Proposed 45-day moratorium on rent increases and evictions in Richmond fails to move forward

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A 45-day moratorium on rent increases and evictions in Richmond was pulled from consideration at Tuesday’s City Council meeting after it was discovered the proposal would fall short of the six required votes on council.

Richmond Vice Mayor Jael Myrick recently pitched the moratorium in response to tenants rights advocates who argue that rising rents in the city and Bay Area are pricing out residents. He told us last week that a temporary freeze on rent increases and evictions would inspire a more “sober, reflective” conversation on how to prevent further displacement of residents, including proposals to implement rent control.

On Monday, however, the moratorium idea was dealt a blow when City Attorney Bruce Goldmiller revealed in an email to council members that it would require approval from four-fifths of the seven-member council, meaning six votes. Goldmiller had previously thought five votes were needed. With the proposal certain to fail, the item was pulled from the agenda Tuesday, preventing a passionate and lengthy dialogue between council and tenants rights advocates.

Bay Area-wide, tenants rights advocates have been calling to implement rent control, among other measures, to prevent the displacement of residents due to skyrocketing rents. Earlier this month, advocates decried a notice of up to 20-percent rent increases for tenants of two buildings on Bissell Avenue. They also referred to a recent study by the UC Berkeley Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society stating that 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 Contra Costa Times, which today offered a pretty thorough report of the city’s affordable housing issues, cited figures from market research firm RealFacts that state rents in Richmond have increased “an average of 33 percent in the past five years.”

Mayor Tom Butt is opposed to rent control, arguing it hasn’t worked to keep rents down in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland. The mayor argues Richmond must instead build its way out of the affordable housing crunch.