Richmond council to debate solutions to rising rents Tuesday; rally to precede meeting

Richmond group renews push for rent control, seeks November ballot initiative

A rally calling for solutions to rising rents is set to be held at Richmond Civic Center Tuesday, just before council meets to debate the issue.

The 5:30 p.m. rally will occur ahead of a study session at council during which city staff is expected to present a set of options aimed at protecting renters.

The staff presentation will include figures from research firm RealFacts, which state monthly rents for Richmond units on average increased by 24.3-percent over four years ending last year, and by 10 percent between the fourth quarters of 2013 and 2014 (see chart below).

Tenant advocates are calling for a cap on annual rent increases, otherwise known as rent control. Opponents argue that rent control policies have not worked to keep rents down in cities such as San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland, and have only burdened landlords and scared off developers.

Council is also set to consider implementing a just-cause eviction policy to replace the current system where landlords only need to give notice, not a reason, for eviction.

While the average cost for a studio apartment in Richmond has gone up 7.7-percent in four years, averages for one-bedroom, one-bathroom or  two-bedroom, two-bathroom units have increased by more than 26 percent, according to RealFacts.

rentfacts.6-20The data also shows Richmond running out of available rental units: In 2006, occupancy was 93.4-percent, but last year it was 97.2-percent.

According to the city’s estimates from 2009 to 2013, nearly half of the city’s households, 17,434, are renters. Of them, 9,917 were estimated to be “overpaying” for rent, meaning the household spends 30-percent or more of the household income on housing costs.

renthigh.6-20The Contra Costa chapter of the Alliance for Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) has been protesting the rent increases. In a Facebook post, ACCE said it identified 100 Richmond renters who have recently received more than a 5-percent rent increase.

The group posted a photo Monday of Ana Garza (see below), who rents with her husband, a construction worker making $17 per hour in San Francisco, and their 14-year-old. In August, their rent increased from $635 per month to $1150, ACCE said, and they recently got another notice of an increase to $1,595.

Mayor Tom Butt has said the solution to rising rents is not to penalize landlords but rather build more affordable housing to meet the demand.