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Ashcraft and others say these fees are not only too high, but that they also actually harm seniors and disabled people trying to rent in Alameda: Landlords will be less likely to offer these individuals leases if they might have to pay more to relocate them.
But Laguardia himself views the relocation fees as practical. He described his search for a new apartment — just in case — as "a job fair," with often twenty to thirty people vying for only one unit. He also pointed out that the first and last month's rent, plus a deposit, can add up to more than $7,000 for a one bedroom. This is not to mention the physical costs of moving.
"If you see something affordable, everyone wants it," he said.
Pauling agreed. "Let's be realistic about how much it costs to move a three-bedroom apartment for a senior," she said.
Relocation is why Pauling said she got involved with ARC and the fight for renter protections in the first place. During the past few years, she said she's witnessed more and more friends getting priced out of Alameda because of rent hikes. Today, her biggest fear is that she won't survive on the island long enough to see her kids graduate.
"I sincerely hope that I can stay here another five years," she said. "I hope I can get my kids through high school."
Laguardia empathizes. "Our kids are on the verge of stopping their school," he said while holding his daughter. He hopes that his lawyers will successfully challenge his eviction and find a way for him to stay in his tiny apartment. But he also admitted that it's scary to have no other options.
"If we lose the case, then where do we go from here?"