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Tenants in Blackstone-owned properties rally against evictions

"If I didn't have a family to take me in, I would be on the street. That's how it is for many people," said Lila Miller. She was recently evicted.

SAN DIEGO — A rally in downtown San Diego Friday called for a halt to evictions at Blackstone-owned properties.

The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, or ACCE, said San Diego County is already dealing with a homeless crisis, and now is not the time to force people to find somewhere else to live.

"We already have a big housing crisis, so kicking people out of their homes will only worsen. People have nowhere to go; rent is too expensive. There's very limited affordable housing here, so people need to stay in their homes," said Sarah Guzman of ACCE.

ACCE tried to go into a high-rise building at 5th and B to talk to the public relations company that represents Blackstone. However, security asked them to leave. San Diego Police arrived to make sure they exited the building.

Blackstone Group purchased 66 apartment complexes in the county last fall for more than 1 billion dollars, making it one of the largest real estate holders in the county.

According to ACCE, evictions have already started.

CBS 8 spoke to a woman named Lila Miller, who lived at Vista Apartments in Chula Vista.

She said her roommate moved out because she couldn't afford the rent. Miller said she then fell behind on rent in October after getting sick. She couldn't go to work. She said she works at Starbucks and as a server at a restaurant. She received an eviction notice in November. 

"'I've always got homelessness in the back of my mind. Like that could happen to me," said Miller. "If I didn't have a family to take me in, I would be on the street. That's how it is for a lot of people." 

She said she's moving home to stay with her family in Arkansas because she cannot afford to live here. 

Escondido City Council Member Consuelo Martinez sent ACCE a letter concerning evictions in September. She warned that tenants not current on their rent could face eviction. Martinez wrote: “Now more than ever, it’s important to understand their rights and try to work with the new landlords to remain in their units.”

Though some of the units were “affordable,” compared to neighborhood rental prices, there’s fear under Blackstone rental prices will go up, and tenants may not be able to afford to stay in their homes.

A spokesperson for Blackstone released the following statement to CBS 8:

“We did not evict a single tenant for non-payment for two years during the pandemic.  our goal is for residents to remain in their homes, and we encourage residents who are behind on rent to speak with their property manager about the options available to them.

Since our ownership of these communities began, we have completed over 18,000 work orders, invested $28 million to make them better places to live, and implemented financial literacy and after-school programming on-site free of charge to residents. We intend to invest more than $100 million in these communities, creating 500 jobs for San Diego County."

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