Blogging Bayport Alameda

April 8, 2014

Rent control to Major Tom

Filed under: Alameda, City Council, Development — Lauren Do @ 6:08 am

As part of the Planning Board meeting about a week ago, the topic of the new Housing Element was discussed.  Alameda is currently working on completing the Housing Element for the next cycle.   Yes, I know it seems like we just completed a Housing Element, but this is the timeline.  This time around we have plenty of land supply to meet the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) so that’s not an issue.   What did come up during the public comment was that a housing advocacy group in Alameda might be pushing for a “rent stabilization ordinance” like neighboring cities, which essentially means that they’ll be seeking rent control for Alameda to be included in the Housing Element as a way to maintain the affordability of the housing stock.

Possibly what has brought he issue of rent stabilization in Alameda to the forefront was first the very publicized case of Benton Street and the much less publicized case of the SRO units above McGees.   Add to that the very public battle in Oakland over rent increases, capital improvement passthroughs, etc it is a very current topic to be discussed.

Right now, Alameda does not have rent control laws and currently only has the Rent Stabilization Board to mediate conflicts between landlords and tenants, but it really relies on both parties acting in good faith because there is no real mechanism for the Rent Stabilization Board to really punish either of the parties if they don’t follow through on the recommendations made.

There seemed to be a bit of pushback on the Planning Board to the idea of a Rent Stabilization Ordinance and, I believe, mostly to the idea of rent control.   We’ll see how far this actually goes but for the landlords and tenants out there this is probably one to keep an eye out for.

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16 Comments

  1. I lived in SF in an Apt. with Rent Control. We couldn’t get our landlord to do anything. Some peoples rent was cheap, but new family’s and people new to the city had to pay a lot more.

    Comment by Joseph — April 8, 2014 @ 8:28 am

  2. Renewed Hope Housing Advocates is pushing for the city to include a commitment to examining the need for a rent stabilization ordinance in Alameda as part of the Housing Element’s many programs to address housing equity in the city. That would commit the city to holding hearings and forums on the problem with escalating rents and what measure could be taken, including a rent stabilization ordinance, but it doesn’t commit the city to actually passing an ordinance.

    Comment by Laura Thomas — April 8, 2014 @ 12:07 pm

  3. Renewed Hope is gathering date on current rent increases and other tenant/landlord issues. We have put the survey online and all renters are encouraged to fill it out. You can remain anonymous, if you wish. Go to http://goo.gl/WKyAB4

    Comment by Laura Thomas — April 8, 2014 @ 12:14 pm

  4. What good is an anonymous survey if you cant verify the data? and I think the city has shown a commitment to the issue with a rent stabilization board, besides a few issues it seems to be working just fine.

    Comment by Norman — April 8, 2014 @ 2:12 pm

  5. Interesting. So there’s an anti-free market activist group aiming to get their foot in the door in Alameda? And they call themselves Renewed Hope? Using the 180° rule for progressive sobriquets, the end result desired has nothing to do with hope and everything to do with control.

    Comment by Lavage10 — April 8, 2014 @ 7:44 pm

  6. 5. Renewed HOPE has had more than a foot hold for years now. Part of the landscape. How long have you lived here? They are not ant-free market ( OMG!) they are for equity and fairness, which by the way is not guaranteed by some invisible hand which magically adjusts the markets which are wide open to graft, corruption and politics.

    Comment by MI — April 8, 2014 @ 8:03 pm

  7. A group operating explicitly for one side (buyers) and against the other (sellers) is not promoting equity or fairness, it is promoting its one sided agenda. What DOES create fairness and equity, though, is a free market characterized by transparency and wide participation on both sides. The greater the number of participants and the greater the transparency, the more fair and equitable a market is.

    It is possible for a market to be dominated by “graft, corruption and politics”, though not the norm. The CDO market of 2002-2006 was such an example, (and that was obvious at the time. The suckers who got caught in that maelstrom should have known better but they were too busy charging 2 & 20 to notice they were getting fucked.) At the opposite end of that scale is the market for apartments in Alameda, which is a whole lot closer to the Perfect Competition model of Econ 101 than that. Large number of sellers, large number of buyers, and significant & deep transparency (Craigslist, for example).

    Rents can be volatile because the supply is relatively inelastic in the short term, but that should be recognized for what it is: volatile demand vs. static supply, not some sort of evil mustache twisting cabal of Greedy Landlord caricatures. Remember that rents can and do fall, even if Renewed Hope is silent in those periods.

    Comment by dave — April 8, 2014 @ 9:03 pm

  8. Thanks Monsieur Levage for granting Renewed Hope so much power. I wish we could control things. On the question of markets, monopoly capitalism has pretty much destroyed what passed for a free market globally some years ago. And in Alameda, a city which has banned multi-family housing from being built for the last 40 years, you could hardly argue that the supply and demand side of housing is in any way in balance or a fair fight. Thanks Mi, (Mark?) for setting the record straight. Renewed Hope is a group of Alamedans who has taken its name and inspiration from the fair housing activists of the 1960s, of which there were many in Alameda, and has continued the fight for equity and fairness in the face of waves of economic booms that have forced long-time residents out of town. A city, any city, is made strong and stable by continuity, by both its ability to sustain old-time residents and its ability to embrace the new ones. We hope for both in Alameda and that is what we have fight for. It’s that simple.

    Comment by Laura Thomas — April 8, 2014 @ 9:06 pm

  9. Fantastic stimulus package for the local legal services sector – with spillover benefits!! More lawyers means more seats filled in local restaurants, etc. We might finally get some real action down at the little courthouse at the mall.

    Better get into that apartment with the killer view on Shoreline now. After a few years, the reduction in supply of available units (which always occurs with rent control because, in addition to units taken off the market by owners, there is also greater incentive for current renters to remain in place – a mini Prop 13 effect) will cause the rent on the few available uncontrolled units to pop.

    If mom and pop’s second unit comes under rent control, do they get to ask that anyone living in a rent-controlled apartment supply them with reduced priced goods, services or labor?

    Comment by Mapachepolitico — April 8, 2014 @ 10:41 pm

  10. Thanks Madame Thomas for enunciating your mission statement, “I wish we could control things.”
    Mind explaining why you disagree with #7?

    Comment by Jack R — April 8, 2014 @ 11:23 pm

  11. As a landlord, I think it is wise to charge market, which we determine from our real estate company and not gouge. We also want to keep tenants as long as possible, as turnover can get expensive and we like to get to know our neighbors (all our rentals are right adjacent to our home) and make them our friends, as well as our tenants. We raise the rent only between tenants. I am unsure about the long term benefits of rent control, but I know it has had some undesired consequences in some cities.

    Comment by Kate Quick — April 9, 2014 @ 8:07 am

  12. Looks like I hit the nail right on the head. Renewed Hope IS anti-free market and IS about control. Please forgive me for being ignorant of every interest group that traverses the landscape but I’m old, small and sometimes wear glasses. Perhaps Ms. Thomas can help dispel my ignorance by answering a few questions?

    1. Please define ‘monopoly capitalism’ and how it pertains to the Alameda rental housing market. If you are using the term in the Marxist sense why not just say you’re a communist organization desiring to impose Marxist controls on the market. Your website doesn’t explain your philosophical roots.

    2. Please provide a direct link to your renters survey. That would be most helpful in ascertaining the validity of your data. I have no idea why you require an email address to view the survey.

    3. Please provide the sources for your funding. Please be specific.

    Thanks.

    Comment by Lavage10 — April 9, 2014 @ 2:22 pm

  13. Levage: I don’t know what nail you are trying to hit. If you are trying to whip up some fear around Renewed Hope’s intentions, you can certainly try and will probably have success with folks who live off fear. But to answer your questions 1) My reference to monopoly capitalism may have jarred you. When you have Comcast ready to take over two-thirds of the media outlets in the U.S. you have on example of what is happening to free markets everywhere. You don’t have to be any kind of Marxist to wonder about what the end game: monopoly not free markets. As far as the rental market in Alameda is concerned, I already explained it’s hardly a totally “free” market in that it has been restricted for years. Renewed Hope has no particular philosophical roots. We tend to be people of faith with an interest in fairness and equity and I noted our roots in the 1960s fair housing efforts in Alameda already. I offered a link to our survey in another post. As for funding, we exist on donations and dues.

    Comment by Laura Thomas — April 9, 2014 @ 4:47 pm

  14. If by “restricted” you mean Measure A, consider the following:

    -A majority of housing units in Alameda are rentals, so whatever “restriction” exists is not especially material
    -Measure A is a quality of life zoning ordinance that has preserved the character of the town, character that renters enjoy along with owners.
    -Alameda rents are lower than SF, Oakland and Berkeley for comparable neighborhoods and properties. A major reason for that is the lack of rent control, which is well known to reduce supply and increase rents for the majority of residents

    And while Comcast’s scale is certainly a concern, there is by no means a monopoly on media in the US. Oligopoly, maybe, but no monopoly. And whatever the term, Alameda’s housing market is neither, not by a long shot.

    Lastly, “fairness & equity” is a two way street, buyers AND sellers deserve it.

    Comment by dave — April 9, 2014 @ 5:31 pm

  15. The term ‘monopoly capitalism’ isn’t jarring – it’s a straightforward, old line communist economic theory first presented by Karl Marx in ‘Das Kapital’ and later expanded upon by generations of communists including Lenin, Trotsky and various international Marxist thinkers. Basically it states that in the end form of capitalism the State works to concentrate the wealth, means of production and land under the control of a very few. Common people suffer under the yoke of oppression and denial of material needs.

    So let me ask again: How does monopoly capitalism pertain to the rental housing market in Alameda? Is the State working to concentrate ownership of rental housing? Are there laws excluding anyone from buying or selling any kind of property in Alameda?

    Also – you know exactly what I’m talking about in reference to the renters survey. I’m talking about the results not the survey form.

    So who donates to Renewed Hope?

    Comment by Lavage10 — April 9, 2014 @ 5:39 pm

  16. 13)
    Your logic escapes me. You state you are an advocate for the free market in the media yet you are the chief executive in an organization that supports the exact opposite of free market in housing. Equity and fairness, which you claim to support, ad nauseam, cannot be implemented by force yet that’s what you strive to implement.

    Comment by Jack R — April 9, 2014 @ 6:41 pm


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