Locals Discuss Rent Reforms

The City Council hosted an Open House on Thursday, May 2, at City Hall West to discuss Alameda’s Rent Stabilization Program. Topics included: new proposals for capital improvements, relocation payments, rent increases and no-cause evictions. Attendees conversed, viewed the city’s proposal and wrote their opinions about the topics. The meeting gathered a diverse pool of tenants, homeowners and landlords curious about existing and proposed policies. 

The city proposed a plan to eliminate “no-cause” evictions. Intended outcomes for this policy are to preserve a diverse community and housing stability. 

“It seems fair, but it’s the first time I heard about it,” said one senior landlord. Some small landlords even argued that no-cause evictions do not exist and terminations of tenancies most often result for valid reasons. 

The current policy allows “no-cause” tenancy termination if relocation payments are paid, rent for new tenants does not exceed 5 percent increases, and 25 percent of units haven’t been evicted for no-cause in a single year. The community debated what situation constitutes a no-cause eviction and the effects of eliminating that option.  

The topic of relocation payments followed closely after. Proposed policies would allow exemptions or reductions on landlords with less than five units. Special circumstances exist for households receiving more relocation assistance or additional time in units. Other tenants brought up current relocation formulas may not cover all the new fees of finding new homes after an eviction.

A senior tenant, living with school-aged grandchildren, said that the law needs more specifications. The speaker believed that trading additional time in units while looking for new housing for relocation payments would not be fair to tenants. 

Current policies allow tenants to trade time for relocation fees on the basis of no-cause termination. The policy also extends relocation assistance of one month’s rent for each year a tenant rented the unit (not exceeding four months) and $1,665 of moving expenses.

Another tenant said that she paid $1,895 rent for a three-bedroom duplex, while in a three-bedroom, single-family home became $4,200. “If our landlord had evicted us with no cause at our original property, then we would not be able to pay for the new rent.” 

“Where would we get the money to pay these fees?” said one mom-and-pop senior landlord with five or fewer units. Smaller landlords argue that it would be hard for them to allocate money for relocation fees, emergencies or improvement plans. 

The new proposals for capital improvement plan policies intend to encourage safe and quality rental housing while minimizing displacement of tenants. This policy aims to determine the validity of a rent increase by looking at the types of improvements while passing a portion of the cost to the tenant. In cases of termination of tenancy, the proposed policy also requires relocation fees and temporary of permanent relocation for the tenant.

The new proposed change to rent increases — a heavily debated topic — plans to implement a maximum on annual rent increases. The proposal aims to mitigate excessive rent increases while ensuring fair rate of return to landlords. Some mom-and-pop landlords argue that they increase rent only when necessary. However, some tenants bring up that they have seen big increases in rent over the past few years. 

 

Current policies limit increases to one per year and reuires reviews of rent increases of more than 5 percent. Currently, tenants may ask the Rent Review Advisory Committee (RRAC) to conduct a hearing to review rent increases; the landlord must also attend the hearing.

If landlords raise rents more than 5 percent, then they are required to file a notice of rent increase to the Rent Stablization Program and also conduct a hearing with RRAC.

Debates on rent stabilization continue, and the City of Alameda requests further community input at www.alamedarentprogram.org/community-input. Members of the community unable to share their opinions on May 2 can do so either in the survey or while attending future City Council meetings.