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S10 E1: Transcript - What Does Privilege Have To Do With It?

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Catherine Stifter From Capital Public Radio, this is The View From Here.


Catherine Stifter I’m Catherine Stifter, producer of The View From Here. Welcome to the very first episode of our new podcast, Place and Privilege.

The members of our documentary team have been in the field for nearly a year, gathering stories, researching and reporting on Sacramento’s housing affordability crisis. It’s a tough issue everywhere, not only in California’s capitol, but the whole state and the rest of the country, too.

I asked Beth Ruyak, host of CapRadio’s daily talk show Insight, to help us launch the project with an interview about what we’ve learned.

This is Episode 1, What Does Privilege Have To Do With It?


Beth Ruyak A team of reporters has been digging into affordable housing. And if you're paying attention to the news on this topic you know that those two words affordable housing are usually followed by the word crisis. Affordable housing crisis. And what exactly does that mean? And how did it get to be this way?

Beth Ruyak In this eight-part podcast series, we're going to hear some answers to those two questions and some ideas for what to do next how to get out of the crisis. And following the podcast series there will be an hour-long documentary that was the original goal of the reporter's works so let's cue them. Here they are, the reporters. Hi everybody. Hello. Amy Quinton is Cap radio's environment reporter. This is a little bit off your beat.

Amy Quinton A little bit.

Beth Ruyak Maybe in your beat. Pauline Bartolone is a reporter with Kaiser Health News an interesting angle on this subject. Hi Pauline.

Pauline Bartolone Hi Beth.

Beth Ruyak Amy Westervelt is a freelance reporter and author from Truckee which has its own spin on the crisis. Hi Amy.

Amy Westervelt Hi Beth.
Beth Ruyak And Cosmo Garvin returns to the view from here for your third project now.

Cosmo Garvin I think that's right.

Beth Ruyak So I didn't expect that you would be covering the same causes or finding the same conclusions about affordable housing and you didn't. Did you? Have you had a chance to talk amongst yourselves about all of this?

Pauline Bartolone We've had lots of meetings. [everyone laughs]

Beth Ruyak Because you've spent many months looking at the history, the politics, the economics of housing affordability.

Beth Ruyak Cosmo, will you start with the title of this whole project “Place and Privilege.” What does that mean to you?

Cosmo Garvin So to me, Place and Privilege, you know based on a lot of the reporting I've been doing for this project, really evokes the idea that we have all kinds of housing policies and land use policies that it turns out really advantage some people some groups of people and exclude other people. And I've been kind of digging into the house, the history of housing segregation in the region. That's part of the reporting I've been doing. So going back to you know the early 20th century and some of the racist racial covenants that were in place in Sacramento and the later redlining policies. You know those old policies that really sort of established patterns of segregation that really persist today. And in some ways unfortunately are reinforced by policies that we have have in place even even today.

Amy Quinton And I think if I could just cut in here. I think also where you live now also determines how privileged you are and how much access you have to resources. And I know Pauline's story touches on that a lot.

Pauline Bartolone Yeah my story's about how hospitals are really stepping up in the fight to end homelessness here and... Hospitals in Sacramento and elsewhere realizing that where you live and how you live really determines your health. So with homeless people if you're living on the street, if you're not having a good night's sleep, if you're not eating well you're going to show up more in emergency rooms and that's going to be harder for you to stay healthy.

Beth Ruyak Where you live is certainly an aspect for Amy Westervelt in her story, her work.

Amy Westervelt Yeah. I was just listening to everyone talk and thinking that in Tahoe it sort of just super obvious because you have people who are visiting or who own second homes that are millionaires and billionaires and then you have the people who serve them, who are kind of hidden in one street over, you know.
Amy Westervelt So really like specifically where you live is a big part of your identity. Even in where I live in Truckee, you know people will ask what subdivision do you live in and if you're Martis Camp that means you're very wealthy. And if you're you know if you live in Kings Beach that means something else. So yeah it's interesting.

Beth Ruyak OK group yes or no questions here. Is there one single cause for how we got here yes or no.

Amy Westervelt No.

Pauline Bartolone No.

Beth Ruyak OK. Is what that cause is even clear. Yes or no.

Amy Westervelt Sometimes.

Amy Quinton I don't think so.

Pauline Bartolone There are many causes.

Beth Ruyak Everybody has a different take on it depending on what their lens or their frame of reference. That's what I gather.

Amy Quinton I think that's also why there's not one solution to it. There's many different causes and there's not going to be one silver or silver bullet to address all the issues.

Amy Westervelt There are so many different stakeholders. You know you've got developers who want one thing. You've got young people who want one thing. Older people want something else. Families want something. Single working people need something else. You know…

Beth Ruyak We spend a moment on place and privilege. But let's back up to affordable housing crisis or affordable housing. Just looking at that there are some things we can agree on. It is a problem across a broad socio-economic level. Cosmo?

Cosmo Garvin I think that is true that it is across a broad, you know many people are affected by it have many different income levels. However, the market is still providing housing for you know, certain, some people with means and not for a lot of other folks.

Beth Ruyak But it might be a perception for a low income community that this is going to be a problem and that's not always the case is it, Pauline?

Pauline Bartolone That it's a problem for one particular community and not another? I mean I focused mainly on homelessness but and there are many causes of homelessness. And one thing I've learned through my main character Tony Price is that it's incredible how easy it is to fall into homelessness and how hard it is to crawl your way out of it. So I imagine it's the same for anybody struggling to find affordable housing. Anybody could have a problem finding affordable housing for a variety of reasons.

Amy Quinton You know and they, I say they, government officials by definition say if you're spending 30 percent or more of your income on housing you are by definition rent over burdened. But what we're finding is that basically means half of Sacramento is rent overburdened. And so if you're paying more than 30 percent you're really not doing, you're really struggling.

Amy Westervelt In Tahoe, it's more like 80 percent of the people are paying much more than that.

Beth Ruyak Pauline you actually gave a nice set up for us to go into Amy Quinton’s story because Amy you looked at renters in sort of middle income bracket and gave such a vivid description of how a shift in just a couple circumstances can make all the difference. So let's start with Amber Calloway and this goes back to the heavy rains in December.

Amy Quinton That's right. She's just below middle income. But all of her problems with her housing started back in December when we had those first heavy rains. They did some damage to the walls in her, she lives in a three bedroom home and they started really destroying some of the walls that needed major repairs. And so she complained to her property manager about the issue. And three days after she complained she got a notice that she should vacate the premises. It's a, it's not an eviction notice but it's like you have 60 days to leave. And we have a cut of hers about that.

Amber Calloway Clip I was basically emotional, angry, scared, sad, all at the same time to where I just you know wanted to just start crying. And so I was crying on the phone to her you know begging her to give me another month you know. And I was like you just gonna put, you know, put me and my son on the street if I can't find a place? You know, what if I don't find a place in six, in two months what what happens then?

Beth Ruyak So she found a termination of tenancy notice in her mailbox. She had 60 days to get out. And this actually leads us to something that is true in Sacramento County not necessarily everywhere but Cosmo I want to bring you in because under the current rules a property owner just has free license to raise rent or evict at any point in time?

Cosmo Garvin I think there are some notice requirements.

Beth Ruyak If there's no lease I should say if there's no lease.

Cosmo Garvin That's correct. And then also there are notice requirements. Yeah right. If there's no lease than they can raise rent with a certain amount of notice. And I think if it's above a certain percentage.. I think Amy you probably know these numbers better.

Amy Quinton Yeah if it's, you get a 30-day notice if it's I think under 10 percent of an increase and you get a 60 day notice if it's more than that. But if you're month-to-month you don't have a lot of rights to you know prevent rent from increasing.

Beth Ruyak And this isn't a new policy in Sacramento. It's been around for a long time, hasn't it?

Cosmo Garvin That's right.

Beth Ruyak Cosmo add some perspective here, because some of the policies that are in place have clearly contributed to the division of the city to the segregating of communities. And I don't know how far back these policies go, but there must have been a point in time when a lot of these decisions were being made.

Cosmo Garvin There have been so many decisions that have been made over the decades and I think it's really important to remember that they, that they were decisions. That things didn't get to be the way they are by accident. These were conscious policy decisions that were were made over the years.

Beth Ruyak By people who had power like developers or politicians in districts?

Cosmo Garvin By developers, by banks, by, by people, you know through, through the policies that they support. And so again that goes all the way back to, you know a lot of reporting exploring sort of the, the racist. There's really no other word for it.

Beth Ruyak Why are you hesitant to say that?

Cosmo Garvin You know that's, because it’s, it's it's a very charged word to say that you know policies are racist or were racist.

Beth Ruyak So are you getting caught up in whether there was intention there to be racist or whether it just became that way?

Cosmo Garvin I think if you look back at you know racial covenants and you know it's clearly there was racist intent there to exclude different, different people. When you get into you know I talked to the author Richard Rothstein about the, the racism embedded in some of the New Deal housing policies and that's a little I think a little more surprising to think of the New Deal in some ways as being as being racist or promoting racial exclusion. And yet you know that’s, that was the effect of many of these policies so.

Cosmo Garvin So those decisions did shape cities all across the country including Sacramento. In some ways we are less segregated than other cities and we like to think of ourselves as being this very diverse city and we are a very diverse city and in many ways more integrated than other communities. Somewhat by accident, in some cases. But there still are obviously you know neighborhoods that are where there are racially concentrated areas of poverty and there are other policies that that aren't helping to untangle those patterns that you know may be reinforcing.

Beth Ruyak I want to hear a little bit of the conversation you had with Bill Kennedy. He's a former attorney for Legal Services of Northern California and I don't know if we need to set this up so specifically. We'll just hear more about it after he makes his comments. So here's Bill Kennedy.

Bill Kennedy Clip When we look at the land that is available for development in the county and we say 100 percent of it goes to market rate developers. We are saying we are only going to build something for the top 30 percent of the socio-economic strata and everyone else can deal with the crumbs that follow, that trickle down. We have a policy that recognizes that those who can make a lot of money out of development and those who can afford to buy as long as that can happen, everyone else be damned. And you can only support that rationally and feel good about that. If you have the sense that well there are deserving people and there are undeserving people. Well a majority of the people in Sacramento County are not undeserving. They're deserving of house, houses they're deserving of homes, they're deserving of warmth, they're deserving of protection. They are deserving to live in an area where the benefits of the economy reach them. This is where race and ethnicity come in again. Power and wealth are intergenerational. You can't expect in a generation to create the wealth that is going to allow you to move forward with opportunity. The civil rights movement opened up some doors but our land use policies closed those doors.

Beth Ruyak To hear Bill Kennedy talk about it the bias is perpetuated it just might come under a different umbrella.

Cosmo Garvin I think that's I think that's right. I think that's you know sort of what I drew from that part of our conversation and I liked that clip because it really does in some ways sort of get at the whole suite of of policy choices that we've made over the years and how how it really can sort of feed back on itself.

Beth Ruyak If we continue talking about policy there is a place where we don't feel the issue so closely we don't get kind of person to person to it. So Amy let's go back to your story the other character in your story is Gracie Phillips and she owned her own home in North Highlands. She was doing what you try to do as you know an American and a parent and graduate college graduate and then what happened?

Amy Quinton Right. Well I mean it's unfortunate because it's Gracie in many ways is a statistic. She before the recession owned her own home. She had a good job but then things started to fall apart. She lost her job. She got a divorce. She had to put up her home for a short sale. So she ruined her credit. She went back to school. She got you know inundated with student loan debt for a master's degree thinking that she'd advance her career. It still took her a very long time to find a job. So she ended up in Oak Park and living in a home with her son that is just you know it's not a good home. It's not. She as she says it looks like an OK house and it doesn't looks like an OK house but she has a lot of problems with it. And what Gracie wants more than anything is to own her own home again.

Amy Quinton And I say she represents a statistic because during the recession black homeownership was much higher than it is now after the recession. African-Americans are being hurt way more than they were before. And so she is one of those statistics that says you know African-Americans are not having homeownership like they used to.

Amy Quinton In fact here she is she's talking about how she went to a loan originator to own a home to talk about owning a home anyway and was told she could only afford something for $165,000 which in Sacramento the average or the median sales price right now is $330,000. She's talking about living on the edge.

Gracie Phillips Clip You know I just I feel impoverished. You know what I mean I feel almost destitute. I feel like living in my car would almost be OK because then I could really bank my money and buy a house. You know what I'm saying. No PG&E. No SMUD. We could park in front of the school. Wouldn't have to worry about a bus or anything there's a whole list of things that I can do if I lived in my car.

Beth Ruyak The definition of home really changes for people doesn't it. It certainly sounds like it did for Gracie and for Amber.

Amy Quinton It's just unfathomable that somebody could think well if I live in my car maybe I can someday own a home. I mean that's a lot of people are living in that situation right now where they want to own a home so bad and homeownership is just they're not going to get there.

Beth Ruyak Amy up in Tahoe. Tell me what the picture is like in light of this conversation we're having about race and finances and the neighborhood.

Amy Westervelt Ya, so I think a lot of people don't realize that Tahoe has one of the highest poverty rates in the state not just the region. King's Beach is a California "poverty pocket". There are 31 percent of families are living in poverty according to federal guidelines for that which is about $24,000 a year for a family of four. It also has the highest employment rate. So it's this really weird combination of people who are just working like crazy and can't get ahead. And most of those people tend to be Mexican immigrants at least in Kings Beach and in parts of South Lake Tahoe although there are definitely pockets of you know white working class people that are in similar straits.

Amy Westervelt But I was thinking when Amy talking like when I was interviewing Amy Kelly from the North Tahoe Family Resource Center she was talking about the people that she works with. And one of the things she said was I mean can you imagine if you know you lost just one of the things that you rely on like health insurance or your car and I was I was like yeah I can imagine because I just lost health insurance. You know I might have to lose my car because it's expensive here. You know like it's it's not just I think people tend to think of it as like oh it's these poor people over here. You know like [almost weeping] I have a degree and I have a professional job. This would never happen to me but you know it's it happens.

Amy Quinton And I think that that actually points out another thing that we're not talking about a lot which is rents are increasing. Housing costs are increasing but our wages are not increasing.

Amy Westervelt Yeah.

Amy Quinton And that's something I know a lot of people struggle with in the statistics bear it out that our wages just you know they're increasing quite a bit. But there's still a huge gap.

Beth Ruyak And it's been stagnant for a long period of time. Sometimes people build their lives with a certain amount of buffer for emergency. And maybe an emergency could be considered two or three years as a long term emergency. But we're now 10 years at least eight to 10 years into a downturn that has been enough to prompt a real shift. So suddenly all these things that as you're talking about Cosmo all these policies that have been in place become a real life, a real life shift for people.

Beth Ruyak Amy when people...

Amy Westervelt [crying] I got so upset. I'm sorry.

Beth Ruyak Oh.

Amy Westervelt Listening to that lady I was like I've had that for like I I've totally been like oh I could live in my 4Runner. You know like I could. It's big enough that we could camp out all summer. You know like pretend that everything's fine.

Amy Quinton Well yeah I mean I've already cried so no worries there. I mean these are.

Beth Ruyak I’ll hand you some Kleenex.

Amy Quinton I mean these are just really compelling stories. And they hit home and they should hit home for people. We're not talking about you know people that are of very low income we are talking about them but this is hitting people of all classes.

Beth Ruyak So can I scratch your surface a little more. Why. Why is this happening really deeply for you too, Amy?

Amy Quinton The same reason it's hitting for Amy is that it. It's just hitting people that are of median income or maybe even more. That you do everything that you're supposed to do. You go to college, you get a good degree, you get a good paying job. But then in California you just can't afford a home, you can't afford a place to live. And that's that's a tragedy for this state. I mean everybody wants to live in California. Well, we don't have enough housing to make that happen.

Amy Westervelt And it just takes it just takes one thing you know like you have. In my case you know we had family members that you know had illnesses that we had to you know deal with paying for. My husband's from a different country and he had to like make an emergency trip home that was an unexpected expense. That just takes a few of these things that come up for everyone and all of a sudden you're like very seriously considering living in your car you know. Which is... And I was just thinking the same thing when you were talking like you do all the things. You do all the things that they say or what you're supposed to do to get this American dream. And it's not there at the end of it you know. And you have this chronic instability that is super stressful and like you were talking about health impacts too I think people are very unstable and a lot of people like a large percentage of the population are in that.

Amy Quinton I know you know and just listening to Gracie talk. I mean I was just like I want to buy this woman a home. I want to buy her. I don't have a home so I can't buy her but I want to buy her a home. And you know she she did so much to try to get a home even after she lost her job. She went to Habitat for Humanity she's like they build homes for families. Maybe me and my son can get a home if I go to Habitat for Humanity. But they only work with families that have two children. That would be the qualification for her to get a home based on her income level. If she had had one more person in a household she could have gotten a Habitat for Humanity home. And it's just like you know, these are just the stories we hear.

Pauline Bartolone I just wanted to amplify the theme of health that I think underlies all of our stories. You know we've been talking about how where you live determines your health. But I think it could be the flipside too. That it can just take one health crisis to cause somebody to lose their house or be homeless. And that's what happened with Tony Price. He was working in Silicon Valley, in the tech sector and he said his anxiety got out of control. He couldn't go to work anymore and lost his job and then next thing he knows, he's homeless for five years. So it really can happen to anyone.

Amy Quinton The stress level of some of our subjects can make you sick when you're constantly worrying about how you're going to feed your family or how you're going to pay your rent. It makes you sick. Gracie was telling me she's stressed all the time. It makes her fibromyalgia worse. It makes her asthma worse and then she's got to pay more for her prescriptions. And it just goes on and on.

Beth Ruyak Which means that each of those people is more plugged in and more in need in the health system than we should be, we need to be or that she would be otherwise.

Beth Ruyak You're listening to Place and Privilege. It is a Capital Public Radio podcast from The View From Here. I've been talking with reporters Amy Quinton, Cosmo Garvin, Pauline Bartolone and Amy Westervelt. They've each been exploring the housing affordability problems in the region. They're doing it not only for this podcast series but for an upcoming documentary. In fact I think you all learned so much in your work toward the documentary that it was just natural that there needed to be another landing place so this is it. The podcast series is that right? That says to me that you each maybe had some surprises along the way.

Beth Ruyak Cosmo, what surprised you in. We didn't really even talk about the fact that you really spent time with Lynda Brooks who is 71 and dealing with displacement. But what was surprising?

Cosmo Garvin Lynda one of the stories I did was Lynda who has lived in the same place for 20 something years has used a housing choice voucher. What most folks still think of as a Section 8 voucher. And her landlord decided you know what, the market is such as it is we don't need to take vouchers anymore. You know please move on. And so it was surprising to learn how sort of easy it is to lose your home because you are on a voucher. And how hard it is. She doesn't drive. You know we went all around town looking for apartments that would take a voucher. She's not in great health. You know we're we're riding buses and stuff that's what she has to do to try to find a place to live. And it's really hard out there to find a place that will take vouchers tenants. And it's not, the places are not in the neighborhoods where she's going to have access to transit and be able to get to her doctor’s offices.

Beth Ruyak Is there also age discrimination in her search at least subtly.

Cosmo Garvin I don't I don't know if there's evidence of that. And in fact one place that she, she was going to be able to get into a senior apartment complex which she didn't want to live in she was you know "I'm I'm not ready for that". I want to live around people of different ages you know and so I think I mean I don't know if this is surprising to me but it really brought home to me how the rules are different when you're can't afford you know a decent, decent housing. How how what it's like to be born sort of the eight ball is very precarious.

Beth Ruyak That story too Pauline connected directly to health care. And as you age you want to be able to get to your appointments you want to be able to know that you're reliable as a patient so that you can be seen when you need to or if you need treatments. That's part of the puzzle putting together where you live.

Pauline Bartolone That's right. I mean one of the things that was surprising to me is just how housing is really a life or death situation for some people. I talked to four different formerly homeless people and they each said without me asking them, that they would be dead without the housing that they have right now. The housing that they got through the help of some of the hospital programs to get folks out of the emergency rooms. And that was really powerful for me to hear. This one man, he's very heavy. He has respiratory problems and he said being homeless means that he would have to walk you know walking a half a mile or a mile in the heat would literally kill him could kill him or send him to the emergency room. And so having a place to nap or rest or you know to have a good night's sleep it's literally life saving for him.

Beth Ruyak We have some of your conversation with Tony Price. You mentioned Tony earlier. So he's speaking to exactly what you're discussing. Let's listen to Tony.

Tony Price Clip If I wouldn't have got housing if I were to still been on the streets or not probably I definitely would have been dead by now. When I got in here, if I wouldn't have stopped drinking I probably would be dead by now. But it afforded me the chance to see a little clearer. It's like OK you know are you going to screw this up like everything else or you can get kicked out of this great opportunity. You know you you have a home again? That was what the first thoughts were on you know exploring getting the medication and then once I got the medication and my doctor was behind me 100 percent, everything changed.

Beth Ruyak I don't know how you convince someone to not give up. But in the characters in your stories I do hear resiliency and a willingness to keep going, keep going. You know Amy for Amber and Gracie not to be so frustrated that they give up. But they have children. So that is a huge incentive. Tony sounds like just really wanted to turn his life around.

Pauline Bartolone Yeah. And you know we we've been talking a lot about a spiral: one thing happens and then it sends you into possible homelessness. Tony just described how it kind of happened the other way around. He landed into a hospital after a suicide attempt. And they hooked him up put some temporary housing then from there he started seeing doctors regularly. He got on medication to get him to quit drinking. And it kind of gave him the agency and the hope to be a functional person again.

Beth Ruyak I think that the word developer has been mentioned once or twice. We haven't spent much time there and there are a lot of viewpoints that point to the developers often being bad guys or at least abusing the system. A Frontline report recently did some finger pointing at men and women on the developer side who have abused the system. What did you hear from people you spoke to about the developer role and why we've gotten to this crisis point. Cosmo?

Cosmo Garvin So I think specifically I looked at some policies that the city and county both tried for a number of years which required developers to build affordable housing in with their larger developments and those rules didn't last very long. Developers and builders didn't like them to begin with. And then the recession came and then when redevelopment went away a lot of the money to build those affordable units went away. And that was a real, it was a political conflict that went on for a while. And I think a lot of people did see developers as the bad guy in that fight.

Cosmo Garvin However you know we have to remember that we were asking developers to solve this problem to you know cut into their profits to solve this problem which is really a larger social problem. And so in some ways those policies were trying to, the argument is, sort of put that responsibility onto the developers were when it wasn't fair to. And so it's very complicated to sort of untangle this stuff sometimes and figure out where the money's going to come from.

Beth Ruyak And you raise an interesting issue and that is where's the incentive to jump in and provide a solution, which Pauline makes your stories so interesting. Who would think that a nonprofit healthcare organization would have incentive to become involved in the affordable housing issue. But at least one does. Will you explain?

Pauline Bartolone I'm worried that we're depressing people here talking a lot about the problems and they're actually part of our documentary is there are some solutions in terms of new money being given to the Campaign to End Homelessness at least in Sacramento. And hospitals I've found are really recognizing the need to house people in order to promote health. And this helps people get the “right care at the right time and the right setting”, in their words. So Dignity Health has invested in some temporary housing programs. Sutter Health is making an enormous investment to end homelessness. It's called Getting to Zero Campaign. And...

Beth Ruyak That's the one I was thinking of because I think it's such a such a statement not only across the state but really across the country about a willingness to be very community invested.

Pauline Bartolone And Sutter's campaign is you know one of a few that we've seen recently nationwide. There was a hospital system in Oregon, in Florida that invested millions of dollars into new housing for homeless folks to keep people out of the emergency room and promote their health.

Beth Ruyak Let's go back to Tony Price who was formerly homeless. How is this program or how did the program work for him?

Pauline Bartolone So Tony got hooked up through the Housing with Dignity program when he landed in Dignity Hospital. And they hooked him up with four months of temporary housing with a case worker to take him to medical appointments make sure that he's getting hooked up to benefits so he can get a monthly income. And the whole reason why the hospitals are doing it because they're seeing a lot of homeless people just come repeatedly into their emergency departments. They're giving them episodic care but they're not getting well because the underlying causes of their poor health are not being addressed. So this is Dignity Health, Sutter Health, hospitals across the country are seeing that investing in housing can help get people the right care at the right time.

Beth Ruyak That's Pauline Bartolone. Let's listen to a little bit of your conversation with Tony. I think you asked him whether he feels guilty for using hospital services as a place to sleep.

Tony Price Clip There are people in there with real emergencies and here's this drunk guy just taking him to bed. You know like I was saying at the time, I just I basically didn't give a BEEP. But somewhere in the back of my mind you know it's just not survival mode or you know being greedy or thinking myself somewhere in the back. You know there's still the you know civilized person basically going, “this is wrong”. You know what if there's somebody out in the hallway right now who's having an issue who dies out there because you're in a bed.

Pauline Bartolone And just to give more context about that, he had said that he felt ashamed that he was using the emergency department so much for basically to sleep off a hard day's drinking. But the way homeless folks have described it to me is that you're in survival mode when you're on the streets. You're just thinking about how to get food and sleep and stay warm and be safe. And so if that means going to the emergency department to find that, that's what they do.

Beth Ruyak There are different frontlines of this battle. There's that front line especially vivid in Sacramento of dealing with homelessness.

Beth Ruyak And Amy as you're describing looking at the scope of the problem and the movement of classes of people in the Tahoe area many housing experts have said to me it's really about law and policy. And both at the city, county levels of government and certainly the state of California. There's a push to shift some laws. Amy for example in Amber's case or Gracie's case are they paying attention to the bigger picture of this problem.

Amy Quinton I think they don't like to think of themselves as part of this big system but they are. Amber said to me that she doesn't feel like a victim. Of course she's not a victim she's going to power through and this is all going to be OK. Gracie sees a little bit of that because she lives in Oak Park where she's seeing homes flip and families being displaced. And I've looked at some of the statistics the flip rate in Oak Park is nearing 20 percent, which is a large amount. And she's like, "And where are these families going where are they going. I have no idea.”

Amy Quinton And she actually even talks about the homes that have been flipped, the gates that are typically in the front yards in Oak Park are coming down and white picket fences are going up and she's calling them "gentrification fences". So she definitely sees herself as part of this larger system that's affecting how policies are affecting her and her neighborhood.

Beth Ruyak How much did you look at that on the state level. So many bills were proposed this year. Some were proposed two years ago. They didn't get much traction. But there's a different awareness now in 2017.

Cosmo Garvin Yeah and we're still I mean we're still waiting for housing deals right are still, recession is sort of careening to an end here.

Beth Ruyak Do you see more weight Cosmo on law and policy in the influence of solutions here?

Cosmo Garvin I think there are. There are a lot of policy discussions that are happening right now especially at the loc.. well, at the local level and a lot more discussions that need to happen. And so there are no end of ideas out there. I mean you've got groups out there that are trying to push you know rent control ordinances and you've got you know Mayor Steinberg has come in and has committed to getting you know 2000 people off the streets and that's going to be a set of policies that are really focused on these chronically homeless folks. You know folks who really need intensive services and then but that doesn't include folks like Lynda who I talked to who wrote to the mayor asking for some sort of insight into her situation and pushing for policies that would prevent people from like her from being evicted. And that's not anywhere on the policy agenda right now. So there are many different avenues that people are trying to push policy solutions in right now.

Amy Quinton And there's no one building homes for median income families right now. It just doesn't pencil out. That's one of the podcasts that I'm hearing talking to many developers about well why is this? Why aren't you doing more to include you know median income? Why is it not penciling out? And that's something more that we'll hear. Nikki Mohanna is one of the developers I talked to and a lot of people know her because she's doing a development on 19th and J Street. The micro units. She's a millennial. She saw that there was a need in the marketplace. They can't afford homes right now. And the only way she could get it to pencil out is to build these very tiny little units. That isn't how families, no family is going to live in a 400 square foot apartment. But it does help millennials. But she also said it barely penciled out for her. And you know she, she did it out of the kindness of her heart and she's well maybe other developers should do that too. Well that's like saying well why don't you do your job. But don't get a paycheck. It's really I mean it's just there's so much that's between a rock and a hard place. And like I said you know finding the solution is going to take a lot of different avenues.

Beth Ruyak That's Amy Quinton. I'm also talking with Cosmo Garvin, Pauline Bartolone and Amy Westervelt. These reporters are talking about their work on the affordable housing crisis. It's part of a bigger project from CapRadio's documentary team The View From Here. The project is called Place and Privilege. The hour-long documentary will be broadcast on Capital Public Radio on October 6th and then that documentary becomes a podcast episode when it airs.

Beth Ruyak Well thank you to all of you for the work that everybody's about to see and for the conversation about it as we set the stage for this whole project. It's been a big one and I know it's taken a lot of commitment but there'll be so much coming out online. My thanks to you for beginning the podcast.

Amy Quinton You're welcome.

Cosmo Garvin Thanks Beth.

Pauline Bartolone Thank you Beth.

Beth Ruyak The View From Here: Place and Privilege will explore the history the politics the economics and, as you heard, the real personal side of housing affordability in California's capital. Also there's an effort to map the crisis through these stories, through the people who have been hardest hit and living on the edge.

Beth Ruyak And in conjunction with the project there will be a number of live community storytelling events and if you go to you can find not only links to these podcast episodes but a registration for those live events. I'm Beth Ruyak. Thanks for joining us on Capital Public Radio for this first in The View From Here podcast series Place and Privilege.


Catherine Stifter Next on Episode 2, “Segregated Sacramento.”

Jesus Hernandez Clip So basically what you have is an X. A east to west pattern of public investment and a north-south pattern of disinvestment. By this racial geography you can measure every social ill in our city today. Poverty, crime, educational attainment, employment, health care. Think of any social good that you can measure and you can measure it by this north-south geography in our county.

Catherine Stifter You've been listening to The View From Here podcast.

Place and Privilege. Episode 1, “What Does Privilege Have To Do With It?”

Thanks to Beth Ruyak, host of Insight.

This episode was produced by Chris Remington.

Edited by Sally Schilling.

Music by PRVLGS.

As Beth mentioned, you can find everything about this project at, including information about our live community storytelling events this fall.

You can get the Place and Privilege podcast on Apple, iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.

Follow us on social media with the hashtag #ViewOnHousing

This is The View From Here.

From Capital Public Radio.

I'm Catherine Stifter.

Thanks for listening.

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