Editor: This year, Social Security (SS) recipients received a 2.8% cost of living adjustment (COLA) increase. That was almost all wiped out by the increased monthly Medicare premiums. Next year’s projection is no increase in the SS COLA. With the consumer price index (CPI, or inflation rate) predicted to rise by 2% next year, there is a significant loss of buying power for those on fixed incomes. Any unforeseen economic or health problem will make it extremely difficult to pay rent and put food on the table. It is also likely to be the cause of housing instability for children, unnecessary homelessness or deaths.
Oakley’s lower and fixed-income renters are struggling with high-rent burdens, where rents have risen well above the overall price index and income growth. The pricing problem is being aggravated by strict zoning controls, which limit increases in supply of high-density affordable housing and no new affordable housing built with city or county redevelopment, because the Legislature eliminated all redevelopment agencies in 2011. For teachers, between 40% and 50% of their pay is spent for housing. For students, it’s even worse. For our seniors, veterans, and those on fixed incomes, it can be life threatening.
Earlier this year, our local veterans groups helped move one of our own from a senior housing facility here in Oakley to a cheaper one farther away because of an unreasonable rent increase. On Aug. 24, our veterans of Oakley, Oakley Seniors, and Oakley Rotary Club members united to move another veteran family on a fixed income because their rental home was sold. This is happening more often than it should. With a recession likely, these kinds of situations could happen even more often.
As a community, we must not allow these challenges to overwhelm those in need of assistance. We must unite to collectively develop solutions for these challenges. We must have unity in the community to protect our citizens on fixed incomes, veterans, those on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and preserve housing stability for children. We must request our city councils, county supervisors and legislators to solve these far-reaching, deeply damaging, and potentially life-threatening situations.
We must always remain vigilant against unjustified rent increases and poor management practices. Landlords are in the business to make money, increase their profit and keep overhead down. Remember: “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”
Retired engineering associate and vice commander of Veterans of Oakley