Vecindario de Lacy en Acción


Santa Ana, CA
United States

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Conducted a community survey to understand displacement pressures and housing insecurity in the wake of COVID-19 and a new rent control ordinance in Santa Ana, California.

The Lacy neighborhood of Santa Ana, California, is in one of the most segregated communities in the country, and residents face significant displacement pressures. Lawmakers recently passed a rent-control ordinance to prevent further displacement, but the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic have worsened economic inequities for people of color in the region.

Vecindario de Lacy en Acción (VeLA) is a collection of residents who have led research and organizing efforts in the region since 2014. With this project, they wanted to better understand the scope of housing insecurity and displacement by examining the impacts of displacement pressures, overcrowding, and poor conditions in a postpandemic rent-controlled environment. The project was supported by Santa Ana Building Healthy Communities, which addresses health inequities in the region; the Kennedy Commission, which focuses on affordable housing; El Centro Cultural de Mexico, which provides cultural and education activities to strengthen leadership; and researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Using a community-based participatory research approach, VeLA trained community researchers, including youth leaders, to administer a survey. The community researchers surveyed 220 people in the neighborhood on current displacement pressures, threats to housing security, overcrowding, and habitability. The survey highlighted persistent challenges for renters in the Lacy neighborhood and in Santa Ana as a whole, including high rates of overcrowding and rent increases (albeit at a lower rate than previous years). The survey found that 8 percent of residents experienced increased harassment from their landlord. In addition, conversations during the survey administration process revealed that very few families were aware of recent rent-control policies.

VeLA shared these findings with the community at two in-person forums. The first presentation was attended by local councilmembers, parents, and a school district representative. The second presentation was geared toward young people in the community and included presentations from the youth leaders who collected survey data. VeLA incorporated feedback from these forums in the final report, which conveys changes over time in the Lacy community and emphasizes the importance of community-driven data collection to understand housing challenges. The report also highlights the need for greater transparency around rent-control policies among residents.