Wealthy investors are buying Long Beach's old low-rent buildings and evicting everyone, making them homeless

Unlike neighboring LA, the city of Long Beach has no restrictions on evicting tenants from old buildings by doubling or tripling the rent and then booting them out.

But like LA, Long Beach is in the grips of a frenzied housing bubble, exacerbated by NIMBYism that has frustrated efforts to increase housing density by building high-rises, but also by wealth inequality and property speculators, flippers, and other socially useless activities that raise the price of shelter.

The LA Times's Andrew Khouri digs into the story of the tenants of two of the 15 buildings bought by Orange County's Waterford Group and Stillwater Investment Group, which represent consortia of wealthy investors whose MO is to buy low-rent buildings and kick out the tenants with massive rent hikes and reopen the buildings as luxury housing.

Long Beach is a latecomer to the property bubble, and has been a haven for people who struggle to pay "market rent" in the region -- people with disabilities, single parents, retired people, and others. As Khouri chronicles, when these people lose their homes, there's often nowhere for them to go, no housing they can afford. Many will end up homeless.

NIMBYism is a real problem. The entire region needs to build a lot more housing. In my neighborhood in Burbank, there's a community effort to block high-rises from being built that makes me shake my head -- my neighbors are capable of complaining that the housing prices are going crazy on their block and simultaneously objecting to more housing being built to offset it.

But increasing supply won't do the job on its own. Limits on annual rent increases -- capped at inflation --are absolutely essential. When a rent increase means moving so far away that your kids lose their school enrollment and you lose your job, allowing markets to settle housing questions is a way to make the most vulnerable people even more vulnerable, a way of creating multigenerational traumas that we'll all be paying for in the decades to come.

Moran, 39, shares the $780-a-month, one-bedroom apartment with her husband, Alex, a refinery worker, and their two daughters. Next door is her mother-in-law; across the courtyard are her brother-in-law and his wife.

It didn’t take much investigation to realize her next place would be more expensive, pushing her to look for a second job. The Salvadoran immigrant already leaves home at 3:30 a.m. for a shift at a Seal Beach Target. But she wants to minimize the impact on Jaylin, who at 5 will soon start kindergarten, and Kimberly, who at 20 is studying to become a physical therapist and has seen her grades slip from the stress.

As much as possible, Moran wants their world to return to one of school and Sundays spent watching their father play in local soccer matches.

“As a parent,” Moran said, “I need to put all the pressure on me.”

In 2015, sociologists Matthew Desmond and Rachel Kimbro published a study of nearly 200 people who were evicted. They found evicted mothers are more likely to experience depression and report their children’s health as poor. Studies by Spanish and Swedish researchers show people who were evicted are more likely to experience symptoms of PTSD and to die of any cause.

“There is something so fundamental about having a home and if that home is forcibly taken away from you that just destabilizes every aspect of your life,” said Kimbro, a sociology professor at Rice University.

A ‘unique’ opportunity for investors spells mass eviction for tenants [Andrew Khouri/LA Times]

(via Naked Capitalism)