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California turned down rent control, but will Sacramento do it anyway?

Rent control advocates in Sacramento on Wednesday said they will push forward with a local renter-relief ballot measure, despite the decisive defeat this week of Prop. 10, a statewide effort to curb rent hikes.

“We are absolutely moving forward,” Michelle Pariset of non-profit group Public Advocates Inc. “Our local rental market is out of whack.”

Her group, in conjunction with local labor unions, obtained enough signatures this summer to qualify a measure for the local 2020 ballot. The proposal, called the “Sacramento Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Charter Amendment,” stipulates that annual allowable rent increases could range from a maximum of 2 percent per year up to a maximum of 5 percent each year.

The proposal also limits circumstances under which landlords can evict tenants.

The scope of that measure, however, was greatly affected by the failure of Prop. 10 on Tuesday’s state ballot.

Prop. 10. would have overturned the state’s Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which bans local governments from imposing rent control on any apartment built since 1995. It also bans rent control as well on any single-family residence that is being used as a rental unit.

Had Prop. 10 passed, the Sacramento effort would have covered all renters throughout the city.

Instead, the Sacramento rent control initiative likely will affect about 72 percent of the city’s 106,000 rental units, based on numbers from the city of Sacramento rental housing inspection program, Pariset said.

The local effort is opposed by an organized group of builders and real estate professionals who contend that the initiative effort is illegal. Rent-control initiative proponents say their proposal “amends” the charter, something voters have the right to do. But opponents characterize it as a more substantial change, a charter “revision.” They point out that a judge in 2010 threw out a previous initiative that would have revised the charter via public vote to create a “strong mayor” form of government.

Bob Magnuson, spokesman for the opposition group, Citizens for Affordable Housing, said local voters on Tuesday sent a message that they are not inclined to support rent control, but do support other ways of increasing affordable housing.

“Sacramentans get it: We have a serious affordable housing problem and rent control would only make it worse,” he said in a statement to The Bee. “The deeply flawed rent control ballot initiative proposed for Sacramento would not add one unit of affordable housing while creating an illegal rent board that would control rental housing policies in the city.”

He added that votes statewide and in Sacramento County did strongly back two other California housing propositions, Prop. 1, a $4 billion bond measure for affordable housing, and Prop. 2, a bond measure of housing for the mentally ill.

A review of Sacramento’s elections map shows that voters in central city generally supported Prop. 10 while voters in precincts in north and south Sacramento voted against it.

Three Sacramento city council members have proposed an alternative plan to tackle Sacramento’s rising rent rates.

Those council members, Rick Jennings, Eric Guerra and Steve Hansen, say the 2020 ballot initiative effort by affordable housing advocates goes too far, and could discourage builders from constructing new rental units. They are countering with a proposal called the Sacramento Tenant Protection and Relief Act that requires landlords to offer tenants the option of 18-month leases with set rents for that entire period.

It also sets up a mediation process if a landlord attempts to increase rent by 6 percent or more – if a renter challenges that attempt.

But the mediation is not enforceable. Pariset of Public Advocates call that effort “window dressing to undermine our effort.”

The Sacramento effort, occurring under the shadow of Prop. 10, has gained statewide attention in recent weeks, providing evidence that the rent control debate is unlikely to go away despite Tuesday’s vote.

California Rental Housing Association political chair Sid Lakireddy, weighed in Wednesday, saying, “we believe that Sacramento voters have made clear that rent control will not solve our housing crisis.

“Our association is committed to working with all stakeholders to discuss a comprehensive solution that will actually make a difference rather than another distracting ballot measure that will not work.”

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