OAKLAND (KPIX) - Tenants of an Oakland apartment complex were staging a strike to protest rent hikes and the shoddy condition of their living units. But they're taking it a step further by pressuring the landlords to sell the property so the apartment renters can stay in their homes.
The building, located on 29th Avenue, in Oakland, is the scene of the Bay Area's latest tenant uprising. Half the residents in the 14-unit complex stopped paying rent four months ago. Francisco Perez says the monthly cost of his one bedroom apartment has doubled to more than $1,500 in just the last 3 years.
"My fear is, OK, this year I can afford it but next year…what am I gonna do?" said Perez.
The retired roofer has lived there with his wife Graciella for 20 years. He says he had to install the flooring himself and repair the dilapidated cabinets when the property owners refused. But, just like his neighbors, his biggest fear is ending up on the street.
"If I can't stay here I'm gonna have to look somewhere under a freeway or a bridge and there is no more place for us…all them places are already full of people," he said.
The residents have partnered with the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, or ACCE, a renter's union that also helped support the so-called "Mom's 4 Housing" when they took over a vacant house in Oakland, late last year. The squatters were eventually evicted but they got an agreement from the landowner to sell the house to the nonprofit Oakland Community Land Trust to be used for low income housing.
"I think it showed the community at large what's possible," said ACCE Housing Organizer Israel Lepiz.
The apartment residents are hoping the same thing will happen on 29th Avenue. So far, $3.2 million have been raised to purchase the building for the Land Trust so the tenants can work a deal to continue renting or, perhaps, even purchase their homes. So far, the property owners have rejected the offer but pressure from the rent strike is being brought to bear.
"The money's there," said Lepiz. "The tenants have done the difficult work of organizing and convincing a critical mass of their neighbors to join this movement. And now, really, the ball's in their court and we hope we can come to an agreement."
The strike is having an effect. Just last week, the owners agreed to meet with the tenants, although the time, place and what will be talked about is yet to be determined. According to county records, the landowners live in Alameda. They did not respond to our requests for comment on Tuesday.
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