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The Coalition for Economic Survival, or CES, is a grassroots, multi-racial, multi-ethnic non-profit community organization dedicated to organizing low and moderate income people to win economic and social justice. CES assists working and low-income people throughout the greater Los Angeles area in working together to empower themselves to impact the decision making processes that effect their day-to-day lives.

Contents

CES History

CES' first organizing campaigns focused on transportation, utilities, affordable food and employment issues. These campaigns successfully held back bus fare and utility rate increases, lowered milk prices and fought for the rights of the unemployed.[1]

As rents skyrocketed during the course of the 1970s, CES began to focus on a new set of priorities, namely tenant's rights, rent control and the preservation of affordable housing for everyone.

The following are some of the significant accomplishments of the Coalition for Economic Survival:

  • Winning rent control for the cities of Los Angeles and West Hollywood.[2]
  • Incorporating the City of West Hollywood and electing CES members to the West Hollywood City Council.[3]
  • Assisting 4 low income tenant associations to purchase their HUD subsidized housing complexes and preserve them as permanent affordable housing.
  • Securing substantial increases to tenant relocation assistance amounts paid to evicted renters.
  • Winning City of Los Angeles programs to combat slum housing, such as the Systematic Code Enforcement Program (SCEP), the Rent Escrow Account Program (REAP) and the Lead Paint Prevention Program.
  • Playing a significant role in the campaign to defeat Proposition 98, which would have wiped out rent control and tenants’ rights & winning Proposition 99 providing homeowners’ protections against certain eminent domain threats in June 2008.
  • Organizing thousands of renters to stop unjust evictions and rent increases, force landlords to make needed repairs and save affordable housing.
  • Educating and organizing tenants to eradicate unsafe, unhealthy and toxic conditions in their dwellings.
  • Winning just compensation for tenants displaced and replacement of affordable housing due to government projects such as the Convention Center expansion and LAUSD school construction plans.
  • Winning numerous laws to provide tenants' rights and preserve affordable housing on the federal, state and local levels.
  • Providing thousands of renters with crucial information to protect their rights at CES' twice-weekly tenants' rights clinic.[4]

Issues & Activities

CES organizes low and moderate income tenants (of privately owned rental housing units including both federally subsidized and non-subsidized units) whose residences are at-risk due to slum conditions including lead hazards, proposed demolitions, proposed renovations, illegal evictions and owners' desires to opt-out of federally subsidized rental housing programs. With the explosion in the value of real estate in Southern California, the supply and quality of housing that is affordable to low-income people is at tremendous risk. There is a significant increase in landlord and developer attempts to demolish affordable housing to build luxury units or to substantially renovate existing affordable housing to gain higher rents.

CES educates, trains, supports and empowers tenants to take action to protect their rights, their housing and their lives, and bring tenants living in threatened affordable housing together with tenants in slum and HUD housing to create a powerful voice to preserve and create healthy, safe and decent affordable housing.

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Subsidized Housing Preservation

CES provides outreach, training and organizing assistance to tenants living in HUD subsidized housing, where owners are seeking to opt-out of the project-based Section 8 rent subsidy contract or prepay the HUD subsidized mortgage, thus removing federal rent restrictions.

Assistance had also been provided to subsidized housing tenants living at complexes subject to HUD's Mark to Market (M2M) program, which reduces the subsidized rents where the HUD rent subsidy is above the area's market rents.[5]

CES is an affiliate of the National Alliance of HUD Tenants (NAHT), the leading voice of HUD tenants on federal legislative and regulatory issues.

Healthy Homes Campaign

Slum housing conditions which create environmental health hazards include vermin infestation, exposure to lead dust, damp living quarters, inadequate hot and cold running water, and inadequate heating. Related health problems include insect bites, rat bites (involving deep puncture which quickly become infected), rashes, nausea, cramps, respiratory tract problems, headaches, coma and seizures, severe conjunctivitis, vomiting, fever, neuralgia and muscle pain as well as kidney and liver problems.

CES, in an effort to combat slum housing conditions and the health risks it creates, fulfills the role of tenant educator, organizer and advocate in several coalitions and programs (Housing for Healthy Families Campaign, the Los Angeles Healthy Homes Collaborative and the Southern California Health and Housing Council).

CES informs tenants throughout Los Angeles about toxic environmental hazards, such as lead paint and mold, in their dwellings that create health problems. CES educate and train tenants on their rights and actions that can be taken to improve substandard conditions. CES organizers perform lead poisoning test of units, assist tenants in securing required repairs, organize tenant associations, and work towards the development of housing and health related policies.

CES, as a member of the Los Angeles Healthy Homes Collaborative, an alliance of some 20 community organizations which coordinate efforts to prevent lead paint poisoning and advocate for healthy homes initiatives, was successful in winning a Los Angeles City ordinance to establish a housing code enforcement pilot program to include lead paint danger as a code violation and had the city issue "stop work" orders if repairs are being made in an unsafe and unhealthy way.

In an effort to ensure implementation of the Pilot Program, CES, through the Healthy Homes Collaborative, worked with the L.A. Housing Department (LAHD) to secure funding, and provide tenant outreach in targeted L.A. City Council Districts. This work involved collaboration with the LAHD code inspectors to involve and educate tenants on the health dangers posed by lead paint. CES was awarded a contract to provide tenant outreach and education.[6]

Tenants' Rights & Anti-Displacement Efforts

CES fights for new laws on the local and state level to expand tenants' rights and prevent the loss of existing affordable housing due to demolition, major rehabilitation and vacancy decontrol.

CES fought to win restrictions on condominium conversions and affordable housing demolitions. As a result of these efforts, CES was successful in helping to win significant increases to tenant relocation amounts paid to renters by landlords when evicting tenants for no-fault reasons.

Stronger Housing Code Enforcement

The City of L.A. contracts with CES and four other groups to provide outreach to tenants living in slum buildings which are subject to the Rent Escrow Account Program (REAP), Utility Maintenance Program (UMP) and Urgent Repair Program (URP). When a building is in REAP, tenants get a rent reduction and are urged to pay rent to the City until the landlord makes the needed repairs.

UMP addresses cases where the landlord has not paid the water or electricity and service is at risk. URP is used when the owner refuses to make repairs to conditions which are life threatening and the City steps in to make sure repairs are made. Under the contract, CES conducts outreach to tenants to educate them on their rights, encourage them to participate in these programs and verify that the repairs are made.

In 1998, in coalition with other tenant groups, CES pressured the L.A. City Council to create the Systematic Code Enforcement Program (SCEP), a program to inspect the City's over 700,000 rental units for electrical, plumbing and structural housing code violations. The SCEP has been held up to national acclaim. In 2005, it was named an Innovations in American Government Award winner.[7]

Organizing Efforts & Accomplishments in West Hollywood

In 1984, CES led an alliance of seniors on fixed income, gays, lesbians and renters to incorporate the City of West Hollywood.[3] Up against big money and real estate interests, voter approval for cityhood was won and CES-endorsed candidates captured 4 out of 5 City Council seats.

With the leadership of the CES-endorsed Council Members, West Hollywood enacted one of the nation's strongest rent control laws, and established record funding levels for constituent needs (such as senior and AIDS services). CES' has resulted in continuous election victories for CES endorsed City Council candidates.

CES' current efforts are focused on ensuring tenants' rights, as well as successful efforts in reaching out to West Hollywood's large Russian immigrant community.

Tenant Counseling

CES currently sponsors a twice-weekly Tenants' Rights Legal Clinic. This clinic is hosted in the Community Center of Plummer Park in West Hollywood every Wednesday at 7:00 PM and Saturday at 10:00 AM. At the clinic, tenants have the opportunity to receive individual counseling and advice from the CES staff of volunteer attorneys and counselors. Donations are requested but no one is ever turned away for lack of funds.

References & Notes

  1. ^ Boyarsky, Bill (April 27, 2007) "City Voice: Will Condo Threat Inspire Unity Among Seniors?" Jewish Journal
  2. ^ Dellinger, R.W. (January 18, 2008) "Our Workers Can't Afford to Live Here". The Tidings.
  3. ^ a b Mah, Rosanna (November 23, 2004) "WeHo Celebrates 20th Anniversary Nov. 29". Los Angeles Independent
  4. ^ LA Weekly. October 8-14, 2004. Best Way To Keep Your Landlord Honest
  5. ^ More information on the Mark to Market program is available here.
  6. ^ More information about current lead paint issues in LA County can be found in this article: "Landmark Lead Paint Law Slips by Unenforced". Evan George. September 12, 2008. Los Angeles Daily Journal.
  7. ^ SCEP Innovations in American Government Award

External links


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