Look to Vallejo to Solve Rental Crisis
From past experience I propose a possible solution to Alameda’s rent issue. With about 12 years on the rent review board in Vallejo, with two years as chairman, I know Vallejo’s ordinance could be used for renters and landlords in Alameda as it has been for properties in Vallejo.
The headline in a recent commentary (“Rent Control Unfairly Taxes Landlords,” Nov. 19) said it all, but the counter to that was on page one (Landlords Sneak in under Moratorium,” Nov. 19). All this proves that we must have a better control over excessive rents in Alameda.
My solution, backed up the aforementioned experience, is to put more teeth in the rent ordinance to help stop the excessive rent problem, but which also gives the landlord a “fair rate of return on investment.
My proposal is for the city to create a rent review board and ordinance similar to Vallejo’s ordinance. This board would have five members, one landlord, one tenant and three at-large members — single-family-home owners. All would be elected to either two year or four year terms — alternated — to keep experience on the board.
Interim City Manager Elizabeth Warmerdam or someone on her staff would be present at every meeting to help resolve legal issues that would come up, and a clerk would take minutes of the meeting. One or more renters, given an increase they think is unfair, would turn in a form to the board for a hearing. The property owner would also be present.
The board would, as our city’s Rent Review Advisory Committee does now, either approve or disapprove any proposed rent increases or mediate reasonable increases with both tenants and landlords present to come to common agreement.
You notice that I said “review” instead of “control” as little would be “controlled,” reasonable rent increases could be left as is, but excessive increases modified or stopped. This is where the mediation comes into play.
No-cause evictions would still be a part of the rent review ordinance. A figure of 8 percent could be used, but that figure could be increased or decreased as decided by the review board or City Council. In Vallejo, the Consumer Price Index plus 1 percent had been used in the past. Both landlords and tenants could bring their information to the board and argue their respective positions, which at times, might take a second meeting to resolve. Both landlords and tenant representatives could appeal to the council for a final decision, as is done now.
With a “fair rate of return on investment” landlords would still make enough to keep their property up, and by the board’s actions, tenants could still pay a reasonable rent.
Having a board would help stop evictions of complaining tenants whose lives are turned upside down, with lost jobs, pulling their kids out of school and losing friendships made over decades — all because of an unnecessary huge rent increase by a landlord. As part of the language of the ordinance, landlords would have to bring in documents from city departments to “prove” evictions would be necessary because of remodeling or other work on the apartment house.
It is unconscionable, from the page one article, that a landlord can buy a property in Alameda, and in one month turn around and give a huge rent increase to long-time tenants just to get around the moratorium. This must be stopped! Deferred maintenance as a cause of the rent increase would have to be proven by the landlord to the board.
Like a lot of Alamedan’s I feel that the time has come for an ordinance with teeth and decisions made by a board that will stick.