Protect Renters, Small Landlords

 

A signature legislation stands before us, one that will affect all Alamedans — renters and homeowners, young and old, newcomers and long-timers.
As we deliberate, all of us on the Council dais will have asked any number of questions, including: if this passes, will this stop the problem that brought us here in the first place, namely stopping excessive rent increases?

Another question we might have asked: did we meet with not just renters but also mom-and-pop landlords (so many of whom are long-time Alamedans), in an effort to cast the net broadly for getting input for a legislation as important as this? In listening to renters and mom-and-pop landlords, did we make every effort to incorporate thoughtful worries and concerns raised by both, to fashion a consensus landmark legislation? 
I think what we have before us is legislation that provides renters a strong measure of relief from excessive rent increases, one that protects renters.

What I sought from the beginning was a “renter and small landlord protection act,” if you will. I sought this especially because the draft ordinance City staff prepared is unnecessarily harsh on small landlords when the focus all along should be and should have been larger apartment owners. 

More importantly I sought this because, when you look at the agendas of the Rent Review Advisory Committee (RRAC) for the last two years, there had been 40 cases that were noticed and, of the 40, 33 ( 83 percent) were clearly from large apartments. So, when you look at that data for the past two years, you just don’t see small mom and pop as the ones whose actions on balance were so egregious as to trigger RRAB cases.

But the penalties in the ordinance right now are such that the mom and pops face the same penalties as large apartments, even though large apartments are the ones that brought us here in the first place, and the larger apartments can absorb the penalty costs in ways that small ‘mom and pops’ just can’t. 

Let the penalty fit the the wrong-doer, and that, by and large, is large apartments, not locally-based small mom and pops landlords. Small ‘mom and pops’ are like renters, in that both work hard, are fair, and play by the rules -- and both are getting stiffed because of bad behavior by large apartments.

With all its faults, I support the renter protection ordinance.

I listened to what an Alameda deacon had to say recently about the world as a a big house, where everyone should enjoy the bounties of life. I also heard to what a West End priest had to say about this being a season of change. Both provided helpful reminders that underscored this point: in the housing crisis going on now for two years, not all are enjoying the bounties that Alameda has to offer, and that change is in order to protect renters at grave risk.

Finally, as I reflect on what to do, I remind myself of the concerns raised to me by friends who I grew up with at Encinal High School and their poignant reminders about recent renting hardships experienced by their friends and their co-workers in the school district. Their reminders were about how we are at grave risk of losing that diversity we grew up with in the ‘70s and ‘80s, which continues to this day, our housing crisis notwithstanding.

In moving ahead, I would like to say that the concerns and worries raised by landlords are real, and my promise is to do what I can in the following weeks and months to incorporate changes to the ordinance to protect them, too. Maybe that means gathering signatures to implement their reasonable changes at the ballot, as difficult as it always is to gather signatures. 

Let the city move forward with the “renter protection ordinance” before us. Let us also begin to work together to fashion a “renter and mom-and-pop landlord protection” ordinance.