For the second time in almost four months, a coalition of tenant advocates held a rally in Antioch at a low-income apartment complex to urge city leaders to enact a suite of renter protection ordinances.

A group of about 60 people carrying signs and chanting slogans gathered at the Delta Pines Apartments on Sycamore Drive on Wednesday to demand a stop to what they call exorbitant rent hikes at the property and its sister site, Casa Blanca Apartments, about a mile away.

The group of local tenants and activists from First 5 Contra Costa, the East County Regional Group, the Alliance for Californians for Community Empowerment and Urban Habitat also renewed their call for the Antioch City Council to pass tenant anti-harassment, rent control and just-cause eviction ordinances.

“As a renter and a tenant, we need our council members to step up and protect us from greedy corporate landlords that come into our neighborhoods and raise the rents,” said Antioch resident Rocheall Pierre, co-chair of the East County Regional Group.

“Low-income residents, families, people of color, Black and brown residents and children are being displaced, harassed and are living in fear of being evicted,” said Pierre, a single mother who rents an $1,800-a-month, one-bedroom apartment elsewhere in the city.

Advocates say the owners of Delta Pines and Casa Blanca, limited liability companies linked to a Santa Monica-based real estate investment firm, and its property management company, Texas-based Rainey Property Management, raised some rents by as much as $500.

On the brink

The increases are “robing families of their well-being and putting them on the brink of displacement,” said First 5 Contra Costa’s Community Engagement Program Officer Rhea Elina Laughlin.

“Today’s action was calling for accountability for corporate landlords and an immediate stop to rent hikes as well as eviction protection,” Laughlin said. “We believe that housing is a basic human right and children and families need to be in healthy, safe and affordable homes.”

A spokesperson for Rainey Property Management said in a statement that the “rental costs are determined by the State of California and HUD on an annual basis” and residents were told about the rent increases on June 1.

“I am outraged that we have been asking for this for months and we still haven’t seen any action. We still are fighting to just get this on the agenda.”

Rocheall Pierre, East County Regional Group

“We take these concerns very seriously, as the well-being of our residents at Delta Pines is a top priority,” the statement reads.

Residents and housing advocates have been pushing for tenant protections since last year and in January the City Council asked its staff to draft ordinances for discussion, but so far nothing has been put on an agenda.

In late March, members of the advocacy groups held a similar rally at the Twin Creeks Apartments on James Donlon Boulevard.

“I am outraged that we have been asking for this for months and we still haven’t seen any action,” Pierre said. “We still are fighting to just get this on the agenda.”

Tenant advocates say protections for the city’s tenants are more necessary than ever as economic trends and demographic shifts have resulted in an increase in the number of renters and a decrease in homeownership rates.

Between 2000 and 2019, the percentage of residents who owned their own homes declined from 71 percent to 60 percent, according to data from the Bay Area Equity Atlas.

98 percent in survey rent-burdened

As part of its effort to sway the City Council on these issues, the coalition on Wednesday also released a survey of 1,032 Antioch residents that seeks to quantify the need for tenant protections.

Conducted in 2021, the survey shows that 98 percent of participants were “rent burdened,” meaning they spent 30 percent or more of their income on rent, and 71 percent were “severely rent burdened,” meaning they spent 50 percent or more of their income on rent.
Half of all renters in the survey said they live in fear of eviction and 20 percent reported being threatened with eviction, while 17 percent said their landlord failed to respond to requests in a timely fashion.

“We know that Latino and Black renters are paying more in rent than anyone else and one-in-three black renters are living in a corporate home, which means they’re more likely to receive a rent increase or eviction notice,” Laughlin said.

The survey also shows that 82 percent of residents said they support some form of rent control, just-cause eviction rules and for the city to build more affordable housing.

Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Kiley Russell, Bay City News

Kiley Russell writes primarily for Local News Matters on issues related to equity and the environment. A Bay Area native, he has lived most of his life in Oakland. He studied journalism at San Francisco State University, worked for the Associated Press and the former Contra Costa Times, among other outlets. He has covered everything from state legislatures, local governments, federal and state courts, crime, growth and development, political campaigns of various stripes, wildfires and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.