart.


Canel said the local Social Security office told him his $806-a-month low-income benefits, known as SSI, would be cut off if he accepted the relocation payment. That would leave him with only $145 a month in retirement income.

A Social Security spokesperson says SSI could be affected because — unlike retirement benefits — it is needs-based and the relocation payment might qualify as income.

That’s disputed, however, by the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department, which said it hadn’t received any complaints about lost benefits. “It would be unreasonable to force tenants to choose between accepting ‘relocation assistance’ and rejecting ‘relocation assistance’ in order not to jeopardize SSI,” a spokeswoman for the Housing Department wrote in an email.

As a growing number of local governments are turning to rent control, including Culver City, Inglewood and unincorporated L.A. County, state officials are exploring more options to protect renters.

A bill in the state Legislature would temporarily cap annual increases at 7% plus inflation in buildings older than 10 years and provide their tenants with “just cause” eviction protections. And Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing to spend additional money to provide legal assistance to renters.

Meanwhile, others argue the state efforts don’t go far enough.

On a recent Friday, tenants joined L.A. Tenants Union organizers in a march from Pershing Square to the office of Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), who last year didn’t vote on a bill that would have placed some additional restrictions on the Ellis Act. (Santiago’s office said he’s supporting a more modest Ellis bill this year, as well as the 7% rent cap.)

Canel donned a red homemade T-shirt that read “Stop Acta Ellis” and shouted his story into a megaphone as drivers honked support for the marchers.

In an interview, the septuagenarian said he was more upbeat since joining the Tenants Union in a fight to stay in his home. But he acknowledged his panic hadn’t disappeared.

“I have nowhere to go,” he said. “I could die in the streets.”