Review of Rent Stabilization Effort

 

First of all, let’s be clear here. I am not going to discuss the relative merits of either of the two rent control measures on November’s ballot. I want to report how Ordinance 3148 is working, based solely on my experience as a Rent Review Advisory Committee (RRAC) member during the time that it was enacted on March 31 — just over six months ago.

Some background may be valuable here. I volunteered and was appointed to the RRAC as one of the two “Alameda landlord” members in April of this year. The RRAC, as you probably know, is comprised of five members — two renters, two landlords, and one homeowner. 

They are Alameda resident volunteers, interviewed by the mayor and Alameda Housing Authority (AHA) staff, and if found to be reasonable candidates, are nominated for appointment to RRAC by the City Council. In my experience, RRAC members are neither economically nor politically biased. 

They are intended and instructed to be neutral and not to advocate any position during the RRAC hearing process. That is exactly how I have found them. I conform to and support this policy. The RRAC is indeed a neutral hearing body — but there is much more to it than that.

Ordinance 3148 was intended to focus attention on any rent increase above 5 percent that occurs on the island. AHA is providing the dedicated manpower to facilitate this. During the first six months there were about 115 cases needing review. (The total opened was more than 150 — but a good number were later removed, either withdrawn by the landlord, or the tenant moved.)

When AHA opens a rental review case, the first thing that happens is the collection of information about the details of the rent increase — both from the landlord and the tenant. AHA then continues to communicate with both parties — to determine if the tenant has accepted the rent increase as presented, or facilitating communications in an attempt to reach a mutually acceptable compromise if they have not. 

To give you a feel for it, the last time they reported it in June AHA talked to either the landlord or tenant an average of six times for each of the 23 cases opened that month. In the first six months of the ordinance, their success rate in reaching accord prior to RRAC is more than 90 percent. Only 11 of the 115 active cases have made it all the way to RRAC hearings.

At the hearing, both the tenant and landlord are given an opportunity to add or clarify information in person. After they have spoken individually, we seek to clarify their positions, and open communication between them to see if they can reach their own accord. If they do so, we simply accept it and close the case. 

Of the 11 cases we have seen, six times the tenant and landlord did this successfully. The average rent increase reached by the landlord and tenant themselves either before or at RRAC was 6.6 percent. We have only had to make a RRAC recommendation/decision in five cases. The average rent increase we at RRAC recommended was just under 5 percent.

So — I have to say that Ordinance 3148 is in fact working, and quite well, too. All rent increases over 5 percent in the first six months totaled about 115, with only five cases needing a RRAC decision, and that decision (which was ultimately accepted by both the tenant and landlord) averaged under 5 percent.

 

 

Robert Schrader is a member of the Rent Review Advisory Committee.