In a case that highlights the critical need for local housing and the lengths some people will undertake to profit from it, county officials say they are fining property owners Nicolas and Ana Ruvalcaba nearly $60,000 for renting out at least 62 illegal dwellings to farmworkers and their families on San Miguel Canyon Road in northern Monterey County.

The county had at first estimated that about 100 people were living at the site, including women and children. Now that estimate is more than 200.

Media reports indicate that the tenants were paying between $1,000 and $2,000 in rent each month. One tenant who was interviewed said she had no options beyond living at the site, but said she was treated with respect. Another woman who was interviewed echoed her comments.

These are the opening paragraphs in Chris Counts, “County busts landlord with illegal housing,” Carmel Pine Conc, May 19-25, 2023.

The news story goes on to detail the ways in which the housing was substandard:

The Monterey County Environmental Health Bureau reported that examples of site include units with “no heat, no smoke/carbon monoxide sensors, no windows, the presence of “poor water quality, sewage discharge onto the ground and mold.”

Point made: it’s low quality. But here’s the thing: every one of those tenants chose to live there. For them it appears to have been their best option. You don’t make people better off by preventing them from having the best of their lousy options. The person trying to take away that best option is not their friend.

The news story points out that the government is requiring the owners to “demolish unpermitted units and utilities.”

The fact that the government has royally screwed not just the landlords but also the tenants comes out in another paragraph:

The executive director of the Coalition of Homeless Services Providers, Genevieve Lucas-Conwell told the newspaper that her group has interviewed about 30 of the former tenants, which [sic] she said mostly speak Spanish and Mixtec. Lucas-Conwell said her group is helping connect them with other groups that can provide services, such as temporary housing. But she conceded there is a bottleneck of people in need of housing. “It’s a tough situation,” she said.

But it’s not tough for the government officials who are requiring that housing be destroyed.