Resources Available to Deal With Soaring Rent Prices in Kern County

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Rent prices are making it incredibly difficult for people to afford a stable home. A Washington Post analysis indicated that rent has risen 19% in Kern County since 2019.

The median rent in Kern County based on RentCafe, a nationwide apartment listing service, costs around $1,300. So 23ABC researched what local residents were facing in terms of increased rent. One resident said his rent had gone up from around $1,200 to $1,400, while another said his had gone up from $1,075 to $1,450.

Patrick Johnson, originally from Bakersfield, lives with his wife, children and mother-in-law. His rent went up in April and had a big impact on their ability to spend.

“That’s a lot. That’s a big jump from $1,075 to $1,450. That’s a lot, especially right now,” he says. “We’re budgeting tighter, not really eating out, saving every little bit of our money that we actually have.”

This is the case for so many people in Kern County. But Kassie Mullican with Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance says there is tenant rights people should know about (see full guide below).

“The Tenant Protection Act 2019 created a rent increase cap for individuals. There are criteria you must qualify for. Some of these criteria are that you must live in the residence for at least one year or more. Some properties are exempt and some are not.”

Mullican suggests reaching out to see if your household qualifies, adding that they’ve seen some landlords circumvent that cap, even asking tenants to move out so they can raise a new tenant’s rent.

“Enough people have moved here for a lower cost of living from places like Los Angeles or the Bay Area,” says Ian Sharples, housing services program manager at Kern’s Community Action Partnership. “That means people who lived here before have to compete with higher income people competing for the same homes as people who already lived here.”

On average, Sharples explains that a healthy market will have a vacancy rate of 4-5%. Anything below that indicates a severe housing shortage, and Kern County is down about 1% since the pandemic.

Soaring rent prices in Kern County

“Another problem is that HUD calculates the fair market rent, but it bases it on the previous 5 years. So the rents are increasing at this rapid rate over the last 2 years, which is not really taken into account. how HUD understands what the fair rate market for Kern County actually is.”

This means that homes that a person can try to get help for do not meet the eligibility criteria because they are more expensive than this HUD rate. But there are resources out there

“First we have the Landlord-Tenant Help Centerwhere you can request services in regards to any notices you may receive from your landlord,” says Mullican. “And another is that the [Kern County] courthouse has a self-help resource button which provides many guides on how renters can actually respond to these reviews.”

The Landlord-Tenant Assistance Center is located at Kern County Superior Court, Metropolitan Division, 1415 Truxtun Ave., Bakersfield, on the third floor.

Meanwhile, CAPK continues to receive a flurry of calls for their Tenant assistance program which lasts until September 30 and pays up to $10,000 in back rent. It covers Kern, including unincorporated areas.

Sharples adds that this rising cost of rent and low affordable housing rates are undeniably linked to the homelessness crisis the county is already facing.

“Every person we stop from entering homelessness saves local agencies about $30,000 a year, so I think the most cost-effective way to solve our homelessness crisis is to keep people in the houses where they are now.”

Sharples says that’s why housing assistance programs like those of CAPK and the Housing Authority are so important.

The CAPK team will be in Ridgecrest on Tuesday assisting desert communities with these requests and you can find the online version on the CAPK website.

Some tips to help you get help quickly:

  • People should apply as soon as they are behind on rent.
  • Anyone who has been financially impacted by COVID-19 can apply.
  • Applicants must meet certain income limits. The income threshold to participate in the CAPK program is 50% of median income. Eligible customers must have more than $1,000 in medical expenses or job loss due to COVID-19
  • Have documents ready for your application: proof of income, ID such as a driver’s license or social security card, a copy of the lease, and some sort of notice stating how late you are on the rent. These are not required to start the application, but they will help your application move forward faster.

23ABC in depth

23ABC In Depth: Rent Price Comparison

California has the 4th highest rent in the country among the 56 US states and territories. 23ABC took an in-depth look at fair market rental prices for the state and for several counties, including Kern, to see how much prices have climbed.

According to RentData, about 15% of Americans are eligible for some level of housing assistance. This means that there are more than 5.8 million people in California who could receive housing benefits from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Fair market rent is determined each fiscal year by HUD and is used to set payment standards for federal housing assistance programs like those in California.

Fair Market Rents (FMRs) are used to determine standard payment amounts for the Housing Choice Voucher Program, to determine initial renewal rents for certain expiring project-based Section 8 contracts, to determine initial rents for housing assistance payment (HAP) contracts in moderate countries. Rehabilitation Single Room Occupancy Program (Mod Rehab), rent caps for rental units under the HOME Investment Partnerships program and Emergency Solution Grants program, calculation of maximum grant amounts for continuum beneficiaries care and the maximum amount of rent a beneficiary can pay for property rented with Continuum of Care funds and calculation of flat rents in social housing. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates FMRs annually for metropolitan areas defined by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), certain HUD-defined subdivisions of OMB metropolitan areas, and each county not metropolitan. 42 USC 1437f requires that FMRs be posted at least 30 days before they become effective and that they become effective at the beginning of the federal fiscal year (usually October 1). Fair rents, as defined in 24 CFR 888.113, are estimates of the 40th percentile gross rents for standard quality units in a metropolitan area or non-metropolitan county.

Looking at the average fair market price for a one-bedroom apartment, the average rent in California last year was $1,205 per month. However, that average has since risen to $1,854 per month.

Not all data is available for every county for this year, but last year in Kern County, the average rent for a one bedroom apartment was $743 per month. For LA County, it was $1,605 per month. And last year, San Francisco County was the most expensive, at more than $2,900 a month.

California Renters GuideD

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