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Rent Control, Affordable Housing on Nov. 8 Ballot

Bay Area has Most Measures

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

While almost all of the talk about the upcoming Nov. 8 has involved the presidential and congressional races, many cities and counties have ballot items that will affect the apartment industry – including a push for rent control in several San Francisco Bay Area communities.

Affordable Housing Finance counts 12 jurisdictions with measures that, if passed, would authorize General Obligation Bonds or other forms of financing to build or renovate affordable housing for low- to middle-income households, the homeless, veterans and disabled people. Passage would, in most cases, increase the property-tax rate in the community, which would affect all property owners, including those with apartments and student housing.

Among those with such initiatives on the ballot are Los Angeles; San Diego; Seattle; Portland, OR; Baltimore; Asheville and Greensboro, NC; Orange County, CA; Alameda County, CA (Oakland); Santa Clara County, CA (San Jose); San Mateo County, CA (in the Bay Area); and Eagle County, CO (in northwest Colorado).

Voters in many Bay Area communities, though, are being asked to determine whether certain rent-control proposal will be enacted. And several have competing measures, with a city council or housing authority advocating stronger restrictions and property owners backing measures with fewer restrictions.

In fact, the rent-control issue has even caught the attention of Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Democratic presidential runner-up, who has publicly endorsed a slate of candidates for the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board.

  • Also in Berkeley, the city council is supporting a measure that would increase the business license tax in landlords with five or more units from 1% to 2.8% -- which could not be passed on to current residents. The Berkeley Property Owners Association responded with a measure to increase the tax to 1.5% for landlords with three or more units, with fewer restrictions on passing the hike on to residents.

  • Berkeley voters also will cast ballots on a measure that would require landlords to pay residents $15,000 if they were to be evicted so an owner could move into their unit. A $5,000 premium would come due if such residents were low-income, disabled, elderly, parents of minor children or residents of the unit since before 1999.

  • The City of Alameda’s council wants to extend a restriction that limits rent hikes to once a year and requires mediation on increases of more than 5%. The measure would also require a relocation fee of $1,500 and up to four months’ rent for no-fault or no-cause evictions. A competing, voter-led initiative would replace the city’s program with an elected rent-control board that would set rent limits subject to appeal. It would also ban no-cause evictions and set compensation of $7,300-$18,300 for no-fault displacements.

  • One initiative in Mountain View would allow landlords of units built before Feb. 1, 1995, to increase rent each year by 2%-5%, and would permit only just-cause evictions. A competing initiative, backed by the city council, would increase the number of rent-controlled units and provide for binding arbitration on rent hikes of more than 5% on some units.

  • An Oakland ballot measure would move the cutoff date of buildings with just-cause protections to those built in 1995 or earlier. The current cutoff is 1980. The measure would also require city approval for rent increases on some units above the cost-of-living adjustment.

  • East Palo Alto wants to increase taxes on gross receipts of landlords with five or more units by 1.5% and prohibit landlords from passing the cost to rent-controlled tenants. A separate measure would limit rent increases to 10% per year and restrict the reasons for evictions.

  • The city of Richmond has a ballot measure that would place rent control on some units, creates a Richmond rent board and limits the reasons tenants could be evicted.

  • The City of San Mateo ballot includes an item that would tie rent control to the annual consumer price index, with increases of 1%-4% permitted, with landlords able to bank unused increases. A housing commission would be created and some forms of evictions banned.

  • Burlingame voters will decide whether to limit rent increases to 1%-4% per year and ban all evictions except those for just cause.

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