Taking the Protest Around Downtown
It’s a cool, crisp, Sunday after Thanksgiving in downtown Reno, and David Jhonattan is leading ten or so kids from the Wonder Lodge motel to the Truckee River, parading their large “Stop Rent Greed” sign down Virginia Street, engaging in conversations with curious residents, handing out free pizza and getting pedestrians to paint their names on the back of the protest art.
While one city ambassador, RTC workers and motel employees shoo them away, several cars honk in favor, and many passersby give a thumbs up. Jhonattan, an activist by day with a graveyard shift by night, engages with everyone he crosses, both in Spanish and English.
“Every single place has a value, you know, and sometimes people that own these properties take advantage of people and lie about the value and that’s what rent greed is when they take advantage of it,” he says to a kid just joining the group. All of them, except for one, Jhonattan says, currently live in motels, where long term stays are also going up. “Rent control is where the city gets involved and tells these companies you can't be raising these rents without, you know, proper procedures. So that's why your Dad’s not home … or your mom's at work all the time.”
A Joyous Carnival
At one point, the kids throw their basketball in the Truckee River, and Jhonattan takes off his shirt, shoes and socks to retrieve it.
One of the kids carries a bluetooth boom box while another picks upbeat songs to play loudly as they move along the river walk, getting a welcome break from their cramped motel existence.
Jhonattan knows them all through the Team Learn non-profit he manages, which aims to reform education. Their parents have all given their approval for their participation and the kids seem to be having a great time. Jhonattan says it’s also good education for them.
“You know, when they grow up, they’ll think back, back in the day this guy did this, I should do this too, you know. It kind of goes back into their DNA, into their form of living.”
Are Rent Control and Regulation the Solution?
If legislated, rent control and rent regulation are administered by a court or a public authority. Controls limit the amount a property owner can charge for renting out a home, apartment or other real estate. There are also eviction controls.
Currently, California, New York, New Jersey, Maryland and the District of Columbia have localities with some form of rent control. Thirty-seven states prohibit or preempt rent control, while nine states allow their cities to enact rent control, but have no cities that have implemented it. Nevada does not have any rent control laws, meaning landlords may increase the rent to any amount.
When previously brought up on #ourtownreno rent control concepts have elicited angry comments from some on social media.
More Empathy and Protests Needed
Jhonattan says those raising rents should have more empathy for people, but they don’t. “The people that own properties and make a good living out of them, they're already making money. Even if the rent's cheap, they'll make a lot of good money. It's just they're making a whole lot more money by raising rent.”
At the basketball court, he had the kids gather around and say they were soldiers fighting for their parents, education and immigration. He says he hopes to continue the protest on a daily basis in the afternoons to keep building awareness. “Any awareness is good,” he said, “because you never know who's passing by. It could be a government area, it could be a casino owner. You never know. You know one person can make a difference. So two, three, four, or five people … maybe something's going to change. If you don't do anything, you never tried and nothing's ever going to change.”