Tenants worried that landlords would raise rents before new rent controls go into effect will find it easier to rest as the city council approves a rollback this week and tightens the new rules.
Although the council approved the rent stabilization rules in its first reading last month, it ultimately did not approve them at a later meeting when some councilors decided to include a rollback date as to when they would take effect. On Tuesday, after a 3-to-2 vote — with Mayor ProTem Mike Barbanica and Councilman Lori Ogorchock disagreeing — the council approved newly formulated rules, reversing the date to August 23 so that landlords can’t set rents. increase meanwhile.
Although house prices in Antioch are lower than in many neighboring cities, many renters have complained of exorbitant rent increases of up to $500 or more per month — sometimes several times a year. Many low-income residents struggling to afford rising housing costs have urged the city to provide tenant protection, including on Tuesday as dozens spoke out at the council meeting.
Regina Bernie, an Antioch resident and member of the nonprofit Monument Impact, said the global pandemic was negatively impacting her and other tenants.
“I am here with my community and colleagues asking for a rent increase cap of 60% CPI (Consumer Price Index) and a maximum of 3%,” she said.
Tanya Dean of Antioch, who works in early childhood education, also pushed for support for rent stabilization, saying she was “horrified” at all the insecurities facing parents and children today.
“I fear for their mental and physical well-being, the parents have to work two jobs to pay the rent or just get the supplies they need,” she said. “This is unnecessary stress. And we’re putting this stress on these kids and their families and they’ve got to stop. It must stop. … It is imperative that we ensure these families are taken care of, we must make housing affordable for all families.”
Edith Pastrano, a member of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), said her work has gone door-to-door asking tenants what they are most concerned about, and the resounding answer is the high cost. of housing.
“I can tell you that everyone is concerned that their rents are rising at a rate that their incomes can’t keep up with,” she said. “The prices of goods and services are rising and gas is at an all-time high. Families have to make tough decisions to make ends meet. No parent should have to choose between feeding their kids a prescription or paying an extra few $100 a month in rent to keep a roof over their heads at night.
“As you cast your vote, think of the hundreds of families whose livelihoods depend on tonight’s vote. Protect families from the profits of companies that will never recognize when enough is enough,” she added.
The recently revised rules also add a definition of “housing services” so that if one’s lease includes essential amenities such as laundry facilities, hot and cold water, garbage disposal, cleaning services, parking and the like, landlords must provide what they say they will.
In addition to large rent increases, tenants complained about landlords failing to take action against cockroaches, broken appliances, leaky plumbing and unkempt common areas, and unusable amenities such as swimming pools that never open.
Under state law, cities can no longer introduce rent controls, which would regulate initial rents, but they can introduce rent stabilization rules that regulate how much rents can be increased during the year.
Juan Gonzalez of Antioch said his landlord raised his rent by $400, an amount he has struggled to pay.
“I can’t afford it if they raise my rent $400, and trust me, for a lot of people it’s not a lot of money, but for me it is — it’s $4,800 a year,” he said. “You have to understand after a pandemic and all the struggles I’ve been through…”
Under Antioch’s new rent stabilization rules, only one rent increase per year is allowed. But to comply with state law, not all rental units would be subject to the proposed rent stabilization regulations. That’s because the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act prohibits local restrictions on units built after February 1, 1995 and for single-family homes without associated units, as well as condominiums and cooperatives.
The local measure would cover owner-occupied duplex and Low Income Tax Credit Program-funded affordable housing projects, including many of the city’s larger complexes, such as the Casa Blanca, Delta View and Delta Pines apartments.
Under the new rules, the rent ceiling is 3%, or 60% of the consumer price index, with only one rent increase per year. It’s the same cap Oakland uses.
A tenant can also request a rent reduction if he believes that the landlord has asked for or accepted more rent than is allowed under the new rules. A landlord who believes the limit on rent increases will prevent them from receiving a “fair and reasonable return” on the property can also request the city for an increase in excess of what is allowed.
As part of the implementation of the program, the city will need to hire a deputy city attorney — to the tune of $294,714 with benefits — to assist with legal questions related to rent stabilization, conduct hearings and make decisions, the report said.
Councilor Monica Wilson gestured for approval, which Councilor Tamisha Torres-Walker did, and the measure passed without discussion.