An ordinance that will strengthen the rights of tenants in Santa Barbara County was passed by the Board of Supervisors on 12/7. After a few high-profile evictions in recent years left dozens of families — often lower-income, working families — with nowhere to go, advocates rallied for a change to County Ordinance 4444, which used to only provide relocation assistance when a tenant was displaced when there were health and safety violations. The evictions were relatively rare, but highly emotional and traumatic when they occurred.
Now, expanded relocation assistance will be required in situations where there is a demolition of any rental unit on the lot, when the planned alteration or rehabilitation requires a permit and reduces the number of rental units on the lot, and when there is a change from a residential use to a nonresidential use.
The county will provide the incentive of fast-tracking the permit process for landlords who give a 90-days notice of eviction, a timely return of security deposits, and relocation benefits to the to-be-evicted tenants. This will help families plan and be better prepared to face the challenge of finding and affording new rental housing. As well, the county is establishing a process to track evictions so a greater understanding of the issue is known. In most cases, the tenants were evicted so that landlords could upgrade the units to sell to students at a higher rate, or convert them into condos.
Members of the Rental Housing Roundtable, a group of students, lawyers, advocates, unions, and clergy, came out in force to the meeting Tuesday. “Your voices were heard,” 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf told them.