Proponents of a measure to enact rent control in Sacramento say they submitted enough signatures on Thursday to qualify for the ballot. The catch: Residents will have to wait another two years to vote on it.
The proposed charter amendment would dramatically alter renter protections in the city, so much so that initiative co-author Michelle Pariset, with the group Housing4Sacramento, called it the “most progressive” rent-stabilization policy in the state.
"We hope that by filing, we give the renters out there in Sacramento ... a light at the end of the tunnel, with these outrageous rent increases that we've been seeing,” she said.
If it makes the ballot, the initiative faces intense and well-funded opposition, including developers, realtors, businesses, property owners, and even Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who’s previously referred to it as “a threat.”
- Limit the amount, and how often, landlords can increase the rent.
- Restrict the reason owners can evict tenants.
- Require property owners to pay relocation assistance for those evicted without cause.
- Establish an elected housing commission to review and recommend rent policy.
The measure, however, won’t be voted on this fall.
Labor and tenants-rights groups behind the charter amendment say they filed more than the 36,000 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot on Thursday. But that is well past the June deadline to qualify for the November 6 election.
If the signatures and ballot language are certified, it will instead end up on the 2020 ballot.
Pariset says she’s hoping that Steinberg and city council will step up and pass a charter amendment sooner. Her group has been meeting with the mayor since this spring, and she says they’re optimistic.
"We need a faster solution than 2020,” Pariset said. “People are being displaced and losing their homes now."
Council and the mayor will discuss rent-stabilization options in a special meeting on Tuesday.
Josh Wood will likely be there. He heads advocacy group Region Business, and he’s spoken out against the rent-control measure in the past as a representative of the newly founded Citizens for Affordable Housing group.
Wood called the initiative flawed and misleading. “Numerous studies have shown that rent control doesn't work. It stops development and reduces the amount of housing. It does nothing to stop the problem and only makes it worse,” he said.
His group wants to see the city focus on generating new construction instead of regulating landlords. “In order to solve this issue, we need to increase the housing supply,” Wood said, adding that a wealth of solutions were discussed during a special city council meeting on housing earlier in August.
Wood argued that there are “specific technical errors” in the language of the proposed ballot measure submitted on Thursday that should lead to its disqualification. He compared it to an early version of former Mayor Kevin Johnson’s “strong mayor” ballot initiative, which a judge struck down, and a referendum attempt on the Kings arena subsidy, which was rejected by the city clerk.
“The clerk of the city has administerial duty to reject these petitions, and we believe that there is no other recourse,” Wood said.
Pariset rejected Wood’s claim and insisted that the petition and signatures are “solid.”
She also called Wood’s Citizens for Affordable Housing organization “Astroturf,” saying that it was a coalition of realtors, developers and business types “masquerading as a community group.”
Housing4Sacramento does not intend to pull the 2020 initiative if city council fastracks a short-term rent-control plan, according to Pariset.
“For that to happen, we would need to see something pretty spectacular from the mayor and city council, and something in the form of a charter amendment, so that they couldn’t just change it later,” she said.
But she still wants city council to act as soon as possible.
"We're hoping that we can get a stopgap, that the mayor and city council will approve some kind of ordinance that will protect people now,” Pariset said.
The city clerk is expected to review the initiative’s language over the coming days. The county will then have 30 business days to validate the signatures before sending the measure to city council for certification.