With rents all over the Bay Area reaching heights that property owners in most parts of the country can only dream about, the pressure has come down hard on working class renters. For people who want to live in the vibrant city of Berkeley, proximity to the university means rents that are incredibly expensive. As prices rise, Berkeley’s famed economic and ethnic diversity is steadily disappearing.
Now that landlords can set rents for vacant properties to any level the market will bear, they have a high incentive to evict tenants. Take the case of Lisette Jones. Lisette is a single mother on Section Eight, (a federal housing subsidy) living in a Berkeley apartment owned by millionaire landlord Andrew Lipnosky. Lipnosky has evicted Lisette and two other Section Eight tenants in the same building. The building is in downtown Berkeley, not far from the university, and Lipnosky must be licking his chops at the thought of a couple of wealthy students taking Lisette’s place.
The Campaign for Renters’ Rights (CRR) has taken up the case and has been fighting to force Lipnosky to let Lisette stay. In April, a group of 20 marched to Lipnosky’s residence in the hills of El Cerrito and staged a mock trial of the absentee landlord. Not only is Lipnosky guilty of greed in kicking out Lisette Jones, he has repeatedly shown a callous disregard for his tenants’ rights. Tenants in many of his 45 Alameda County buildings have reported that their requests for maintenance have gone unanswered for months and even years. When tenants do get a response from Lipnosky, it is generally through manager John Yancy, a man who has been charged with physically assaulting a tenant and who has verbally threatened many of Lipnosky’s renters.
At a meeting of the CRR in May, Lipnosky tenants from Berkeley and Oakland came and shared stories about mold-infested drapes and carpets, broken stoves, and bathrooms without any working lights. People are sick and tired of living in substandard housing and getting abused by the manager who is supposed to fix their apartments. The meeting voted to take up the case of two single mothers sharing an Oakland apartment owned by Lipnosky who are also facing eviction.
The fight against Lipnosky’s poor treatment of his tenants will continue with the Campaign for Renters’ Rights staging an Open House where the public can come and see how neglected his buildings really are.
If you want to get involved with the Campaign for Renters’ Rights, or if you’re having problems with your landlord, call CRR’s hotline: (510) 595-5545.