Advocates of Richmond rent control to begin gathering signatures for ballot measure Saturday

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A new push to implement rent control in Richmond seeks to qualify the policy for the November ballot. An attempt last year to pass a rent control ordinance failed after being opposed by landlords and three members of a divided City Council. On Tuesday, a group that includes tenants rights advocates, labor unions and the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) renewed the effort to install rent control by filing a proposed ballot measure with the city clerk. The proposed ballot measure seeks to establish a rent board in Richmond that would set annual limits on rent increases for renters living in units built before 1995, and would allow tenants to appeal increases. The ballot measure also includes implementing a just cause for eviction policy. The coalition, which calls itself Fair and Affordable Richmond, is now waiting for the city clerk to write a title and summary for their proposed initiative. The city clerk has 15 days to do so. Rent control advocates will then have until June to gather 4,198 to qualify the measure for the November ballot. “The renters of Richmond deserve protection during the current housing crisis, and our coalition believes voters this November should be able to take a stand on the subject of just cause evictions and rent control,” Richmond Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin said in a statement. In August, Richmond City Council, which includes three RPA members, passed a rent control and just cause eviction ordinance while decrying spiking rents they said have been pushing low-income residents out of the city. But the decision was reversed after a petition to repeal the ordinance — backed by the California Apartment Association, which represents landlords — garnered enough signatures from residents. The ordinance was opposed by Mayor Tom Butt and Councilmembers Nat Bates and Vinay Pimple, who have quoted studies by economists showing rent control doesn’t work to keep rents down. They also warned the policy would discourage landlords from investing in improvements on their properties, contributing to further blight in Richmond. Supporters of rent control have a different perspective. ‘The Bay Area housing crisis has already begun to hurt Richmond, and it’s effects will only get worse,” renter Edith Pastrano said.

A group advocating for rent control in Richmond said it will begin gathering signatures on Saturday with the goal of placing the policy on the November ballot.

The group, which calls itself Fair and Affordable Richmond, needs to gather 4,198 signatures from city voters to qualify its ballot measure. It will hold a kick-off event for the signature gathering effort on Saturday, 11 a.m. at Nevin Community Center, 598 Nevin Ave. Signature gatherers will be going door to door in neighborhoods.

An attempt last year to pass a rent control ordinance failed after being opposed by landlords and three members of a divided City Council.

But rent control advocates who have joined Fair and Affordable Richmond, including tenants rights advocates, labor unions and the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA), have renewed the effort. Their proposed November ballot measure seeks to establish a rent board in Richmond that would set annual limits on rent increases for renters living in units built before 1995, and would allow tenants to appeal increases. The measure also includes implementing a just cause for eviction policy.

While advocates say rent control is needed to protect residents from rising rents brought on by the Bay Area technology boom, opponents point to economists who say rent control doesn’t work to keep rents down, and thus hasn’t been adopted by another jurisdiction in decades.

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