Landlord’s notice of 20-percent rent increase sparks rent control debate in Richmond

Rent control proposal likely to fail after councilmember changes heart
Photo credit to ACCE

Tenants of two apartment buildings on Bissell Avenue in Richmond are expected to announce on Wednesday a partial rent strike in response to their landlord’s notice of a 20-percent increase in their rent.

The tenants, led by the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), were set to hold a news conference Wednesday at 5:45 p.m. at 1300 Bissell Ave.

The tenants claim to live in poor conditions at 1200-1300 Bissell, and were stunned to receive notice from their landlord, Guadalupe Campos, of significant rent increases.

The rent for a 2-bedroom apartment of more than 1,000-square feet would increase from $1,000 to $1,200, according to figures provided by Mayor Tom Butt.

Butt is defending Campos’ right to increase the rent. In a lengthy e-forum post Tuesday, Butt described Campos as an immigrant success story who offers below-market rents to fellow immigrants. Campos maintains “clean and well-kept” units that passed city inspection in September, added Butt, who said he personally visited the buildings on Saturday.

1200 Bissell Avenue (Photo credit to Mayor Tom Butt)

The mayor said Campos has for years needed to raise the rent but could not do so during the housing downturn. The average rent in Richmond for a smaller 2-bedroom apartment is $1,422, well more than Campos is requesting, Butt argued.

ACCE members don’t agree, saying Campos is living the high-life in San Mateo County while preying on low-income tenants with no where to go, and in an increasingly expensive and gentrifying Bay Area. The group advocates for implementing rent control in Richmond.

ACCE has referred to a recent study by the UC Berkeley Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society study that found that Richmond residents are becoming priced out. About 37-percent of all Richmond renters earn less than $35,000 annually and spend more than 30-percent of their income on housing, the report indicated.

Butt opposes rent control, arguing that adding affordable housing is a more sustainable solution to keep rents at bay. The mayor says Richmond and San Pablo have among the lowest residential rental rates in the Bay Area, and he says rent control policies in other cities like San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley have not prevented spiking rents.

“We cannot regulate ourselves out of an affordable housing crunch; we have to build our way out of it,” Butt said.

Despite the disagreement, Butt said that he has successfully convinced Campos to rollback his projected rent increases by 25-percent, and commit to no further increases for a year.