Santa Rosa council tentatively approves permanent rent control

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Despite vigorous opposition from CAA and the Santa Rosa business community, housing providers in the city are facing rent control for the long haul.

After imposing the policy on a temporary basis, the City Council on Tuesday, Aug. 16, voted 4-2 to keep it in place.

In May, the Santa Rosa council approved a moratorium on rent increases over 3 percent on pre-1995 multifamily housing. The council’s vote Tuesday, after a first reading, is positioned to extend the rent cap indefinitely.

Assuming the ordinance is ratified after a second reading Aug. 30, it would take effect Sept. 30.

The ordinance, however, has undergone some amendments to make it more restrictive on rental housing providers. At present, it would call for the following:

  • Rolling back of rents to January 2016 levels.
  • A 3 percent cap on rent increases annually, unless the rental owner can show major capital improvements are being made to the property, and receive approval on their capital improvement plan.
  • Stringent criteria for capital improvement plans, defined as upgrades that extend the life of the property, the cost of which must be at least eight times the monthly rent multiplied by the number of units.
  • Extensive tenant protections, including just-cause for eviction and requirements for relocation assistance in the amount of three times the monthly rent plus $1,500 for moving expenses.
  • A possible sunset date of the ordinance when vacancy rates reach 5 percent for 12 consecutive months.

Click here to read the proposed rent control ordinance.

If the ordinance is ratified, it will continue a 3 percent annual cap on rent increases that began in May under the city’s rent-increase moratorium.

The moratorium, and any permanent ordinance, apply to multifamily rental housing units built prior to Feb. 1, 1995. The proposed rent control ordinance would apply to this same category of rental housing, exempting apartments built after 1995, single family homes, condos, duplexes and owner-occupied triplexes. These ordinances will impact approximately 11,000 units in Santa Rosa.

The council Tuesday also approved a just-cause eviction ordinance, which takes effect Sept. 16 and will remain in place until permanent rent control is enacted. The just-cause measure will require rental property owners to prove “cause” in court or before a political body every time they need to remove a problem resident. Under the ordinance, a tenant may only be removed from a unit for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Non-payment of rent or habitual late payment of rent
  • Violation of obligation of tenancy
  • Nuisance
  • Illegal use
  • Refusal to renew lease
  • Refusal to provide access
  • Owner’s correction of violations in response to a government order
  • Withdrawal of the rental unit from the rental market
  • Owner or relative move-in

A copy of the adopted just-cause eviction ordinance can be found here.

During the City Council meeting, CAA North Coast expressed concerns regarding the process in which the two ordinances were developed; without any outreach, engagement or consultation from Santa Rosa housing providers.

“Seeing as there was zero opportunity for stakeholder input from our industry, we feel strongly that this ordinance is not ready,” Mallori Spilker, vice president of public affairs for CAA North Coast, told the council. “This ordinance is punitive in nature for rental housing providers and is as far from soft rent stabilization as one can get.”

If the ordinance is ratified, it will continue a 3 percent annual cap on rent increases that began in May under the city’s rent-increase moratorium.

The moratorium, and any permanent ordinance, apply to multifamily rental housing units built prior to Feb. 1, 1995. Both the proposed rent control ordinance and the just-cause eviction ordinance, approved Tuesday night after a second reading, would apply to this same category of rental housing, exempting apartments built after 1995, single family homes, condos, duplexes and owner-occupied triplexes. These ordinances will impact approximately 11,000 units in Santa Rosa.

The permanent just-cause eviction ordinance, which takes effect Sept. 15, will require rental property owners to prove “cause” in court or before a political body every time they need to remove a problem resident. Under the ordinance, a tenant may only be removed from a unit for one or more of the following reasons:

CAA North Coast firmly opposes any form of rent control and just-cause eviction measures and is actively working with local housing providers, business organizations and various stakeholders to review options to challenge the proposed rent control law in Santa Rosa.

Questions: Contact Mallori Spilker, CAA North Coast – VP of Public Affairs, at mspilker@caanet.org.

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