Locals demand affordable housing
Author: Emma Spaeth
Published: February 23, 2022
Coastsiders march down Main Street on Friday night in a show of support for more affordable housing here. Adam Pardee / Review
On Friday night, a procession of people marched down Main Street from the Ayudando Latinos a Soñar headquarters to Mac Dutra Plaza, holding signs calling for affordable housing. Chants of “Sí, se puede” — “Yes, we can” — could be heard from blocks away as the group made its way down the street holding a white banner painted with the word “compasión.”
The demonstration, organized by ALAS, hoped to draw attention to the affordable housing crisis that is acutely experienced by the Latino population on the Coastside and give voice to some of those affected.
“Our Latino community makes up the backbone of our economy here,” said Belinda Hernandez-Arriaga, executive director and founder of ALAS. “We have to do something urgently for change. We need compassionate landlords. We need people that will be willing to rent to our families at a fair price. We need folks that will let Latino families live here.
People concerned about the lack of affordable housing and recent evictions on the coast gathered at Mac Dutra Plaza on Friday to draw attention to the twin problems.
Adam Pardee / Review
“I’ve been doing social work on the Coastside for 17 years, but this year and last have been back-to-back phone calls of people needing help,” she said. “People are losing homes fast. We have three families right now that, next week, they’re going to be out on the street. We don’t know where they’re going to go. There aren’t even trailers available.”
Once the procession reached Mac Dutra Plaza, members of the community gathered to listen to people speak.
“The need right now is for housing,” said Patricia Ramirez. “I am an example of this. I have had to move within Half Moon Bay eight times since 2002. Right now I am again in a situation where I’m looking for some where to live, and there isn’t a place for my family.”
Ramirez said that in her search for housing she has been denied a lease because her family of five is too big.
She said that it’s a struggle for families to move so often because in many cases they have to provide the previous and next month’s rent, along with their first month’s rent and security deposit, which is challenging given the rising cost of rent for families living paycheck to paycheck.
Protest signs were prepared for a march through downtown Half Moon Bay. Adam Pardee / Review
“We should have been doing this a while back,” said Joaquin Jimenez, Farmworker Program and outreach director at ALAS and a member of the Half Moon Bay City Council. “Many in our community have already been evicted on the coast. Some of the families here tonight have 30 days or less to move and they have no place to go.
“We’re doing this to let the community know that we need housing and we need to act now.”
Jimenez said that since 2018, at least 50 families have been evicted from their homes. He added that the problem is not just families getting evicted, it’s overcrowding of homes. He said at one point ALAS was aware of 15 people living together who infected one another with COVID-19 because they had nowhere to quarantine.
Fatima Santos Vega and Crystal Hernandez Avila, both 10 years old, spoke at the event about how challenging it’s been for them to live in such small spaces and share rooms, especially during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In 2020, who was working still?” said Jimenez. “The essential workers, in the supermarkets, restaurants and the field. It was the Latinos. If all Latino essential workers don’t go to work, or show up to the restaurants, or go to the fields, the hotels, think about how that is going to affect the economy. Thousands of dollars would be lost because our community didn’t show up for work.
People spoke outside the ALAS House in Downtown Half Moon Bay prior to a march that took people to Mac Dutra Park. Adam Pardee / Review
“So why not give them housing?” he said. “Why not give them a safe place to stay, for their children to be safe, to help them grow.”
Jimenez added that in San Mateo County, Latinos were some of the most affected by COVID-19. Many Latino farmworkers and essential workers were testing positive at a disproportionately high rate because they were more likely to be exposed to the virus and to bring it back home, where many people live in high-density housing and social distancing isn’t possible.
Ismael Sanchez, who also spoke at the event, came to Half Moon Bay from Oaxaca, Mexico, in 1998. When he first moved here he rented a room with three other people because that’s all he could afford. He said that 21 people lived in a four-bedroom house.
“We had people sleeping in the kitchen because we couldn’t just leave them on the street,” said Sanchez. “Even back then there was no housing.”
Since, he has started his own construction company and buys and renovates houses to rent out to essential workers and people experiencing housing insecurities on the coast. Sanchez expressed frustration that affordable housing has been a priority for the city for nine years, yet he feels not much has been done about it.
“I’m losing friends and family because of rent,” he said. “(The city) doesn’t understand that our community is the engine of the car, it won’t run without us. It doesn’t matter if the tires are there or how good the car looks.”
One friend who moved recently was the third generation of his family to live in Half Moon Bay.
“They cried when they left,” Sanchez said. “This can’t continue.”