Richmond: Packed house on rent control ends without vote
By Karina Ioffee firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted: 06/24/2015 06:12:12 AM PDT
Updated: 06/24/2015 06:12:40 AM PDT
RICHMOND -- Union leaders, nurses, educators, tenants, single mothers and students spoke passionately Tuesday in favor of rent control and just cause eviction ordinances in Richmond, saying they and their neighbors faced displacement, poverty and even homelessness unless the measures were passed.
After more than three hours of testimony, in which nearly 50 people spoke -- most in favor of regulating housing prices -- the Richmond City Council directed city staff to draft an ordinance to be voted on in July.
The vote was a disappointment to the dozens of supporters who have spent months pressing the city to pass rent control as rents here have surged 30 percent over the past four years.
"There's no way you can't help the residents who have come here and have shared their stories with you tonight," said one speaker who said he was a teacher. "These are the sinews of a great city. Don't let it collapse."
Another woman begged the city to pass rent control, saying she was a former homeowner who was pushed into a rental after foreclosure.
"I need to be able to help my daughter finish college," she said. "But we can't afford to live here anymore. I'm asking you 'Help me, help my child.' "
About 50 percent of Richmond residents are renters, although only a quarter would benefit from rent control since single-family homes, properties run by the Richmond Housing Authority and all housing built after 1994 would be excluded from a rent control ordinance.
The City Council is split on the issue, with Councilmembers Eduardo Martinez, Gayle McLaughlin, Jovanka Beckles and Jael Myrick voicing support for both rent control and just cause, while Mayor Tom Butt and Councilmen Vinay Pimple and Nat Bates oppose them.
"As a council member, it's my duty to protect lower-income people who deserve a place to live," Martinez, a retired teacher, said.
"We can't ignore this because people are going to lose their housing and they will become homeless, here, in this city," Beckles said.
A handful of opponents also spoke at the meeting, including several property managers and landlords who said just cause evictions would make it more difficult to evict problematic tenants.
"You can't restrict the rights of one group in order to give more rights to another," said Renee Bartels, a property manager in Richmond. "There's a blanket assumption that all landlords are rich. It's not fair."
Others added that property owners spend money on repairs, property taxes, payroll and other expenses and should not be restricted from earning whatever the market allows.
City Manager Bill Lindsay said it would take at least six months to draft and implement an ordinance on rent control or just cause eviction or both. He also urged the city to take a slow, steady and "least regulatory" approach that would result in fewer costs to the city.
The Richmond City Council is expected to vote on the issue July 21.
Contact Karina Ioffee at 510-262-2726 or email@example.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/kioffee.