New Push for Rent Control in Richmond Targets November Ballot

Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Richmond Standard

A new push to implement rent control in Richmond seeks to qualify the policy for the November ballot.


An attempt last year to pass a rent control ordinance failed after being opposed by landlords and three members of a divided City Council.


On Tuesday, a group that includes tenants rights advocates, labor unions and the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) renewed the effort to install rent control by filing a proposed ballot measure with the city clerk. The proposed ballot measure seeks to establish a rent board in Richmond that would set annual limits on rent increases for renters living in units built before 1995, and would allow tenants to appeal increases.


The ballot measure also includes implementing a just cause for eviction policy.


The coalition, which calls itself Fair and Affordable Richmond, is now waiting for the city clerk to write a title and summary for their proposed initiative. The city clerk has 15 days to do so. Rent control advocates will then have until June to gather 4,198 to qualify the measure for the November ballot.


“The renters of Richmond deserve protection during the current housing crisis, and our coalition believes voters this November should be able to take a stand on the subject of just cause evictions and rent control,” Richmond Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin said in a statement.


In August, Richmond City Council, which includes three RPA members, passed a rent control and just cause eviction ordinance while decrying spiking rents they said have been pushing low-income residents out of the city. But the decision was reversed after a petition to repeal the ordinance — backed by the California Apartment Association, which represents landlords — garnered enough signatures from residents.


The ordinance was opposed by Mayor Tom Butt and Councilmembers Nat Bates and Vinay Pimple, who have quoted studies by economists showing rent control doesn’t work to keep rents down. They also warned the policy would discourage landlords from investing in improvements on their properties, contributing to further blight in Richmond.


Supporters of rent control have a different perspective.


‘The Bay Area housing crisis has already begun to hurt Richmond, and it’s effects will only get worse,” renter Edith Pastrano said.


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