Yesterday we praised the City of Richmond, California for avoiding the implementation of rent control. Today, we have no choice but to raise concerns about City of Alameda sticking their nose where it does not belong. These kind of measures are ineffective and accomplish very little especially since it’s only active for 65 days.
ALAMEDA — The City Council has imposed a 65-day moratorium on rent increases of eight percent or higher after a special meeting that stretched more than seven hours, attracted 90 public speakers and saw two men arrested as passions flared.
The council’s unanimous decision early Thursday morning also halts no-cause evictions within the mandates of state law for the same period.
Councilman Frank Matarrese wanted the moratorium, which will take effect immediately, to cover all rent increases. But Councilman Tony Daysog said that would hurt landlords who treat tenants fairly.
“I see no reason to penalize the small ‘mom and pop’ landlords who have done their part to make Alameda great,” Daysog said. “And I think tenants see that, too.”
During the meeting people mingled on the front steps of City Hall and packed the hallway leading to the Council Chambers. Others watched the meeting on a television temporarily set up in the building lobby.
“There is an economic expulsion happening here,” said Laura Thomas of Renewed Hope Housing Advocates, which promotes the development of affordable housing in the Bay Area. “It’s probably one of the most serious things that has happened in the 30 years that I have lived here.”
Restricting rent increases will protect renters from predatory landlords, Duane Moles said.
Karen Bey has been a landlord for 35 years. “Rent control does not work,” said Bey, who noted rents are climbing in Oakland and San Francisco, despite restrictions in place.
“I don’t want to see the moratorium or any rent control,” said Karin Lucas, a landlord in Alameda for 40 years who keeps her rents below market-rate. “I feel that it would interfere with my relationships with my tenants.”
Ute Sipe said some landlords increase rents, but do not invest in their property.
“They don’t come in to do anything,” she said. “I think a moratorium is called for because there really is an emergency in Alameda.”
The meeting was briefly put on hold when police arrested two men who allegedly became rowdy when supporters of the moratorium felt they were being shut out of the Council Chambers because landlords had arrived early and filled the seats. One man suffered a bloody nose after officers forced him to the floor.
A city staffer and police officer were also reportedly injured.
Firefighters and paramedics responded before the meeting continued, when the council took steps so that both supporters and opponents of the moratorium could have turns in the room to plead their case.
Many landlords told the council they do not gouge tenants and that they relied on their rental properties for income. Some renters said they have experienced double-digit rent increases and fear they may be forced to leave the Bay Area.
Single-family homes and condominiums are exempt from the moratorium, which calculates an eight percent increase as cumulative over the past year.
Along with imposing the moratorium, the council directed city staff to strengthen the Rent Review Advisory Committee, which mediates disputes between tenants and landlords.
Among the recommendations, which still need final approval, was having a property owner initiate proceedings for a rent increase above eight percent and arbitration if both sides cannot reach agreement. The council was also wants a draft ordinance that would include relocation money for some evictions.
The council’s vote came after it was briefed on a study by consultant BAE Urban Economics, which looked at the local rental market and the potential displacement of long-term renters.
What’s helping drive the demand for affordable accommodation is that renter income has not kept pace with the rapid rise in rents, according to the study.
Between 2000 and 2013 the median household income for Alameda renters increased 29 percent, but rents jumped 54 percent. In comparison, household income for homeowners jumped 52 percent over the same period, the BAE study found.
The median rent in the city has increased 54 percent between 2000 and 2013, while during the same period the median rent throughout Alameda County increased 56 percent.
The study said the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau showed that Alameda had 16,518 renter households in 2013, which represents about 55 percent of all households.
For Alameda’s 20 rental properties with 50 units or more, rents have increased 52 percent since 2011, the study said.
Reach Peter Hegarty at 510-748-1654 or follow him on Twitter.com/Peter_Hegarty.