A petition for a referendum to repeal Richmond’s recently passed rent control ordinance is being circulated among city residents.
If about 4,100 signatures are collected and verified, the ordinance will be suspended, according to Mayor Tom Butt. City Council will then have to choose whether to repeal the ordinance or to place it on a ballot for voters to decide.
The controversial ordinance, which passed by a 4-1 City Council vote on Aug. 5, caps rents to annual increases of no more than 100-percent of the Consumer Price Index — about 1.5 to 2 percent — for nearly 10,000 units in the city, excluding all single-family homes, units built after Feb. 1, 1995 and Section 8 recipients. The ordinance also includes new just cause for eviction rules where landlords must provide a reason, not just notice, for eviction.
The ordinance has sharply divided council. It is supported by Councilmembers Gayle Mclaughlin, Eduardo Martinez and Jovanka Beckles — all members of the Richmond Progressive Alliance that votes as a bloc — as well as Vice Mayor Jael Myrick. Mayor Tom Butt and Councilmembers Vinay Pimple and Nat Bates are opposed.
The petition to repeal the ordinance is creating even more division, with both sides accusing the other of disseminating misinformation.
Rent control advocates, including the RPA, are alleging that people who are paid to obtain signatures for the petition are misinforming residents about the policy. Meanwhile, the RPA is accused of circulating an anti-petition flyer that includes erroneous and misleading information.
In his e-forum Sunday, the mayor called the RPA’s declaration of victory following passage of the rent control policy “their version of the George W. Bush ‘mission accomplished’ moment.”
“The disposition of the rent control war in Richmond is still very much up for grabs,” Butt said. “We don’t know if the required number of valid signatures will be collected, but experts are betting that they will.”
On its Facebook page, the RPA said rent control advocates need to “do anything we can to discourage signing of this petition.”