May 18, 2018

Throughout California, but perhaps especially in San Diego, undocumented tenants are in need of legal help when faced with notices and evictions. Thankfully residents in San Diego can turn to Affordable Housing Advocates (AHA). Founded in 1991 as San Diego Friends of Legal Aid, AHA initially raised money and support for the Legal Aid Society of San Diego’s (LASSD) special programs such as “Adopt-a-Building”. Adopt-a-Building worked with tenants of subsidized housing at risk of converting to market rate, to keep it affordable. In 1996, AHA changed its mission to provide legal services in impact and individual cases to fill a void where LASSD faced restrictions due to their LSC funding. Because AHA does not accept LSC funds, they are able to offer representation to undocumented tenants and pursue impact litigation and advocacy.

Tenants’ Rights Project

Over the years, the Tenants’ Rights Project (TRP) has responded to tenants’ needs for representation in individual cases as well as legislative advocacy when many tenants are impacted. For example, TRP worked with tenants and advocacy groups to secure just cause eviction protections for long term tenants in the City of San Diego. These protections are contained in the Tenants’ Right to Know Ordinance. When the condominium craze returned to the region threatening tenants with massive displacement, AHA implemented the Tenants’ Rights Condominium Conversion Project. Under this Project, TRP provided legal assistance to individual tenants and groups of tenants threatened with displacement by conversions. TRP advocated for: changes to local and state laws to limit conversions based on the amount of new rental units developed; clarification of the content and sequence of tenant notices regarding the conversion process; and tenants’ right to receive relocation benefits. Since 2011, TRP has helped implement the Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel Act (AB 590). Known as the Civil Gideon Program, a 6-county pilot program provides counsel to all unrepresented parties when their opponent is represented in eviction and family law cases. TRP accepts tenant referrals, including from Shriver grantee Legal Aid Society of San Diego, Inc. See for more information.  Because AHA is not a Shriver sub-grantee, TRP can assist tenants regardless of whether the landlord is represented, and help tenants with matters other than evictions, including defective notices, substandard housing and bad management (unfair business practices).

Project IMPACT

AHA is passionate about housing because home is not only where the heart is, it is where we get our start in life, where we first learn about our place in the world. To ensure that our clients can find affordable housing throughout the region, AHA advocates for and enforces laws that require planning, funding and development of affordable and inclusive housing. State zoning and land use laws require planning for all housing needs and adoption and implementation of programs to meet the needs. AHA’s Project IMPACT advocates for enforcement of these laws before local jurisdictions, when plans are updated and projects proposed. For decades Project IMPACT enforced State Community Redevelopment Law’s affordable housing obligations, winning Judgments and Settlements in Brea, Carlsbad, Escondido, Poway and San Marcos. AHA’s impact litigation recovered over $100 million for affordable housing development and required the construction of hundreds of additional affordable housing units. AHA’s current county-wide suit, which is on appeal, seeks to ensure fulfillment of all past, unmet affordable housing obligations of the 17 former redevelopment agencies in San Diego.

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Affordable Housing Advocates Help Those with Nowhere Else to Turn
Affordable Housing Advocates

Organizations mentioned/involved: Affordable Housing Advocates (AHA)