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Sacramento Mayor Supports Temporary Rent Control, Council Members Propose Other Tenant Protections

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

This photo shows a "For Rent" sign outside an apartment building in Sacramento, Calif. Lawmakers are considering a measure that would allow California communities to expand rent control policies amid rising housing costs.

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

Updated 5:19 p.m.

Ahead of Tuesday’s special Sacramento City Council workshop on rent control, Mayor Darrell Steinberg released a statement in support of temporary limits to the amount landlords can increase rents. At the same time, three council members issued a different plan for how they’d stem the tide of crushing rent increases.

Steinberg posted an outline of his ideas, where he supported a cap of 5 percent on annual rent increases. But this limit would only apply to apartment buildings older than 20 years and with more than five units, and he also said that the cap should expire after three years.

“I do not favor permanent rent control in our city,” Steinberg wrote, adding that he believes building more affordable housing is the best way to stabilize rents.

A separate proposal was released at the same time by council members Steve Hansen, Eric Guerra and Rick Jennings. During a press conference at the Warehouse Artist Lofts on R Street, they suggested mediation be available to tenants if a landlord attempted to raise the rent by more than 6 percent.

Their plan would also make it mandatory for landlords with more than five units to offer 18-month leases, which Jennings said isn’t as extreme as rent control and would help stabilize rental rates.

“They don't have to be concerned with budgeting, or rent going up in that 18-month period of time, or being displaced from their home or their kids being displaced from their home and their schools and the community that they've grown up in and loved,” the council member said.

This debate over rent control comes as local housing advocates submitted signatures to qualify a rent-stabilization ballot measure last week. Proponents say the measure, which could appear on the 2020 ballot, would be the “most progressive” renter-protection policy in the state.

Steinberg has previously referred to the initiative — which would limit rent increases, force landlords to pay relocation assistance and establish an elected rent board — as “a threat.”

The separate proposals by the mayor and his council colleagues also comes as Californians will vote this fall on Proposition 10, a measure that would repeal a decades-old state law prohibiting rent control from applying to apartments built after 1995, condos and single-family homes.

In addition to limiting rent increases, Steinberg also backed a plan to eliminate certain city fees for developers who build affordable housing, an idea the council members also embraced.

“From significant cost reductions, to reduced parking requirements, to faster permit times, we can all agree that City government must do more to enable the private and non-profit sectors to build — and to do so without years of unnecessary delay,” Steinberg wrote.

The mayor said he would not bring rent control back to council until after the November election.

Council members’ Hansen, Guerra and Jennings’ proposal for renter protects differs in many ways from the mayor’s plan.

According to their proposal, if a tenant who receives a rent increase of more than 6 percent within a 12-month period requests mediation, they must still pay rent, plus the 6 percent increase, until the dispute is resolved.

The mediation would not be mandatory, however, and any agreement would need to be signed by both parties.

The council members’ plan would apply to units with more than five tenants. Mobile homes, condos, units in which a owner and tenant share a bathroom, and units with government-subsidized rent would be exempt.

Their plan also calls for more money for Sacramento’s Self-Help Housing rental assistance and education programs, money that could come a pending statewide ballot measure that the state legislature voted to put before voters this November.

The various stakeholders in the rent control debate, from housing advocates to developers and realtors, were divided over the two proposals.

Housing advocates spoke in support of the mayor’s plan and were skeptical of the council members’ vision.

Michelle Pariset, who co-wrote the local rent-stabilization ballot measure with the group Housing4Sacramento, said her group worked with the mayor on his ideas and supported them.

She said that Hansen, Guerra and Jennings’ proposal showed “a serious lack of understanding about the crisis Sacramento renters are in,” and she specifically criticized the requirement for 18-month leases as not workable.

Josh Wood, a spokesperson for the property owners and businesses that make up Citizens for Affordable Housing, called the mayor’s plan unacceptable. “It will stop investment in Sacramento and reduce the new housing supply we need to solve this crisis,” he said.

At the same time, Wood praised the council member’s plan. “We are glad that real solutions besides rent control are being discussed,” he said, adding that “the devil is in the details.”

City council is scheduled to discuss rent control and tenant protections at Tuesday’s special meeting.

Read the outline of a tenant protection plan released Tuesday by Council members Steve Hansen, Eric Guerra and Rick Jennings:

This story is developing and will be updated throughout the day.

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