The Tenants Together Action Fund is currently accepting donations to support local tenant organizations doing local political work. Last year, we contributed $10,000 to Santa Cruz's Movement for Housing Justice as they campaigned for rent control and just cause. We want to double that donation to several more rent control organizers next year.
Already, tenant organizations across the state are working hard to qualify rent control and just cause for the ballot: Culver City, Pasadena, Burbank, Sacramento, and we're just getting started! Can you help us support them?
Go to https://www.tenantaction.org/donate_local to contribute to our local rent control fund!
For donors, your investment comes at a critical time as the real estate industry spends millions to attempt to stop the efforts of grassroots movement building. We won’t outspend them but strategic investment in strong, people-powered local efforts will make a critical difference. Your donations help the people who are organizing every day for a future where all Californians have access to safe, decent, and affordable housing.
Donations to the TTAF are not tax-deductible. The Tenants Together Action Fund is a project of Tides Advocacy.
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.
Landlords Secretly Fund Anti-Rent Control Candidates to Stop the Inevitable Rise of Rent Control in New Cities
With rising demands for rent control, landlords have taken to hidden campaign funding to promote anti-rent control candidates.
Despite gobs of money and faux experts trying to convince the public that rent control is a “failed policy,” the public continues to support rent control by a large margin. Tenants know that rent control preserves affordability, especially in expensive markets.
Landlords know that the only way to prevent Bay Area cities that are struggling with huge rent increases from adopting rent control is by secretly funding anti-rent control candidates. If they do it publicly, their efforts will backfire, as voters receiving a mailer explicitly from a landlord group would vote for the rent control candidate. So they fund other shell groups that then back anti-rent control candidates. Welcome to the world of unlimited Independent Expenditures (IE).
Here's what happened in November in the Mountainview, CA, a city of 60% renters:
According to disclosures filed with the state last week, the California Apartment Association — which represents landlords and is involved in local politics — funneled $90,000 through the "Neighborhood Empowerment Coalition," a mysterious political action committee (PAC) that sent out an unusual number of mailers in support of three candidates opposed to rent control during the election: Pat Showalter, Ken Rosenberg and Ellen Kamei. (Landlords Hid Big Election Spending, Mountain View Voice, Feb 6, 2015)
Usually, Big Real Estate gets away with this stuff without any scrutiny. Kudos to Daniel DeBolt of the Mountain View Voice for uncovering the shadowy campaign money in the recent election. His article is a must read for anyone concerned with tenant rights.