After years of debate, the Concord City Council on March 5 passed a long-anticipated rent control ordinance on a 4-1 vote, with Councilwoman Laura Hoffmeister remaining opposed.

The council’s action came during the second reading of the ordinance Tuesday, March 5. This followed initial approval last month.

The ratification, while expected, was met with continued opposition from the California Apartment Association and many Concord property owners. Councilwoman Hoffmeister, who cast the sole dissenting vote, expressed concerns that the ordinance could punish landlords who were doing the right thing and that the rent increase cap was too low.

During the ratification hearing, Vice Mayor Carlyn Obringer proposed placing the ordinance on the ballot, a suggestion supported by CAA; however, most council members, led by Mayor Edi Birsan, chose to push forward with it.

CAA and the broader community immediately and vocally opposed the council’s decision. As part of its response, CAA worked with local homeowners to express their concerns in this open letter.

“We, the residents of Concord, condemn the Concord City Council for turning a blind eye and ignoring our pleas,” the letter reads. “Shame on you for rejecting Vice Mayor Carlyn Obringer’s proposal to put the rental housing regulation ordinance on the ballot. Shame on you for not allowing us to have a vote on a citywide law that would impact our homes.”

The letter highlights the ordinance’s overreach, such as requiring single-family rental housing providers to pay thousands of dollars if they want to move back into their homes, allowing government officials to dictate who can live in one’s home and for how long, and potentially reducing the availability of single-family home rentals, thus removing rental options for renters. It also criticizes the lack of resident involvement in the process and the lack of notice and communication from the City Council, with many finding out about the ordinance from their neighbors.

The law is set to cap annual rent increases for older multifamily rental units at 3% or 60% of the Consumer Price Index (CPI), whichever is lower. Under the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, the cap on rent increases would be limited to multifamily units constructed before February 1995. Costa-Hawkins also exempts single-family homes and condominiums while preserving the right of landlords to raise rents to market rates when a tenant moves out. The ordinance would also exempt rented accessory dwelling units and owner-occupied duplexes and require landlords to have a “just cause” before evicting tenants, even though state law already includes eviction protections.

Although the ordinance was set to take effect on April 4, the city has suspended its implementation pending the outcome of a separate referendum effort led by a local resident; CAA is not part of that referendum effort. If the referendum qualifies, the City Council will have to either repeal the ordinance or place it on the ballot for voters to decide.

CAA’s focus remains on directly engaging with the local electorate to advocate for the interests of the rental housing industry. The organization is committed to shaping housing policy through public advocacy, preparing for upcoming local elections, and opposing a statewide initiative to repeal Costa-Hawkins, which would allow cities like Concord to apply rent control ordinances in any way they choose, posing an existential threat to California’s rental housing industry.