About Us

Tenant Sanctuary is a tenant education and legal aid service located in Santa Cruz, California. Opening our doors in April 2019, our mission is to empower tenants by educating them on their rights and providing the tools to pursue those rights. Our tenant counselors are volunteers dedicated to the cause of tenant empowerment and education. We also provide free public educational events on a regular basis through the help of our community partners and advisors.

Tenant Sanctuary is in the process of providing free legal consultation services to tenants. We hope to provide access to a tenant attorney on a regular basis in the near future.

What do we believe?

We believe that housing is a human right and that all tenants are entitled to know their rights and act on them without fear of retaliation. This right must be especially protected in the middle of a housing crisis, which Santa Cruz tenants find themselves in without substantial protections. Multiple studies have uncovered that Santa Cruz is the fourth least affordable city in the world, and the most unaffordable city in the United States. More specifically, the issue of “rent burden,” defined as how much of a tenant’s income is dedicated to their rent, is one that impacts at least 70% of tenants in Santa Cruz and primarily affect tenants in the city’s low-income neighborhoods of color (No Place Like Home, 2016). Most Santa Cruz tenants spend at least 30% of their income on rent, and many others spend at least 50-70% of their income on rent. This leaves little income left for other basic needs, such as food, utilities, transportation, healthcare, and more.

What does this mean? When rents are high, many tenants cannot afford to move to another unit and will put up with major rights violations. Overcrowding, repairs, harassment, and even frequent rent increases are issues which many tenants will withstand in order to stay in their homes. In this context, we believe that tenants should be fully aware of their rights in order to maintain decent, safe, and affordable homes. Tenant education and an accessible legal aid program can help keep tenants in their homes while the city works to amend housing policies and alleviate the housing crisis.

Who are we?

Tenant Sanctuary is composed of a team of committed volunteers, a program coordinator, a tenant attorney, and a steering committee. Composed of several tenant advocates, the steering committee guides the vision and strategies of the Tenant Sanctuary program.

  • Gretchen Regenhardt, RDA, California Rural Legal Assistance
  • Vicki Winters, freelance website developer and tenant advocate
  • Cynthia Berger, tenant counselor, Power Surge Tenants Rights / Santa Cruz Tenant Association
  • Bruce Van Allen, software developer and community activist
  • Ernestina Saldana, tenant advocate
  • Zav Hershfield, tenant advocate