SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — As California’s population continues to rise, the stress on the housing market continues to grow.
The squeeze is being felt by Californians stuck in a difficult situation.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” said Dawn Littman of Rancho Cordova.
Anger, frustration and a lack of hope for thousands of people in the Golden State.
“You wake up at night thinking, ‘What am I going to do if I don’t find a place?’” explained Marie Davis of Elk Grove.
Renters are being hit with sticker shock. Rental rates are increasing at double digit pace, but wages remain stagnant.
“You do, to a degree, feel trapped,” said Davis.
She says she is being forced to move because her rent is now too high and there is no end to the increase in sight.
“This is what you’re going to have to pay,” said Davis, “you don’t have a choice.”
Her options are limited. Finding a place at her price point in a comfortable community isn’t easy.
“It’s just been posted a day ago or a couple of hours ago, it’s rented,” said Davis explaining how quickly homes are getting picked up.
“It sickens me actually. Just the thought of spending so much on a roof,” said Littman.
She is faced with a doubling rent and difficult decisions, like giving up the family car.
“It’s our transportation. I don’t want to have to give that up to move,” said Littman.
“It’s really at a crisis level right now,” said Dean Preston with Tenants Together, which is an organization that pushes for renters rights.
Preston says people in the state are spending more than 30% of their income on rent.
“Money out the door to your landlord leaves less money to pay for healthcare, education, transportation and other costs,” Preston explained.
He says thousands of people are being forced out of once affordable communities.
When it comes to rent prices, they have shot up.
Sacramento had the fastest growing average rent in the country in 2016 with an average rent increase of nearly 36% in the last decade.
“It’s spiraling out of control,” said Preston.
Preston says rent control, which would limit the amount landlords can increase rates, is a doable solution.
More than a dozen cities either have rent control or have it pending. Sacramento has a grassroots effort pushing for rent control.
“I think it’s opened up a very interesting and important conversation and we’ll take the next year to have that conversation,” said Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D- Santa Monica).
Bloom is pushing for rent control as temporary relief for the housing problems.
“The impact of the housing shortage is here and now,” Bloom told CBS13.
But groups like the California Association of Realtors say rent control legislation could only make the housing problems worse.
“We are against any barrier that creates an inhibitor for a builder to potentially come and build,” said Franco Garcia, the President of Sacramento’s Association of Realtors.
He says rent and housing prices will level out when the supply nears demand.
“We are very low on inventory here in Sacramento.”
According to the California Department of Housing and Community Development, there is a shortage of about 1.5 million homes and there aren’t enough being built.
“It really is a supply and demand,” said Garcia.
According to Cushman and Wakefield research, as the number of available homes continues to decline, rent prices are going the opposite direction.
“We’ve fallen behind in housing production,” said Bloom.
On a state level, Bloom introduced several bills to create incentives for the building industry for the long-term.
Meanwhile, Garcia says local governments can make changes to attract builders now.
“Having a better fee structure at the city will create better opportunities for those builders down the road,” said Garcia.
While governments go to work, what can the thousands in crisis do now?
Tenants Together says the best strategy is to reach out to others facing an increase and try to collectively negotiate. Second would be to counter with needed repairs. Explain how conditions may not warrant the increase. And finally, if you’re on good terms with your landlord, you may be able to ask for a long-term lease of several years to lock-in a rate.
“We’re just trying to make it,” said Merika Reagan of Oakland.
Taking action can work. Reagan was about to see her Oakland rent rise by more than $300 a month.
“They just want to move me out to try and get somebody in there who can pay three to four times more,” said Reagan.
She joined with more than a dozen others in a grassroots effort to protest and negotiate their rate down to an increase of only $50 a month.
“We won! like what!” exclaimed Reagan.