Governor Should Sack Chairman Of Affordable Housing Agency For Making Housing Less Affordable, Says Consumer Watchdog

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Santa Monica, CA – Consumer Watchdog today called on Governor Jerry Brown to remove Matthew Jacobs, Chairman of the Board for the California Housing Finance Agency, after he began evicting longtime tenants in order to convert their rent-controlled housing into luxury condos.

In a letter to the governor, Consumer Watchdog said it’s absurd that the Chairman of the Board of an affordable housing agency is also a developer who buys rent-controlled apartments and then ousts low and middle-income tenants. Los Angeles City Council members announced on Wednesday that they are exploring ways to save rent-controlled apartments, including imposing a yearly cap on the number of these apartments developers like Mr. Jacobs can demolish.

“Having Mr. Jacobs run the board of an affordable housing agency is like putting the Koch brothers in charge of climate change prevention,” wrote Carmen Balber with Consumer Watchdog.

“The primary mission of the California Housing Finance Agency is to create affordable housing opportunities for low and middle income Californians. Instead, your CHFA Chairman of the Board, Matthew Jacobs, is a landlord currently evicting tenants in order to convert their rent-controlled housing into luxury condominiums. We join a growing coalition of consumer and housing advocates in urging you to remove Matthew Jacobs from the California Housing Finance Agency immediately.”

Read Consumer Watchdog’s letter here:

“Barely a month after Mr. Jacobs acquired the properties in question, management told tenants in January that he planned to demolish the units and turn them into upscale condos. While the bombshell announcement was made with assurances that the longtime tenants would have a year before they had to move, tenants have since been slated for eviction this month and in July.

“Mr. Jacobs used a loophole in rent control laws, the Ellis Act, which gives landlords the power to evict tenants from rent-controlled buildings as long as they sell the property, convert it into condominiums or let the building sit vacant for five years, to eliminate 17 rent-controlled units to reap a healthy profit. Like locusts, developers have descended on poor and middle class neighborhoods across Los Angeles and pillaged rent-controlled apartments. In the past two years, more than a thousand have been cleared out, doubling in just a year.

“Mr. Jacobs should not be on the board of an agency meant to help residents find affordable, safe and decent housing. We ask you to remove him and appoint someone who shows that they believe in that mission by both word and deed.”

In 2013, Governor Brown vetoed an affordable housing bill, AB 1229, by Assemblywoman Toni Atkins. Supported by tenant groups and affordable housing advocates as well as many newspapers around the state, the bill would have allowed cities to enforce inclusionary housing laws that required affordable rental units as part of new construction.

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Carmen Balber
Carmen Balber
Consumer Watchdog executive director Carmen Balber has been with the organization for nearly two decades. She spent four years directing the group’s Washington, D.C. office where she advocated for key health insurance market reforms that were ultimately enacted into law as part of the Affordable Care Act.

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