A primary path to the middle class for American families is through property ownership. However, for many African Americans and Latinos, however, it is a dream that and other minorities, the opportunity has been out of reach because of discriminatory housing laws and economic inequality.
It’s alarming that a measure on the November ballot would make this lack of access worse, and simultaneously threaten relatively recent gains made by others in these groups. Proposition 21 would make it more difficult to build the affordable housing we need and make it harder to enter the middle class through home ownership — the central pillar of the American Dream.
Proposition 21 would exacerbate the already dire situation facing mom and pop property owners like me and could hasten foreclosure and short sales of our properties. Like the last housing crisis, this economic upheaval will lead to large corporate landlords and hedge funds swooping in to purchase these properties at distressed prices, devastating small landlords and forcing tenants out of their homes.
Fewer rental properties on the market and more corporate ownership of California housing will not only hurt independent property owners, it will hurt tenants as well. According to the group Tenants Together, approximately 200,000 California tenants were displaced from their homes during the housing crash that began in 2008.
We must protect small property owners who, in contrast to corporate landlords, often are natural affordable housing providers, operate on small margins, give applicants a chance if they don’t meet all of the rental qualifications, and help maintain the integrity of a community.
Small landlords are an integral part of communities like mine in South Los Angeles. I have been fortunate enough to save and invest in a duplex and fourplex here. I have made it a point to be flexible with my tenants when needed. I have a personal relationship with my tenants. I understand that having stable tenants is good for my bottom line and my community.
I want to see our community thrive, and the door to property ownership open up for African American and Latino families who desire it, but for whom this dream remains deferred because of bad public policy like Proposition 21.
We cannot slam the door to the middle class on those who are working to get ahead. Proposition 21 will diminish opportunities to own property for people who look like me, and will worsen our problems of racial and economic inequality.
The state of California is facing a new economic challenge, and families across our state are struggling. What we need most is new investment in our housing market, not an extreme measure like Proposition 21 that will further destabilize it.