Housing Burden: Access to affordable and quality housing is critical for all Californians.

Insights and Analyses

  • The high cost of housing plagues renters and owners, as well as immigrants and their U.S.-born counterparts alike. In 2019, throughout California, 54% of all renters and 31% of all owners were burdened, spending more than 30% of their income on housing.
  • In California, more than half (58%) of immigrant renters were rent burdened in 2019.
  • When disaggregating by status, a higher proportion of undocumented renters and owners experience rent and housing burden. Across the state, in 2019, 66% of undocumented renters and 43% of undocumented homeowners were burdened.
  • A January 2021 report by the state’s legislative analyst office on the impact of COVID-19 on renters and homeowners, revealed that low-income households, who are more likely to be renters, experienced more job losses during the pandemic; meaning they were disproportionately burdened by housing costs. The increase in unemployment (UI) benefits and stimulus checks have helped some unemployed workers avoid evictions or late rent payments; however, undocumented immigrants continue to remain in precarious standing as they are excluded from receiving federal aid.

The Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) brings together working class Asian immigrant and refugee communities in the Bay Area to develop and fight for progressive solutions to address affordable housing, environmental justice, and economic justice.

APEN has worked for nearly 30 years to build the leadership of Asian immigrants and refugees, beginning with helping communities address environmental hazards in their neighborhoods in Richmond and expanding their work to fight for affordable housing preservation in a rapidly gentrifying Oakland Chinatown. Their work also includes collaborating with others across the state and nation to help build a shared vision around environmental, social, and economic justice through power building strategies like civic engagement and policy advocacy. Locally, as rent skyrockets and low-income families continue to struggle to find quality affordable housing in the Bay Area, APEN continues to work with community members to propose policy solutions that address the need to preserve affordable housing and create safer living conditions in working-class communities like Oakland Chinatown and Richmond. For example, in 2019, APEN won a 16-year campaign to ensure a new Oakland luxury waterfront development included 465 units of on-site affordable rental housing for seniors and families making between 30 and 60 percent of the area median income. That same year APEN also helped push forward AB 1482, housing legislation that would cap rent increases and protect people from eviction. APEN's community leaders also advocated for the Healthy Homes Act (AB 1232), which included provisions for a program to utilize existing energy efficiency funds to help renovate the homes of working class families and do research into whether these kinds of statewide environmental programs cause displacement. In 2019, AB 1232 was signed into law in California.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, APEN’s advocacy and organizing work became even more critical. In 2020, APEN established a mutual aid fund, COVID-19 Emergency Community Stabilization Fund, in order to support Bay Area working-class Asian immigrants and refugees that were struggling due to the pandemic. They were able to raise and disburse a total of $60,000 to immigrant and refugee community members. Additionally, APEN advocated for a citywide emergency moratorium on tenant evictions in Oakland in order to help protect tenants during the pandemic, as well as emergency paid sick leave for those infected with COVID.

For more on APEN’s work, please visit their website here. Read APEN’s most recent joint report on building resilience in the most vulnerable communities to respond to climate disasters here.  

Photo credit: Asian Pacific Environmental Network

Resources

Related Indicators