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For months Carmon Ponce has been living out of boxes in the Antioch apartment she has rented for three years — but not because she wants to move.

Ponce, a 40-year-old single mom, is all packed up because she has been repeatedly told she’s being evicted.

At first unable to work regularly due to COVID-19-related shutdowns, Ponce began to fall behind on rent.

Her situation grew more dire in 2021 after she was shot four times in front of her apartment while trying to protect her son and granddaughter during what she believes was a gang shootout.

After two surgeries to repair lung damage and a month-long hospital stay, Ponce said she was unable to work but still faced harassing eviction notices.

“I didn’t know what to do,” Ponce said in Spanish through an interpreter.

“I was super behind on rent, very much disabled from the shooting and I can’t afford a new apartment,” she said. “I started packing my stuff, thinking it might have to go to storage, and trying to figure out where my daughter can stay. I was thinking of just sleeping in my car.”

It was then she started working with on a grassroots effort, spearheaded by the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, to convince the Antioch City Council to enact tenant protection regulations, like rent control, just cause evictions and anti-harassment rules.

Ponce and an active group of local tenants have since found support in the form of two council members, Monica Wilson and Tamisha Torres Walker.

“We’ve been talking about this for so long and so many people are losing their hosing, I’m hoping we’d get to this sooner rather than later.”

Councilmember Monica Wilson

Wilson and Walker held a press conference with ACCE members last October to call on the council to take up the issue of tenant rights and at its Jan. 25 meeting, the council voted 3-2 to direct staff to draft language for such and ordinance, which could come back for a discussion and vote in the next few weeks.

“As a council member you hear from citizens on an array of things, but this is one of the things I consistently hear about from our community,” Wilson said.

“We’ve been talking about this for so long and so many people are losing their hosing, I’m hoping we’d get to this sooner rather than later,” she said.

It’s an issue that is increasingly cropping up in suburbs like Antioch, which has experienced population increases and demographic shifts partly as a result of gentrification and displacement in the Bay Area’s urban core.

According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, Antioch grew by nearly 13 percent to roughly 116,000 residents in the 10 years ending in 2020 and is home to a population that is 33 percent Hispanic and about 22 percent Black.

At the same time, the city’s homeownership rate fell by 11 percentage points to 60 percent in the nine years ending in 2019, according to the Bay Area Equity Atlas, an analysis tool and database focused on the metrics of inequality in the region.

Also, in 2019, 61 percent of residents were “housing cost burdened,” meaning they spent more than the recommended 30 percent of their income on housing, according to the Equity Atlas.

“Our city is growing, we do have not only regular apartment building renters, we have renters in homes that are also just as vulnerable,” Wilson said.

For people like Ponce, the economic pressures of the pandemic have only made things worse, which is partly why she continues to push the city to enact tenant protections.

“I know I’m not the only person going through this,” she said.