Committee delays council consideration on stricter rent control, ‘anti-harassment’ law amid CAA pressure

After hearing from CAA and local housing providers, a Sacramento city committee this week concluded that a package of controversial rental housing proposals, including stricter rent control, isn’t ready for the full City Council to review.

On Tuesday, the Sacramento City Council’s Law and Legislation Committee considered policies ranging from limiting rent increases to the inflation rate, government setting of rents on new tenancies, to an “anti-harassment” ordinance that would leave law-abiding landlords vulnerable to litigation.

In particular, the proposals by City Councilwomen Katie Valenzuela, Caity Maple and Mai Vang seek to develop radical new regulations on rental housing in Sacramento. These regulations could make it nearly impossible for housing providers to continue offering housing without exposing themselves to significant legal and financial liabilities and create confusion in reconciling with existing laws that already protect renters.

The committee directed city staff to do more work on the proposals with all impacted stakeholders and return to the   committee this fall. From there, they could potentially move to the full council for a vote.

The proposed anti-harassment ordinance encountered substantial resistance organized by CAA and other members of the business community. CAA members and representatives pointed out to the committee the gaping lack of empirical data to support the allegations of widespread tenant abuse, and that existing state law already protects all Californians from suffering the various forms of abuse at the hands of others. While Valenzuela voted to move the ordinance forward, Councilwoman Lisa Kaplan and Councilman Eric Guerra urged a pause. The committee ultimately directed staff to engage with stakeholders to find ways to address the issue.

“I know tenant harassment is real, but my concern is whether the ordinance is the right answer,” Kaplan said, as reported by the Sacramento Bee. The development of a new ordinance may or may not be the outcome of these discussions.

Besides the anti-harassment ordinance, Valenzuela is targeting housing providers with a package of proposals that she’s dubbed “Sacramento Forward.” Fellow committee members Guerra and Kaplan rightly recognized Sacramento Forward as a laundry list of underdevelopment ideas (including tightened rent control, imposing “just cause” eviction requirements after 30 days of tenancy, and taxpayer-funded attorneys for tenants in a dispute with their landlord.  They directed city staff to continue working on the proposal, opting not to send it to the full council.

During testimony at Tuesday’s meeting, CAA’s Matt McDonald said of Sacramento Forward: “This will demonize providers and cause unneeded strife in the housing market. Instead of resurrecting a litany of bad ideas, CAA hopes the City of Sacramento will instead choose to work with us.”

Prior to the meeting, CAA urged rental housing providers to speak against the proposals, citing concerns over limiting rent increases, stricter government inspections, and additional regulations that would burden housing providers. The call to action, which prompted 700 letters from property owners, included opposition to lower rent caps, stricter just cause eviction, and other mandates that undermine providers’ ability to offer quality homes for residents.

As both the Sacramento Forward and anti-harassment proposals evolve, rental housing providers can anticipate continued advocacy from CAA to ensure their interests are considered in the upcoming discussions.