Becky Kleinfelter | Empty Homes Sabotage Families

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor

Let me introduce you to a 2.7-acre property on Bouquet Canyon Road, at the north end of the valley. It has been on the market for over a year.

When I first looked at that property, I saw a place where I could start a garden large enough to help feed the neighborhood. I saw a future where I can teach my son how to germinate beans, chase after guard bunnies, and watch the monarchs land on milkweed. 

I saw hope.

Across the street, over 30 years ago, my parents bought a two-bedroom, one-bathroom condo for $75,000, and sold it seven years later for $90,000. Despite not having a college education, my parents bought the home for the three of us on my father’s income alone. That condo now sells for $350,000.

And the 2.7-acre property? Asking $850,000. And that’s after the price was dropped by over $600,000 in February. I look at it now and I see hopelessness.

There are more than 190 listings on Zillow for Santa Clarita alone. No single-family home sells for less than $300,000. What is the average time these properties have been on the market? Where are the starter homes?

Currently, my husband and I live separately in multi-generational households. I live with my uncle, 85-year-old grandfather, mother and stepfather. My husband lives with our son, my husband’s sister, and his mother and father. We are trying to reunite our family now that the pandemic is ending, but we can’t overcome 30 years of skyrocketing housing prices combined with school loans and stagnant wages.

Meanwhile, with the vast majority of single-family homes being snapped up by investment firms, prices are being held artificially high by companies that have no interest in actually occupying the home. How long will these homes sit empty while families like mine have no hope at building wealth?

I hear President Joe Biden talk about jobs! Jobs! JOBS! But Biden’s infrastructure jobs are aimed at people who are 20 years old who don’t have college degrees. For Millennials, who are the most educated generation in U.S. history, this is insulting. We are 40 years old, and no longer have the backs for ditch digging. We have weathered a forever war, two recessions, and so many “once in 100 years” events that the phrase no longer has any meaning.

This is particularly true in regards to climate change, and in that same “For Sale” sign, I see the Land Back movement, and the fight to give Indigenous tribes control of their ancestral lands. California has begun proscribed fires to manage forest growth. While the news showed a picture from the 1800s, no one mentioned that Indigenous cultures practiced such burns long before white men appeared.

Property provides a direct way to feed families as well. In foraging indigenous resources, I see a path in reducing reliance on large grocery stores that suck profits out of local neighborhoods, reducing the emissions caused by shipping foods across the country, and providing food security at times when normal supply lines may fail. While in the past such a thought may have been the subject of scoff and scorn, the winter storm in Texas and the wildfires last year on the West Coast highlighted the need to finally address the possibility of such supply disruptions.

As the sign swings from the white posts, the scene from the Echo Park Lake sweep flashes before my eyes, when the L.A. Police Department swept an entire unhoused population to close a park that still has not begun repairs. Why are we so much more comfortable with police beating people attempting to make community in a park, and less comfortable with just giving those people a home to live in?

The city of Los Angeles decided a two-bed storage shed without a bathroom or kitchen is considered suitable “shelter” for the unhoused. But how does that give anyone the sense of being rooted that builds a platform on which to construct a future?

The United Nations recognizes housing as a human right. Homes should not be viewed as classical investments, and I’d love to see if legislation could encourage banks and title-holding companies to fill empty inventory. No property should be empty for longer than two months if there are working homeless and families who desperately need stable homes.

I look at the “For Sale” sign. And I wonder who is buying.

Becky Kleinfelter


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