Tenant Advocates Demand Removal of CalHFA Chair Over Ellis Evictions

by Tenants Together on June 4, 2015

Tenants and supporters protest Jacobs' Ellis Act evictions
Tenants and supporters protest Jacobs' Ellis Act evictions

California’s statewide tenant rights organization is demanding that Governor Jerry Brown remove Matthew Jacobs from the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA) Board, a government agency tasked with supporting affordable housing and keeping people in their homes. Jacobs is using the state’s Ellis Act to evict dozens of tenants from their homes so he can demolish the buildings and build luxury housing. Jacobs serves as Chair of CalHFA. He was appointed by Governor Brown in 2013. According to its website, CalHFA “supports the needs of renters” and “programs that create safe, decent and affordable housing opportunities for low to moderate income Californians.”

“The head of a government agency tasked with keeping Californians affordably housed is doing mass evictions for profit,” commented Dean Preston, Executive Director of Tenants Together, California’s statewide organization for renters’ rights. “CalHFA cannot be taken seriously as an agency promoting affordable housing with Jacobs as its Chair.”

Statewide advocates learned of the situation through the advocacy of the Coalition for Economic Survival (CES), a Tenants Together member organization in Los Angeles. CES has been working with the tenants and organized a protest of the evictions. “Here is a person who is supposed to be helping facilitate the building of affordable housing in the state, when in actuality he’s using the Ellis Act to knock down existing affordable housing so he can profit off building luxury units,” said Larry Gross, Executive Director of CES. “Matthew Jacobs has no right sitting on the California Housing Finance Agency board and the Governor should take the action necessary to have him removed immediately,” Gross stated.

Jacobs is using the Ellis Act – an unpopular and regularly abused state law — to do the evictions. Originally justified by its sponsor in 1985 as providing way for long-time landlords to retire from the rental business, the Ellis Act has become a favorite tool for real estate speculators to displace affordably housed tenants. Modest legislation to amend the Ellis Act stalled thanks to the political power of the California Association of Realtors which profits from the flipping and displacement. Meanwhile, long-term tenants are losing their homes.

“He’s tearing down my home of 18 years,” said Steven Luftman, a tenant Jacobs is evicting.

Tenants Together issued two letters this week – one to Jacobs asking for his resignation and the other to Governor Brown asking that he remove Jacobs from CalHFA. Tenants Together has also launched an online action campaign urging Californians to send messages to Governor Brown demanding the removal of Jacobs.

Filed under: Bay Area / California