Two cities passed two very different rent control ordinances in the last month. Culver City established a strong rent cap of 3%, while Sacramento established a weak cap of 10%. We'll explore both and what they mean for the future of local tenant protections.
In a 4-1 vote, the Culver City council passed a temporary 3% rent cap and just cause protections for tenants in buildings built on or before Feb. 1, 1995. Protect Culver City Renters led the organizing for the rent freeze, bringing to light the effects of gentrification by local tech on renters. Currently, about 47% of Culver City residents are renters, and more than 22% of them are putting more than half of their paycheck toward rent. Meanwhile, Apple, Amazon, and HBO are encroaching on the town, threatening to bring over 5,000 more tech jobs into the city in the next four years. For now, these protections are set to expire in one year, but they are a crucial stepping stone to more permanent forms of renter protections in the city.
A less fortunate series of events occurred in Sacramento. Pressured by a stronger rent control ballot measure coming up in March 2020, this week the Sacramento City Council passed weak rent control in a 7-1 vote. The Sacramento Tenant Protection and Relief Act caps rent at 10% (despite language that waters down the cap by asserting a 6% cap + CPI), provides just cause evictions after 1 year of tenancy, contains no rent board, and no relocation fees for no-cause evictions. Compared to the ballot measure that rent control activists qualified this year, these protections are paper thin. While they can protect against excessive rent increases, with some as high as 50% or more, the ordinance doesn't measure up to the needs of local low-income and working class tenants.
In a Sacramento News & Review report on the "collapse" of the Sacramento rent control coalition, one elementary school teacher explained why a 10% cap wouldn't work for her: “'I recently got a 6% rent increase, and that’s $80 more a month I can’t afford,' Mutchler said. Looking at Hansen and then Carr, she added, 'I’ve met you personally and I think you’re both great men, but I can’t say this enough, this is not going to work for me. I’m literally a month away from when my son and I—I don’t know where we’re going to live.'"
The stronger rent control measure is still on the ballot for March 2020, since according to the state constitution, charter amendments cannot be pulled from ballots. But state politicians have recently revived a bill, SB 681, that could potentially remove the rent control measure if an "urgency clause" is added. If passed by the state legislature, the ballot measure's three proponents would only have to sign a letter to remove it from the ballot.
Despite these efforts, tenant activists in the Sacramento Tenants Union, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, SEIU Local 1021, DSA Sacramento, and Tenants Together have formed a new coalition dedicated to the passage of the real rent control ballot measure headed for the March 2020 ballot, which includes rent increases tied to CPI, just cause, relocation fees, and a rent board. They call themselves Sacramento for Real Rent Control, and you should like them on Facebook!