Impacting the Housing Crisis: San Mateo County Eviction Report 2016 In 2016, the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County and coauthor Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto released the San Mateo County Eviction Report, funded by The San Francisco Foundation and designed by the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project. This report, the first of its kind in San Mateo County, compiles three years of the agencies' eviction case data, covering the period July 2012 to June 2015, and will aid agencies and governments in bringing clarity to a contentious local issue. San Mateo County eviction data is not available in any centralized, publicly accessible database, making this report the first integrated source of information to reveal the full scale of the eviction problem in the heart of Silicon Valley, and to bring to light a number of startling trends: • A 59% increase in the number of evictions for people unable to pay rent on time • A 300% increase in the number of "no-cause" evictions, where the landlord gave no reason for the eviction • Seventy percent of the households that sought legal services to help with eviction issues had children • Evictions disproportionately impact Hispanic and African American households One of the report's authors was Legal Aid Directing Attorney Shirley Gibson, who brought to the project nearly a decade of experience working on housing issues in the county. Says Shirley, "My hope is that the San Mateo County Eviction Report will be used by officials, decision makers and the general public, all of whom are well aware of the housing crisis, but lack data to inform debate and make decisions." The full report may be read at the Legal Aid website: http://www.legalaidsmc.org/eviction_report_2016.html
The Impact of Advocacy: California AB 291 strengthens protection for tenants This year, California Assembly Bill 291, The Immigrant Tenant Protection Act, passed the state legislature, and was signed into law by Governor Brown in October. The Act strengthens state law to protect immigrant tenants from intimidation and retaliation in their homes. Immigrant tenants live in a climate of increasing fear of government enforcement action that may be taken against them at any time. This fear can be held over their heads by unscrupulous landlords who assume that their immigrant tenants will be afraid to report abusive actions—extreme rent increases, threats of illegal eviction, or refusal to maintain the property in livable conditions—if they are threatened with being reported to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. "Tenants should not have to live in fear simply because they are immigrants or refugees," says bill sponsor Assemblymember David Chiu. "Trump's escalating war on immigrants is ripping apart families, and mass deportations could be our new reality. This bill will deter the small minority of landlords who unscrupulously take advantage of the real or perceived immigration status of their tenants to engage in abusive acts." "We have seen an alarming increase in national origin/immigration status discrimination felt by tenants since the election," says Legal Aid Housing Project Coordinator Andreina Leon, "a fear that can be exploited by landlords wishing to pressure tenants to accept rent increases, or eviction, without formal legal process." Legal Aid Directing Attorney Shirley Gibson contributed data and testimony in support of the bill, and she is pleased that these tenant protections have become law: "AB 291 is a commonsense bill that responds directly to the abuses most commonly reported by Legal Aid clients. Its safeguards are especially necessary given that most undocumented Californians are renters."