Proposed statewide rent cap bill: What does it mean and is it enough?

How much does this bill cover, and are local measures to address the housing crisis still necessary?

You can view the most recent version of the bill here, but bellow is our quick summary:

The short answer: Yes, local housing initiatives would still be necessary, even if AB-1482 passes in 2020.

There are two parts of the bill to look at. The first is a set of just-cause tenant protections that will apply indefinitely. The second is a rent cap that would apply for ten years before being automatically repealed. Neither part of the bill can override local ordinances that provide stronger tenant protections or stricter rent control.

The just-cause eviction protections would affect most tenants in the state of California who have lived in their rentals for more than 12 months. The bill will require landlords to cite specific just causes for eviction and termination of a lease. This includes things that are the fault of the tenant, such as defaulting on rent, dangerous or criminal activity, and failing to correct consistent problems that are a nuisance to others. If it’s something the tenant can fix, landlords are required to give tenants an opportunity to correct the problem before eviction.

The bill would also allow landlords to terminate leases for reasons that are not the fault of the tenant, such as the landlord personally wanting to occupy the rental or have their immediate family occupy the rental, deciding to demolish or substantially remodel the property, or the property being determined unfit for habitation by a government agency. When a tenant is evicted for one of these causes, the landlord must pay the tenant one month’s worth of their rent to help them find new housing.

Notable exceptions to these protections include buildings less than 15 years old, dormitories, rentals that share a kitchen or bathroom with a landlord’s primary residence, and certain single-family houses with specific clauses in their lease.

©2018 National Low Income Housing Coalition http://www.nlihc.org/oor . Fair Market Rent = Fair Market Rent.
Source: NLIHC calculation of a weighted-average HUD fair market rent. Affordable rent for average renter wage is based on BLS
QCEW, 2016, adjusted to 2018 dollars. Other rents are based on HUD Income Limits and and Social Security Administration, 2018.

The rent caps provided in this bill are set to be automatically repealed in 2030. Until then, the bill would require landlords to only increase rent once per year, with a maximum increase of 5%+the percentage increase in cost of living, with a maximum total increase of 10% a year.

Some tenants have had their rent increased 56% or more in two months when the property changed hands to new landlords. Others have had their leases terminated when they were in good standing with little recourse. Near the Del Norte BART, an apartment complex with six units is forcing out tenants one unit at a time.  New investors are remodeling units and offering them back to tenants at rates no longer affordable- displacing long term residents. 

AB-1482 would have certainly provided protections to many of these tenants who were displaced from our community, however, it will not protect them from corporate sweep of property for investment.  

Is it enough?

AB-1482 doesn’t simply cap the rent at a 5% annual increase. Instead, the cap is 5%+ the percentage cost of living increase of the area according to the Consumer Price Index (or 10%, whichever is lower). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of living increase has averaged at 3.22% a year in the San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley area over the last five years. AB-1482 allows a 5%+the percentage increase in cost of living, which means that for areas experiencing intense growth, a more realistic take on the maximum rent increase set by this bill is around 8%.

Wages in the Bay Area have not been keeping up with the cost of living increases. According to a survey by the state’s Employment Development Department, between 2014 and 2019 the average annual wage in the Oakland-Hayward-Bekeley area has increased an average of only 2% per year. This increase has not even been keeping up with the increases in cost of living across the Bay Area, and certainly does not account for a 5% rent increase on top of that. AB-1482 would still allow housing costs to eat up a greater and greater percentage of the average person’s income. 

The average rent for a two bedroom unit in El Cerrito increased from $1,838 in April 2014 to $2,352 in April 2019, according to rentjungle.com. That’s a 27% increase across five years, averaging at 5.4% a year. Had most El Cerrito landlords increased their rent at the proposed 5%+percentage cost of living each year, rent rates in the city would actually be the same or higher on average.

The good news about this bill is that it would put a stop to sudden and dramatic rent hikes and many unfair evictions. While it doesn’t address the underlying trend of rising rents, it would put a stop to the worst rent price gouging, and the just cause eviction requirements are drastically needed. Creating a statewide baseline of protection is critical for many tenants who live in cities like El Cerrito, where no tenant protections exist.

The bill AB-1482 is a step in the right direction, but it is not a complete solution

In addition to these basic protections, local communities concerned about the displacement of their current residents must carefully look at the local conditions and make policy based on these local conditions. When residents are forced out for no fault of their own, will the tenant relocation protections be sufficient to keep people from moving into their cars or the streets? If someone is already on the streets, how can they get back into secure housing? The answers to these questions will depend on what other options are available, who they are designed for, and who is brought to the table when discussing solutions to our housing crisis. How we can increase the amount of safe, affordable, and accessible housing available to members of the El Cerrito community? 

Stay updated on this issue and more by following El Cerrito Progressives on Twitter and Facebook

Immediate Call to Action: Call now and ask for YES vote on #AB1482, the anti-rent-gouging bill! Other tenant organizers are in the Capitol this week meeting in person, calls will help.

Priority:

916-319-2004 or extension 2022, 2028, 2037, 2041, 2045, or 2072


Want to join our movement? Click here!

Who’s Who on the Tenant Protection Task Force?

 Last week the El Cerrito City Council repealed ordinance 2019-04, which included Just Cause for eviction and other tenant protections. Multiple council members expressed hopes that the ordinance will be replaced with something stronger and more comprehensive. This new, stronger ordinance is to be developed by the new Tenant Protections Task Force.

According to the city of El Cerrito website, “the purpose of the Task Force is to bring together landlords and tenants to find common ground in order to make policy recommendations to the City Council for their consideration”

However, the purpose of the task force is still in question, according to ECP members.  If the task force is to come to a consensus on the difficult and highly emotional issue of rent control, how will an equal number of landlords and tenants every reach a consensus? And is rent stabilization really on the table?  Or is the task force another vehicle to rehash the non-binding rent mediation program favored by CAA, but proven to be lacking in real protections for tenants?  

During last week’s meeting the City Council also announced the four tenants and four landlords that now serve on the task force. Councilman Gabe Quinto lead with personal attacks in his objections to two of the tenants on the task force. Others council members had preferences without clearly stated reasons.

Landlords:

Norman LaForce

LaForce has been a resident of El Cerrito for 36 years and owns two rental units in El Cerrito as part of a duplex. LaForce is a retired lawyer of the Law Offices of Christian Green, and served on the City Council from 1991-1999. In addition to his experience as a lawyer and landlord, LaForce taught Land Use and Property Law at Golden Gate University Law School from 2004-2014. In his application LaForce expressed interest in developing “fair and appropriate regulations and laws that protect both tenants and landlords, especially small landlords.”

(So does this mean fair and reasonable for the landlord and tenant, or simply the landlord?)

Peter Pan

A resident of El Cerrito for 22 years, Pan owns two rental units in a duplex in El Cerrito. He is a Real Estate Broker with a BS in Computer Science. Pan noted on his application his experience “over 25 years working with local real estate customers”. 

Tyra Wright

Wright has lived in El Cerrito for 32 years and owns one single-family rental unit in El Cerrito. Wright is a Real Estate Agent and Property Management Assistant, and is also an active member of the National Association of Realtors, California Association of Realtors, and Contra Costa Association of Realtors. On her profile at Feagley Realtors, Wright says she advocates “to protect private property rights and home ownership.” In her application to the task force, Wright noted she wishes to “help find a balance and reasonable resolution to tenant/landlord issues.”  Again, what is “reasonable” and to whose standard?

Elizabeth (BJ) Thorsnes

Thorsnes has lived in El Cerrito for 39 years and owns four rental units in a quadruplex in El Cerrito. Thorsnes is a retired lecturer and editor of the Consortium on Reading Excellence in Berkeley. In her application, Thorsnes cited her knowledge of landlord-tenant laws in addition to her 44 years of experience as a landlord in El Cerrito as reasons she can help sort out these issues. She also noted in her application that she “..view[s] being a landlord not as an investment but as part of a service industry. As such, [she] expect[s] things from landlords, [herself] included, and from tenants.”

Tenants:

George Gager

Gager has lived in El Cerrito for 13 years and works as a consultant to HUD and housing agencies nationwide. Gager notes that sustainable and affordable housing is “the single greatest passion” in his life, and sees The Tenant Protections Task Force as a “unique opportunity to deliver affordable housing solutions for families close to home.” Despite working in affordable housing marketplace, Gager acknowledges that he has not worked locally during the last 8 years. In addition to the task force, Gager also serves on the El Cerrito Arts and Culture Commission and the Economic Development Committee.

Buddy Akacic

Akacic has lived in El Cerrito for 7 years and has been a tenant all his life. Akacic is retired and previously worked at Buckelew Programs. In his application, Akacic noted his belief that tenant-landlord relationships are “critical” and that the city is best served when “competing interests are resolved to everyone’s satisfaction” 

Isis Bastet

Bastet has lived in El Cerrito for 8 years and is the Assistant Vice President of Procurement Contracts at East West Bank. She cites solving issues through “community collaboration” so that residents can enjoy the “gifts our community offers”. 

Richard Bell

Bell has been a resident of El Cerrito for 10 years and is a retired social worker and manager. Bell applied to the task force because of his “longstanding interest in housing issues” and a desire to help maintain a “stable, sustainable El Cerrito community”

When the City Council voted on this configuration for the Task Force, ECP members raised opposition, noting the potential of a stalemate.  ECP suggested bringing on more homeowners without a vested interest, but the city nixed the idea. Will the task force be another distraction or excuse for delaying action on this urgent issue? 

The City has repeatedly vowed to create a stronger ordinance, when will we see it?  Will the task force honor the sentiments stated in their applications?

You can stay updated on the Tenant Protection Task Force meetings and agenda items here.  The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, September 23rd at 6:30pm at City Hall in the Creekside Room. The public is welcome.

Stay updated on ECP’s plans on this issue by following us on Twitter and Facebook

Want to join our movement? Click here!

City Seeking Applicants Tenant Protections Task Force

El Cerrito Progressives encourages resident tenant and landlords to consider applying for a temporary task force to advise the city on tenant protections.   What policies can be put into place to prevent the displacement of our residents, many of whom are with limited income or fixed income and others who are of moderate income but are now reaching their limit of affordability, paying over 35%-50% of their monthly income toward rent?

Continue reading “City Seeking Applicants Tenant Protections Task Force”

How to Expunge Your Signature From the CAA Petition

ECP is learning of more reports from residents who are having interactions with CAA signature gatherers.   Thus far residents have been told to sign to 1) get rent control on the ballot in El Cerrito, 2) get Just Cause for Eviction on the ballot, 3) keep criminals from moving into El Cerrito and 4) stop crime.  What voters are not being told is simply the truth.  Signature gatherers fail to read the name of the ordinance which simple states:  REFERENDUM AGAINST AN ORDINANCE PASSED BY THE CITY COUNCIL

The California Elections Code Section 9602 specifically allows people who have signed a petition to submit a request to have their signature removed. The effect of a withdrawal request, if properly submitted, is that it will be subtracted from the count of signatures on the petition. For example, if CAA submits a petition with 1600 valid signatures, and 50 people who validly signed the petition submit withdrawal requests, the final count of valid signatures would be 1550.

For a withdrawal request to be valid, it must be in writing and include the person’s signature so that it can be matched to the one on the referendum petition. Additionally, it must be submitted to the City Clerk prior to the referendum proponents submitting the petition. People desiring to have their signatures removed should therefore do so as quickly as possible.

Requests postmarked prior to but received after the petition is filed will not be accepted. b. Scanned/emailed or faxed copies of the signed statement are acceptable, electronic signatures are not.

Sample letter to Request removal of name:

Dear City Clerk of El Cerrito,

My name is _______and I live at ___________in El Cerrito.  Please withdraw my signature from the petition about the referendum against the Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance signed on ____________.

Sincerely,

(Your name as it appears on your voter registration)

 

 

Tenant Protections Under Attack in El Cerrito – Update

petitionOn May 21st, after several public meetings and months of back and forth of proposals between City Council and staff, Mayor Pardue-Okimoto and Council members Fadelli and Lyman voted in favor of a Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance and a Rent Registry Ordinance.  The text of both these ordinances can be found here as well as historical background:El Cerrito New Tenant Protections Continue reading “Tenant Protections Under Attack in El Cerrito – Update”

Rights for Tenants Critical in El Cerrito-Council Inches Forward

For the last two years, members of El Cerrito Progressives have been advocating for tenant protections to the City Council.  On Tuesday, May 7th, the City Council finally voted with a 3-2 split for a Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance. (Mayor Pardue-Okimoto, Fadelli, Lyman -for/ Abelson, Quinto-against. Continue reading “Rights for Tenants Critical in El Cerrito-Council Inches Forward”

Opponents of tenant protections use misleading survey to collect data

If you recently received an email or text from a coalition of “concerned El Cerrito community members” asking you to complete a survey, please be wary.  The unidentified group commissioned Voxloca, a Bay Area data collection company, to solicit resident views about tenant protections.

The problem with the survey is that it’s full is misleading and inaccurate information about the current discussion happening in El Cerrito around how to protect renters from price gauging, excessive rent increases and no-cause evictions.

Below are examples of some of the misleading questions.

What should be the TOP PRIORITY for El Cerrito?

1 – Ensuring the city has enough police officers
2 – Passing new laws to address tenant-landlord issues
3 – Balancing the budget for essential city services
4 – Repairing local streets and roads
5 – Improving our library and parks
6 – None of these

This type of question pits tenant-landlord issues against community resources like libraries, parks and public safety, when it’s not an either-or choice.  By passing tenant protections we don’t take anything away from public safety, roads and any other services, but only improve the quality of life for many.

The survey then launches into a false assertion that a database to track rent and evictions, part of the Rent Registry Ordinance that will be discussed by the Council on May 7th will cost $50,000.

What should the City Council SPEND $50,000 of the city’s budget on?

1 – A database to track rent and evictions
2 – New equipment at neighborhood park
3 – Additional training for police officers
4 – Tree trimming program to prevent fires
5 – Emergency housing programs for renters
6 – None of these

To be clear, the Rent Registry is not funded through the general fund and its cost does not diminish revenues for parks or fires.  It is based on fees. But without having a fuller context of why we need to track rent and evictions, most respondents would obviously not mark this as their number one priority.  A better question may be something like this:

The city is concerned that high rents may be displacing long term residents and that some tenants are facing evictions, but has no data.  Should the city create a Rent Registry that would be funded through a small registration fee from each rental unit?

The Voxloca Survey uses a similar tactic of pitting services against tenant protection by asking “If the City Council RAISES NEW TAXES where should it be spent?”

1 – New library
2 – More police officers
3 – New city employees to regulate landlords
4 – An affordable housing fund
5 – None — Don’t raise taxes

Again, any program that might regulate rents and/or landlords would be fee based and generate funds through registration of eligible rental units. The survey continues to ask vague questions related to Just Cause for Eviction, such as if they council should pass a new law that would “make it MORE DIFFICULT to evict problem tenants who deal drugs or are disruptive?

The question assumes that the “new law” would make it more difficult to evict problem tenants. Instead, a better question to ask El Cerrito voters might be:

The law currently allows landlords to evict any tenant without giving a cause. Do you think the city should enact a law that requires the landlord to give a reason for an eviction?

At first blush, it’s easy to think that an entity like the California Apartment Association is behind the effort.  After all, the CAA is a powerful lobbying group representing more than 50,000 landlords throughout the state has the money and experience fighting tenant protections. But the truth is that we can’t make any assumptions. It could be CAA, a local landlord or perhaps the Chamber of Commerce. What is clear is that Voxloca is willing to push out surveys full of bias and based on false assertions that are clearly intended to collect data to use to discredit efforts to strengthen tenant protections in El Cerrito.

Another misleading question in the survey is whether the City Council should “create a new housing department” with power to create a city database of all El Cerrito renters. If you’ve been following the City Council meetings and the narrative coming from the opponents of tenant protections, you know that there are some who love to mention Richmond and Berkeley as a scare tactic.  I won’t name names here, but one prominent developer likes to suggest that any type of rent stabilization program will result in a huge bureaucracy, and cost a million dollars. The truth of the matter is that the City Council is not discussing a new housing department nor have they spoken about registering renters. Instead, it appears to be a scare tactic for people who might be afraid of big government.

Other questions in the survey allege that the city is considering a new law to “force a landlord to subsidize a tenant’s rent, even though with good paying jobs.” This is entirely false. There is no such law being considered. Instead, the council is discussing a relocation allowance for tenants forced to move due to demolition. Council member Lyman had proposed a policy that would require landlords to pay a tenant who was forced to move if they could not afford a rent increase of more than 10% per year, but this motion did not garner enough votes.

To put the question on its head, one could argue that there are many current renters subsidizing landlords by paying excessive rents. These subsidies are helping landlords pay for their children’s college education, paying for expensive vacations, luxury homes and much more. Tenant protections are for all tenants, not just those who are low income, although tenants who are low income or on fixed income are most vulnerable to displacement within our current housing market.

In summary, it’s unfortunate that Voxloca can access our emails and phone numbers and send out a misleading survey to collect data that will used to fight against tenant protections.  What the company is doing is not illegal, but it’s wrong and should be called out.  Shame on you Voxloca for sending out a survey so misrepresentative of the issues at hand.  Our city residents deserve better, and we are too smart to fall for your shenanigans. And shame on the “concerned community members” who don’t have the courage to put their names on the survey.

Please let your City Council know that you are concerned about the misleading and inaccurate survey being conducted by Voxloca.  Come to the May 7th City Council meeting and join us in calling for an end to rent gouging in El Cerrito!