Rent Control Wins in Richmond and Mountain View

Wednesday, November 9, 2016
Aimee Inglis
Tenants Together

A Trump presidency is alarming to California as a whole, and to California renters in particular. The majority of California tenants are women and from communities of color. Women, transgender people, formerly incarcerated people, black and brown communities, and undocumented people are particularly at risk for housing instability and targeted for abuse by bad landlords. These populations were targeted for harassment during Trump’s campaign, so today we have real fears for the safety of our communities.

In this time, organizing at the local level is more important than ever. Defending the right to stay in our homes and communities starts at the neighborhood and city level. In the face of a national crisis of leadership, we are strengthened by last night’s grassroots victories for renters’ rights in Richmond and Mountain View. By passing Measure L in Richmond and Measure V in Mountain View, tenants will have strong rent control and just cause for eviction protections. Collectively at least 50,000 more tenants in the Bay Area will be able to stay in their homes.

The California Apartment Association (CAA) spent over 2 million on dirty campaigns to incite confusion and fear in voters. Mailers impersonated the state Legislative Analyst’s Office, used coded racist language to stoke fears of “increased crime,” and branded weak competing measures  “fair rent control” when they were in fact not rent control at all. The housing crisis is deeply felt, rent control is popular, and the CAA knows it can't win without these tactics.

Landlords have been profiting off the influx of venture capital into California, fueling a new wave of real-estate speculation that started in recent history with the foreclosure crisis. Real regulation in Richmond and Mountain View will now provide a greater degree of stability for residents. Without rent control, landlords can raise the rent however much they want. With rent control, rents increase at pace with inflation, and tenants will be able to budget for reasonable annual increases. Renter protections are a key tool to close the racial wealth gap in our state.

The victory in Mountain View for rent control is particularly meaningful. This campaign was highly under-resourced, had a competing rent review ballot measure to confuse voters, and did not have institutional progressive organizations to draw from like tenants did in Richmond. Winning in Mountain View means that tenants really can organize from the ground up and go from having very little support to enacting real change.

Though rent control in San Mateo, Alameda, and Burlingame lost, this only marks the beginning of their fights for renters’ rights. In Alameda, a more tenant-friendly city council was elected, and the Alameda Renters Coalition will continue to engage with the city in strengthening the ordinance that passed. In San Mateo and Burlingame, these campaigns for rent control were the first time in decades tenants had organized for their rights. It was already a victory in these communities just to put rent control on the ballot.

This is a historic moment for tenants. There are 16 million tenants in California, 45% of the state, and we have not always been organized. Five cities going to the ballot for rent control and hundreds of volunteers fighting for renters’ rights hasn’t been seen in decades. We will continue to build momentum at the local, state, and national level to win real transformative change.

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