San Diego real estate
A property for rent in University Heights. Photo credit: Courtesy

San Diego could soon face a looming eviction crisis. California’s eviction moratorium has just expired for millions of tenants who did not apply for state rent relief.

Unless the City acts and extends eviction protections in San Diego, thousands of local families will be vulnerable to the traumatic experience of no-fault eviction, and be threatened with the possibility of homelessness. San Diego tenants need immediate action to prevent a catastrophe.

The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment works every day to provide support to tenants threatened with eviction and suffering harassment at the hands of unscrupulous landlords who are working to evict tenants for dubious, greedy and often discriminatory reasons.

In the past few months, due to the widespread economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and many other factors, ACCE and other organizations have seen a sharp and steady increase in the number of tenants seeking assistance. 

The Legal Aid Society, an organization that provides legal support for low-income residents, has alone received nearly 1,400 requests for assistance with housing-related issues between July 2021 through January 2022. This is a steep increase from the previous year, and despite eviction moratoriums at different levels of government, it is on par with pre-pandemic levels.  

Many tenants are just one 60-day eviction notice away from being on the streets. As a San Diego-area tenant, one of the authors, Chantelle Harris, knows first hand the anxiety people go through when they don’t know if they’ll still have a roof over their head.

As a child, her family was evicted from their home simply because the landlord didn’t want to pay on the house anymore. The family moved because the bank was taking a cash offer over the offer of her single mother who was just finishing college. The move left the family devastated.

Eventually, the family moved to a smaller, cramped three-bedroom apartment. The stress and anxiety Harris’s mother experienced almost certainly led to the instability in her family’s home.

Landlords throughout the region also recognize this crisis. Another of the authors, Ginger Hitzke, owns 455 units in San Diego, but grew up as a renter and knows how disruptive it can be for families to routinely pick up and move.  

When Hitzke became a residential property owner, nothing was more important to her than keeping her children in their home until they moved out on their own. If she made her mortgage payment, no one could make her family leave their home of 17 years. If the family moved, it was because they made the decision to do so. 

Unfortunately, this isn’t the reality and for thousands of other tenants in a similar situation. Paying thousands of dollars per month to put a roof over one’s head provides no guarantee that tenants won’t have to suddenly move with little notice.

Currently, under the City of San Diego’s Right to Know Regulations, tenants can be evicted for no-fault reasons, even if the tenant did not violate their lease, remained current on their rent, and lived lawfully within their home. Despite this, a landlord can kick them out to move themselves or their family into the home, or “take the home off the market” to get low-income tenants out and remodel to charge higher rent.

Renters’ anxiety is real and leads to overall family instability. Putting food on the table and keeping the lights on is hard enough. We shouldn’t add to renters’ anxiety and to the burden of struggling families. 

Now that state eviction protections have ended for those tenants who did not apply for rent relief, action is required to prevent thousands of other families from being put onto the streets and into housing insecurity. The right to safe, secure and stable housing shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It is a human rights issue. 

On Monday, San Diego City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera will bring forward a moratorium on no-fault evictions, and we call on the council to approve this necessary relief for tenants. It’s time for San Diego city officials to strengthen our local emergency protections for tenants and promote family stability because what is good for tenants and their families is good for San Diego, our state and the country.  

Chantelle Harris is a mother with a bachelor’s degree in professional studies and business management, and a small business owner. She lives in Lemon Grove. Ginger Hitzke is president of Hitzke Development Corp. in San Diego County and lives in Temecula. Jose Lopez is director of Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment-San Diego. He lives in Imperial Beach.