HASLO tenants first to go
July 6, 2015
OPINION By JULIE TACKER
As a longtime Los Osos Sewer critic, people often ask me, “What will happen to Los Osos now that the sewer is a done deal?”
My answer is the same as it was in 2004 when the sewer in the middle of town appeared to be fait accompli. The community will be “Carmelized” or “Carmel-ized;” those who can’t afford it will sell and move away, leaving only the wealthy to afford the $165.00 monthly sewer bill.
The funny thing is, those who cannot afford it are the reason the bill is isn’t as high as it could be; thanks to them the community qualifies as “disadvantaged.” The sewer project was able to access Federal and State low interest loans and grants based on that status. Never mind that those very people whose income saved the project millions will be gone, those left and those who replace them, will enjoy the lower rates for as long as 40 years.
My activist mentor, the late-great Gewynn Taylor, called it “economic cleansing.” I’m glad she’s not here to see her prediction play out.
What I never expected was for the Housing Authority of San Luis Obispo (HASLO) whose clients range from disadvantaged, Section 8 recipients, elderly and/or disabled and/or all of the above, to pass on sewer related costs starting July 1. HASLO’s mission is “committed to building and maintaining affordable housing for citizens in our community,” yet they appear to have buckled to the costs and associated expenses to hook up to the project and are passing them on now.
HASLO recently implemented increases to both; deposits — some as much as $800 over that which has been adequate security and monthly rents — from $885 to $1,100 a month for a one-bedroom unit. Not to mention, within the notice was an invitation to move; as if the housing market is easy to navigate and rents are lower somewhere else.
Some of the financial assistance programs the Los Osos Waste Water Project team has presented include deferred tax, low interest loans and service charge rebates; all of these options will be explored in workshops this summer. It seems to me HASLO and their tenants would be prime candidates for these programs; at least for the time being. Over time, attrition will occur and the residents will move on. Costs could be recovered as new tenants move in.
HASLO is “committed to serving each Section 8 applicant and participant as well as the entire community in a manner that demonstrates professional courtesy, compassion and respect.” HASLO has missed their mark; this action has frightened these residents, handing them these outrageous increases and suggesting they leave their homes.
Ironically, the SLO County Board of Supervisors will be awarding HASLO $100,000 this week to renew a contract that the county funds for “eviction prevention” and the “provision of security deposit funds that may be accessed only after family, individual, community and other Social Service programs are explored and utilized.”
The staff report explains that the funds are intended to assist a family, senior, or individual who is at risk of losing long-term housing due to an unexpected hardship. These funds may be used for rent and it is anticipated that once the eviction funds are utilized the client will stabilize and be able to continue paying their rent with no further emergency assistance.
Studies have shown that it is less expensive to provide resources for an individual or family to retain their existing housing rather than allow an eviction to occur. Once permanent housing is lost, quality of life diminishes rapidly and the ability to find stable housing is difficult. This service is intended to be a safety net that offers preventative help to support these neighbors who are experiencing temporary personal difficulties.
It seems to me this is a case of HASLO needing to look in the mirror. Its own property is experiencing “hardship” and its own clients are faced with steep increases that may lead to the inability to pay rent and may lead ultimately to eviction.
Clearly HASLO and the county need to dialogue to ensure that HASLO’s own clients are not the first to be “economically cleansed” by the cost of the Los Osos sewer.
Julie Tacker is a 45 year resident of Los Osos and countywide activist.
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