On a rainy Monday night, Most Holy Trinity PACT Organizing Committee hosted the Renters’ Rights Community Action: “San Jose, We Belong” at Overfelt High School. The 500 people in attendance on March 7, heard PACT leaders from Most Holy Trinity along with other faith leaders highlighting the crisis of the high cost of rents and the rise in evictions. Father Robert Fambrini S.J., led the opening prayer invoking Pope Francis’ message of the three essentials to live a life of dignity; Trabajo, Tierra y Techo (Work, Land, Roof). He called the community to gather to “focus our attention on the third element of dignity: house. The roof which provides shelter, warmth, security.”
The Most Holy Trinity Parish Committee identified affordable housing as its focus last year and specifically renters’ rights as directly affecting many parishioners. “We are owners of our neighborhood and as such it is our responsibility to create a good environment,” said Aurora Solis, PACT Leader at MHT and member of the Outreach Committee.
In attendance were Mayor Sam Liccardo, councilmembers Magdalena Carrasco and Raúl Peralez.
The PACT research team reported that San Jose has the fastest rising rent in the country and the overcrowding rate is 132% times the national average. Presenters stated that almost 40 years have passed since the City Council meaningfully updated the San Jose Apartment Rent Ordinance and that changes to the ordinance are now needed.
Most Holy Trinity Leader, Verna-Lou Sarte, shared her experiences of being elderly and disabled while having to deal with eviction. “It was extremely hard to find a place to live and I became so anxious, depressed, and unhappy. I realized that landlords can do whatever they want–there was very little protection for me.”
“Eventually, I found my current apartment,” she said. “I started to feel comfortable and safe. I befriended and trusted my neighbors and when I had medical issues, they were willing to help me. I have a small garden where I can calmly have my spiritual moments.”
However, she continued, “Last September, I received a notice that I would have a rent increase in my rent controlled apartment. It was an increase that took away ¾ of my only income.”
“It seems it’s a never-ending struggle,” she said.
The three elected officials were asked to:
- Limit rent increases to the amount of inflation;
- Enact just-cause protection that requires landlords to give a reason why they are evicting a family;
- Include more homes under the rent control law;
- Stop discriminating against families based on Section 8;
For videos of their responses, please visit www.pactsj.org/videos.
The City Council will vote on the Apartment Rent Ordinance on the evening of April 19 at City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara Street, community members are encouraged to attend. For information about the work that your congregation may be engaged with through PACT, contact (408) 998-8001.