City Council Vets Pair of New Rent Ordinances

At its July 21 meeting the City Council introduced a pair of rent-related ordinances. The first involved giving some teeth to the city’s Rent Review Advisory Committee, while the second concerned the review of rent increases.

Renting is a convenient and affordable option for residents who do not wish to purchase their own property. Renters pay a fixed monthly amount to property owners rather than hundreds of thousands for their own property. Because of this, many Alamedans choose to rent instead of buy.

As the city attracts more residents and times change, property owners are known to increase the rent by outrageous amounts. There are numerous cases here of landlords significantly raising rent on tenants. Some have received up to 50 percent rent increases with little or no notice. Unable to afford the increased rent, residents are displaced and forced to find another place to live.

Property owners understand the demand for housing, which is why some are eager to raise rents by incomparable amounts. If current residents are unable to pay the desired amount, landlords know that there are people waiting in the wings to pony up.

Housing is already a problematic matter in the Bay Area. As more jobs become available and the working class expands, there is not enough housing or the existing housing is too expensive.

Two years ago, Angela Hockabout experienced a significant rent increase at her former residence when her rent increased by $450. The increase caused Hockabout and her family of four to move in with her mother-in-law.

When this happened, Hockabout created the Alameda Renters Coalition, a community that fights against unfair rent increases and landlords taking advantage of their tenants. The coalition publicizes the stories of residents, supports those going through housing displacement due to rent increases and provides resources to housing organizations that support tenant’s rights.

Rent control is a popular topic among the renting community. It prevents landlords from increasing tenants’ rents significantly but also taxes property owners. To renters, rent control is a way of ensuring safety in their residence.

The same evening the City Council was discussing the issue of rents in the Island City, the city of Richmond became the first in Contra Costa County to pass a measure on rent control. In its approved ordinance, landlords are limited to an annual rent increase equal to the rise in the Consumer Price Index for the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose region, which recently rose by 2.3 percent.

Tenants Together is a statewide organization for renters’ rights. Commenting on the city of Richmond’s decision, Dean Preston, the executive director, expressed the importance of rent control. "Rent control is a successful and cost-effective way for cities to prevent displacement and stabilize neighborhoods," he said.

Opponents of rent control believe that landlords should not pay the cost for the acts of certain inconsiderate landlords. Don Lindsey, one of the city’s biggest landlords, has convinced others to reduce the price of rent that threaten residents. "We’ve been very successful telling owners to slow down and try to be a little more understanding of people who are renting," Lindsey said.

At its July 21 meeting, City Council and members of the public discussed the Rent Review Advisory Committee (RRAC) ordinance. RRAC holds hearings for conflict between renters and property owners. The committee listens to tenants and provides input for cases.

Because RRAC’s recommendations are not enforceable, landlords can easily dismiss them. City resident and renter, Annette Zielinski, took her case to RRAC when her landlord raised the monthly rent by 20 percent and came close to evicting her when she could not comply. The committee suggested a reasonable 10 percent increase along with letting Zielinski stay. The landlord extended Zielinski’s lease but pushed for the full 20 percent
increase.

The new ordinance would require landlords to attend RRAC’s hearings and makes the committee’s input less optional. It is mandatory to inform tenants of their right to a hearing when property owners increase rent. If property owners do not show up to their hearing, the discussed rent increase is ineffective and cannot take effect for at least a year.

The City Council, by a vote of 5 to 0, gave its initial approval to the ordinance. Final approval will not be made any sooner than Sept. 1, after the City Council’s August hiatus.

Concerned renters and property owners believe the ordinance is not enough but it is a step in the right direction, whether the step is toward rent control or to be more considerate of others.

Amy Chu is in the Girls Inc. Eureka! Program as an Alameda Sun intern. She can be reached at editor@alamedasun.com.

Housing is already a problematic matter in the Bay Area. As more jobs become available and the working class expands, there is not enough housing or the existing housing is too expensive.

Two years ago, Angela Hockabout experienced a significant rent increase at her former residence when her rent increased by $450. The increase caused Hockabout and her family of four to move in with her mother-in-law.

When this happened, Hockabout created the Alameda Renters Coalition, a community that fights against unfair rent increases and landlords taking advantage of their tenants. The coalition publicizes the stories of residents, supports those going through housing displacement due to rent increases and provides resources to housing organizations that support tenant’s rights.

Rent control is a popular topic among the renting community. It prevents landlords from increasing tenants’ rents significantly but also taxes property owners. To renters, rent control is a way of ensuring safety in their residence.

The same evening the City Council was discussing the issue of rents in the Island City, the city of Richmond became the first in Contra Costa County to pass a measure on rent control. In its approved ordinance, landlords are limited to an annual rent increase equal to the rise in the Consumer Price Index for the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose region, which recently rose by 2.3 percent.

Tenants Together is a statewide organization for renters’ rights. Commenting on the city of Richmond’s decision, Dean Preston, the executive director, expressed the importance of rent control. "Rent control is a successful and cost-effective way for cities to prevent displacement and stabilize neighborhoods," he said.

Opponents of rent control believe that landlords should not pay the cost for the acts of certain inconsiderate landlords. Don Lindsey, one of the city’s biggest landlords, has convinced others to reduce the price of rent that threaten residents. "We’ve been very successful telling owners to slow down and try to be a little more understanding of people who are renting," Lindsey said.

At its July 21 meeting, City Council and members of the public discussed the Rent Review Advisory Committee (RRAC) ordinance. RRAC holds hearings for conflict between renters and property owners. The committee listens to tenants and provides input for cases.

Because RRAC’s recommendations are not enforceable, landlords can easily dismiss them. City resident and renter, Annette Zielinski, took her case to RRAC when her landlord raised the monthly rent by 20 percent and came close to evicting her when she could not comply. The committee suggested a reasonable 10 percent increase along with letting Zielinski stay. The landlord extended Zielinski’s lease but pushed for the full 20 percent
increase.

The new ordinance would require landlords to attend RRAC’s hearings and