Sacramentans may still get the chance to vote on a new rent control measure after a complicated legal battle initially took it off the ballot earlier this year. Last week, an appeals court deemed that the city must place the measure on the November ballot.
City spokesperson Tim Swanson has mentioned there is a chance this measure may not actually make it to the ballot, or that if voters approve it, it may not be implemented. This is because the Superior Court of Sacramento County is still deciding on its constitutionality —- opponents have said that the measure, called Measure C, is too vague and that it is seeking to revise the city charter, rather than creating a charter amendment.
Still, proponents of the ballot measure say their proposal is more protective of tenants than the rent control currently in place, and more similar to rent control measures in the Bay Area. Michelle Pariset, who has been leading Measure C efforts said it’s more important now than ever for stronger tenant protections.
“Our communities are really struggling to stay in place, particularly our Black and Brown neighbors,” Pariset said. “I hope that people see this initiative is here to keep our community whole, where what the city and mayor are peddling is a temporary, partial solution that they can change at any time.”
Sacramento has seen its rent increase by 45% in the last seven years, according to a report done in 2018 by Zillow.
In 2018, a housing advocacy group called Organize Sacramento was able to garner over 40,000 signatures in support of a rent control measure that would cap rent hikes at 5% and also create a nine-person rental housing board elected by residents to resolve disputes between landlords and tenants. But the city council countered, and in 2019, created its own rent control measure.
Sacramento’s current rent control measure caps rent hikes at 5% plus inflation, with increases being no more than 10% and it did not create a rental housing board. It also has an expiration date in 2024.
Opponents of Measure C, which include the mayor, city councilmembers Eric Guerra, Jay Schenirer, Rick Jennings and Allen Warren, said they’re concerned it could make it harder for the city to expand housing supply and that it adds more bureaucracy and cost to taxpayers by creating a housing rental board.
Cassandra Jennings, wife of councilmember Jennings and CEO of the Greater Sacramento Urban League, said she worried that the measure too strongly protects tenants, possibly discouraging landlords from wanting to create housing in the community.
“If you’re looking for new landlords to invest, the affordability will go down because you have so many restrictions for the owner and landlord,” she said. “They won’t be able to cover their mortgage in some cases and make the necessary improvements.”She added that she believed that the rent control the city currently has in place is working.
“We just need to figure out how to really increase the supply, because that’s going to be the key,” she said.
But others disagree.
Kitty Bolte of the housing advocacy group Sacramento Tenants Union said that during the COVID-19pandemic — when income is uncertain for many renters — there’s an increased need for more protections.
“We’ve gotten a number of inquiries from people who are getting rent increases even with covid going on, and a lot of people’s finances are stretched particularly thin right now,” Bolte said. “So even what maybe feels like a pretty small difference in how big the increase is can actually be a pretty big deal for families in general, and especially right now.”
Bolte also said that the creation of a rental housing board could play an especially important role as many tenants may be facing evictions in the coming months once the city’s eviction moratorium lifts at the end of September.
“More now than ever before, we’ve encountered a lot of very complex tenant landlord issues, and that’s something we’re really hoping that the elected board that’s part of Measure C would be able to help mediate those disputes,” Bolte said.
Incoming city councilmember Katie Valenzuela, who supports Measure C, disagreed with sentiment that the proposal would be too strongly anti-landlord.
“One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard of the city’s ordinance is that it’s one size fits all — there’s no way to arbitrate, and this measure creates that through a democratically elected board,” Valenzuela said. “I’ve talked to landlords who have been charging below-market rate for their units, and they said, ‘I feel like I’m being punished because now I can’t raise the rent as someone who’s been charging market rate,’ and that’s exactly what a renter’s board might be able to address.”
Sacramentans could be looking at a packed ballot this November, with voters also being asked to decide if city hall should be restructured to have a strong mayor form of government.
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