A rally for SB 567 on March 10, 2023. (Photo/Courtesy LA Voice)
A rally for SB 567 on March 10, 2023. (Photo/Courtesy LA Voice)

Home is sacred. California must pass stronger tenant protections.

My dad grew up with no electricity or indoor plumbing in Kansas. He moved to California in 1957, looking for work and a better life. My mom’s family moved from apartment to apartment in Los Angeles, her parents doing what they could to make ends meet.

From very different worlds with common themes of precarity and poverty, my parents met and made a life in the Golden State. My four sisters and I are all native Californians. Yet in 2023, only two sisters remain here: Michelle lives with her family in San Mateo, and I live with my family in Los Angeles.

The rest of my family members left the state for many reasons. But one common theme is clear: California simply became too hard of a place to make a life or a living. Michelle and I often talk about the lessons we were taught as children. We both now dedicate our lives to changing the systems in our state for the better. “It is not your job to finish the work, but neither may you neglect it,” we both contend (Pirkei Avot 2:16). Michelle has dedicated herself to climate justice and climate policy. I am committed to housing justice.

After 14 years of serving as a congregational rabbi, I left the pulpit in 2021 to join LA Voice, a multifaith and multiracial federation in the PICO California nonprofit network. This was, for me, nothing short of a moral calling. Like my sister, I want to make California a state where all people, all children and all families can live and thrive.

Yet, when I look around, millions of Californians are not thriving.

The time for piecemeal solutions has long passed. We need a statewide, common-sense solution that can protect Californians and stem the tide of evictions and homelessness. One is before us now in the California legislature: the Homelessness Prevention Act (SB 567).

The Homelessness Prevention Act makes key adjustments to the Tenant Protection Act of 2019 (AB 1482), a law that limits annual rent increases to no more than 5% plus the local inflation rate, or 10%, whichever is lower. AB 1482 also created a baseline of eviction protections designed to help families stay in their homes. While important, AB 1482 still leaves many Californians unprotected.

The Prophet Isaiah looked out at our people over 3,000 years ago and told us: “…[S]hare your bread with the hungry and take the homeless poor into your home; when you see the naked, clothe them, and do not ignore your own flesh and blood.” (Isaiah 58:7) It is our collective responsibility not only to give tzedakah, but to act for justice. When we look around us and see systems that not only allow, but also perpetuate the crises of homelessness, poverty, suffering and injustice, our tradition is clear: We must change those systems.

I want to make California a state where all people, all children and all families can live and thrive. Yet, when I look around, millions of Californians are not thriving.

Passing SB 567 would help keep families in their homes by lowering the cap for rent increases, helping families get their homes back after no-fault evictions and making sure we protect renters who live in single family homes and mobile homes.

As a rabbi, I have sat with countless distraught parents, whose children have left the state because they cannot afford the cost of housing. These parents, missing their children and grandchildren and thrust into isolation during the pandemic, have been left without good options. Many have asked me whether they should leave their homes and communities and move to new states to be near loved ones — or remain here alone. These are bad choices for all of us.

Between 2017 and 2022, homelessness increased 30% across California, faster than anywhere in the country. Now that eviction moratoria and many of the pandemic protections that kept families in place are gone, we can anticipate homelessness to rise unless we act quickly to pass renter protections like SB 567. In a state where so many are at risk, it is no surprise that about seven in 10 Californians support rent protections.

In early April, we sat at our seder tables and declared, “My father was a wandering Aramean.” We, as a people, know what instability means. We know the generational trauma of homelessness and persecution.

In my work in the multifaith and multiracial community, I have come to witness in our diverse congregations a common thread, one that commands all of us to work to build societies where all people can live with dignity. California must become a place that guarantees that every single family has a secure and affordable place to call home.

I recently had a conversation about home with Rafael, a member of a United Methodist congregation, who moved to California from Mexico years ago. I asked him, “What makes your home sacred?” He told me that it’s the feeling of love and family that makes his home holy. “Do you consider California home?” I asked Rafael. He didn’t hesitate, “Yes. California is my home.”

Home is dignity. It is our refuge and the cornerstone of community. It is where we pray and love. Home is peace and security. Home is not a coveted luxury. It is a fundamental human need.

Home is sacred.

A “Home is Sacred” rally organized by PICO California is set for Thursday, April 20, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on the west steps of the California State Capitol in Sacramento.

Rabbi Jocee Hudson (Photo/Courtesy LA Voice)
Rabbi Jocee Hudson

Rabbi Jocee Hudson is the Clergy and Formation Lead at LA Voice, a federation in the PICO California nonprofit network.