As battle for rent control resumes, Council overturns decision | New


Palo Alto’s heated debate over tenant protections resumed on Monday, as city council prepared to consider a menu of measures to help local tenants, including extending eviction protections and capping rent increases .

Dozens of speakers, some supporting the new measures and others opposing them, pleaded their case before the council, which was divided on the subject of rent stabilization in 2018 before choosing not to institute new protections. From now on, a somewhat reconstituted council is preparing to return to the question.

Christian Beauvoir, a member of the fledgling Palo Alto Renters Association, suggested that many renters could use the aid. Despite misconceptions that Palo Alto’s tenants are mostly wealthy tech workers, the city is full of people struggling to stay in their homes. It doesn’t take long, he said, to find a tenant who has lived in Palo Alto for decades and faces harassment from a landlord who knows that replacing the tenant could bring in thousands of additional rents per month.

“This story is not unique,” ​​Beauvoir said. “People are being kicked out of their homes in Palo Alto with nowhere to go and they are very vulnerable without the protections we are talking about here today.”

Julie Beer, who rents an apartment near California Avenue, is worried about becoming one of those people. While her landlord refrained from sharply raising rents, Beer said she feared the building would be sold and that she was threatened with eviction or a sharp rent increase.

“If our building is sold, what happens to us? Beer asked. “I’m afraid I have to go.

The topic of rent stabilization has divided council in the past, with Mayor Tom DuBois and council member Lydia Kou supporting earlier efforts to institute tenant protections and council members Greg Tanaka and Eric Filseth voting against them.

Supporters of additional rental assistants are hoping for better luck this time around. On Monday, they called on council to conduct a full rental property investigation, extend eviction protections to single-family homes and other types of housing that are currently not covered by Bill 1482 of the ‘Assembly. State law also caps annual rent increases at 5% plus inflation, although that cap – like the eviction restriction – does not apply to homes that have been built in the past 15 years. years or to tenants who have lived in their rented properties for less than a year. Local law would change that.

The council took no action on Monday and limited the discussion to a state presentation and public comment. As the hearing continued past midnight, council members agreed to postpone their own discussion to a later date.

In developing their recommendations, city staff highlighted the heavy burden many local tenants face due to high housing costs. About 27% of renter households in the city earn less than $ 50,000. About 75% of them are classified as “overcharged” when it comes to housing, meaning they spend more than 30% of their gross income on rent.

According to the American Community Survey, Palo Alto has 11,764 rental units. These represent 46% of the city’s housing stock.

The city’s plan to help tenants has already been approved by the Planning and Transport Commission and the Human Relations Commission, with both panels recommending that the city conduct a survey of rental properties before moving on. forward with other policies. The two advisory councils supported some of the recommendations on the staff menu, including increasing relocation assistance for displaced tenants and passing a “fair opportunities” law that limits a owner to discriminate against a tenant based on the latter’s criminal record. However, they differed on the subject of rent caps. While the Human Relations Commission supported extending the protections of AB 1482 to types of housing that are not covered by state law, the Planning and Transport Commission voted against introducing a local rent ceiling.

Many local landlords also oppose the latest tenant protection proposal. In the days leading up to Monday’s meeting, council received a flurry of nearly identical letters signed by local residents and featuring language developed by the California Apartment Association, a lobbying organization for rental property owners. The letters say landlords have faced their own challenges over the past 18 months and urged council not to go ahead with any of the recommendations for rent protection policies.

“The debt has accumulated due to unpaid or late rents,” the various letters indicated. “Rent has actually gone down in many cases to help tenants stay. On the other hand, the costs of building materials, labor, utilities and insurance for the upkeep of the house. property has skyrocketed. Small housing providers are struggling very hard. “

Some homeowners also reached out to council on Monday to reiterate concerns about the proposed policies. Eileen Kim, a property owner, was one of them. Highlighting the protections already created by AB 1482, Kim suggested that supplementing them with local policies would do more harm than good.

“If the City of Palo Alto implements more rent control policies, which initially is a good intention will in fact have long-term deleterious effects for our beloved city instead of alleviating the rental crisis, this quick and dirty dressing solution which will actually get worse. the housing situation, ”Kim said.

Anil Babbar, senior vice president of local government relations at the California Apartment Association, also argued that new state law makes local law unnecessary.

“Every policy proposal presented in the staff report will increase the cost of providing housing,” Babbar said.

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