Report: Santa Ana's Lacy Barrio "In Crisis" Due to Mega-Overcrowding, Gentrification

If only living in overcrowded conditions was as fun as this...
If only living in overcrowded conditions was as fun as this...
Photo by Julie Leopo

This week's cover story is a defense of SanTana against its many haters, a defense that the haters sure didn't like. So I'm sure those Trump-suckers will slither out in droves to attack an academic paper about to be released by the People's Data Project on the housing crisis in the city's Lacy barrio, the next neighborhood slated for gentrification in Orange County's most fascinating town.

Titled "Lacy in Crisis and in Action," the 20-page report was written by husband-and-wife duo Carolina Sarmiento and Revel Sims (though based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison at the moment, Sarmiento is a lifelong santanera and the two have long volunteered at the Centro Cultural de México). With the help of many volunteers, the two analyzed surveys of over 400 residents in Lacy, a neighborhood just to the east of downtown Santa Ana. The results aren't pretty; indeed, sections read like a modern-day How the Other Half Lives, except Mexican and in shiny-happy Orange County. Consider some of the findings, per Sarmiento and Sims:

*94% of households surveyed rent instead of own.
*Half of the households surveyed earn total incomes below $25,000, with 18 percent making only between $10,000 and $15,000
*43 percent of respondents had their rent increased last year.
*63 percent of those surveyed live with housing violations "such as infestations, mold, damp walls, defective plumbing and electrical work, and walls, ceilings, and floors in need of repair" because landlords are unresponsive to their concerns
*42 percent "report[ed] at least one type of infestation from rats to cockroaches or bedbugs. 

But, wait: there's more!

*Nearly 80 percent of all households surveyed counted more than one person per bedroom in their housing units, with a full 61 percent reporting two or more.
*A third of those surveyed said more than one family lived in their housing unit, with the average being 2.5 families per household. In one case, "one home had an astounding six families living together!"
*31 percent of tenants had "no rental contract at all"
*70 percent pay only via cash or money order

Sarmiento and Sims (quick aside: if this academia thing doesn't work out, kids, your name makes ustedes a natural vaudeville act. Think of the ratings!) went on to note that Lacy residents are working themselves to death just to afford these abject conditions:

"...the current minimum wage of $10 per hour, a worker would have to work between 83 and 167 hours per week to afford to rent half of the units in Lacy. Another way of looking at it is that a person would need to earn an hourly wage between $20.83 and $41.67 to afford to rent half of the units in the Lacy neighborhood.

Betcha all this won't get into the next DTSA Instagram post, amiright?

Infographic comparing overcrowding in Lacy compared to the rest of SanTana and OC
Infographic comparing overcrowding in Lacy compared to the rest of SanTana and OC
"Lacy in Crisis and in Action"

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Things are so dire in Lacy that people live in rooms made from cardboard walls. Hope exists, however, in the fact that a chingo of community groups both in and outside Lacy are starting to organize tenants to inform them of their rights. Sarmiento and Sims conclude their report by recommending the city create a task force, implement "equitable and efficient code enforcement" (read: get landlords for being slumlords, not raza for growing corn in their front yards), increase affordable housing in the area, implement rent control and a moratorium on evictions, and many more suggestions that you can read.

Where can you read? Sarmiento and Sims will present their findings THIS SATURDAY at the Garfield Community Center, 501 N. Lacy Street at 9:30 am, during a community forum organized by Lacy residents . "The severe housing conditions in the Lacy neighborhood," they conclude "have important consequences for all of us. It will take all of us to change them." See you there! Oh, and #fuckthehaters

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