In the first half of 2019, two cities passed sweeping tenant victories with permanent rent control and just cause eviction ordinances. The victories follow years of sustained tenant organizing by local residents in Uplift Inglewood, the Alameda Renters Coalition, and Filipino Advocates for Justice. Here's an overview of what happened:
Inglewood passes 5% rent cap and no-cause relocation fees
Rents in Inglewood have skyrocketed since the city announced major plans to build a new NFL Rams and Chargers stadium. These developments run parallel to a growing tech industry in neighboring Culver City and the Westside, and rampant redevelopment in local neighborhoods. By 2018, renter households in Inglewood experienced a 12.2% rent hike in only 2-years. But alongside the pressure by developers to create a "new Inglewood," renters asserted their own right to the city by advocating for strong anti-displacement policies and tenant protections. Groups like Uplift Inglewood have led the way for the city of Inglewood to pass a permanent 5% rent cap & no-cause relocation fees just one year before the new stadium opens.
For 3.5 years, Inglewood residents grappled with City Council to pass tenant protections. In 2017, D'Artagnan Scorza, a leader of Uplift Inglewood, told news reporters, “Our goal is for people who live here to get to benefit from all the development, and being able to afford there." In 2018, rent control organizers came up short while gathering signatures to get rent control on the ballot. This defeat did not stop tenants from organizing for even a moment; this year, continued pressure on the city council forced leaders to not only vote for rent control, but set the cap much lower than the mayor had originally intended. Many made the argument that most people don’t get annual raises from their employers as high as 8 percent. They said longtime and lower-income residents deserve to be able to afford to stick around and enjoy Inglewood’s “resurrection." The cap was initially set at 8%, but thanks to high turnout by tenants, the new cap has a threshold of 5%.
The city must vote on the rules one more time before they go into effect.
How the ordinance works: Under statewide Costa-Hawkins restrictions, single family homes, condominiums, and any unit built after 1995 will be exempt from rent control. Landlords who do not already have their units up to market-rate will be allowed to raise their rents by 8% each year until they reach market-rate (boooooo). Landlords can also raise rents by 8% when they make more than $10,000 in improvements. Relocation fees will be worth three times more than Inglewood's average rent, or $5,310 this year.
You can follow local updates on tenant protections in Inglewood by following Uplift Inglewood on twitter @UpliftInglewood or Facebook!
Alameda passes 2.8% rent cap and permanent just cause protections
Victory at Alameda city council could not come soon enough. In 2015, FAJ began their fight for renter protections after defending tenants at 470 Central from no-cause eviction, where a majority of tenants were Filipino. The 470 Central battle illustrated the impact of displacement and called citywide attention to the need for eviction protections. In successive years afterward, tenants had several battles with local landlords. In 2016, ARC, FAJ, and their supporters campaigned for M1 (permanent rent control and just cause) while fighting L1, a landlord measure which constituted an unbinding rental mediation program for rent increases over 5%. Rent control didn't pass, but rent mediation did. For over 2 years, tenants and landlords could mediate disputed rent increases, but only if tenants knew that they had this option (many did not), and only if the landlords were willing to negotiate.
But victory was only on the horizon! Last year, the tenant groups successfully defeated Measure K, another landlord measure, which would have permanently instituted the rent mediation program into the city's charter. Victorious by a 20% margin, tenant groups took this mandate to city council. Now, almost 4 years later, tenants in Alameda can feel secure in their homes with permanent rent control and just cause.
How the ordinance works: Rent increases are now tied to 70% of the CPI for the SF, Hayward, and Oakland region, meaning that rent increases are pegged at 2.8% for the next year. The ordinance allows landlords to "bank" rent increases, meaning save them up, but only up to 8%. Landlords can only use 3% of banked rent increases during any given year, and not in consecutive years. Landlords can only use banked increases three times during the life of a tenancy. Additionally, the banked increases do not carry over to the next tenant, or if the property is sold. The new ordinance also institutes a rental registry in order to track rent increases and banked increases. This ordinance works in conjunction with a new just cause eviction ordinance.