The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

California Landlords Gouge Fire Victims

Jan 8, 2018

People who lost their homes in October’s wildfires in California have been hit by another menace: rent gouging.

Rent listings in two counties affected by the wildfires tell it all. In Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, some one-bedroom apartments are going for $2,200 these days. In just one month, from September to October, the median rent listing increased 23 per cent in Napa County, and a whopping 32 per cent in Sonoma County! Neighboring counties, which were not affected by the fires, saw practically no change in the median rent.

California declared a state of emergency on October 9, which makes it illegal to raise rents more than 10 per cent in the area – but of course, laws have loopholes. Officials say Airbnb is exempt, for example – and sure enough, “vacation-home rentals” exploded in the area after the fires! Prosecutors say their “hands are tied” when landlords evict tenants to “remodel the building” and then jack up the rent more than the legal limit. Not surprisingly, evictions have increased by 20 per cent in the area – at a time of the year when they usually decreased in the past.

For fire victims, the real disaster is the workings of a system whose aim is to make profit. Greedy speculators preying on the vulnerable is just part of that unacceptable system.