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Sacramento mayor backs temporary rent control while colleagues unveil other tenant protections

Rent control fight comes to Sacramento

On Jan. 11, 2018, activists advocate for a bill to expand rent control in California.
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On Jan. 11, 2018, activists advocate for a bill to expand rent control in California.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said Tuesday he supports temporary rent control in the city, mere minutes after three City Council colleagues proposed an ordinance that would offer new protections to tenants without restricting rent levels.

The proposals were announced before the City Council on Tuesday night conducted a public workshop on rent control and eviction policies. That discussion came days after advocates for rent control filed signatures with the city clerk’s office supporting a 2020 ballot measure.

Steinberg wrote in a blog entry that temporary rent control “could help those suffering now without creating permanent or even long-term rent stabilization in Sacramento.”

He said he would support a 5 percent rent increase cap for three years that would only apply to units that are at least 20 years old. The mayor wrote that the caps would only apply to renters living in buildings with at least five units and that he “would support allowing a higher rent increase to pay for necessary improvements and repairs.”

Steinberg’s plan was met with immediate opposition from Region Business, a business advocacy group that called for its supporters to attend Tuesday’s City Council hearing and voice opposition to rent control.

The mayor wrote that he does not want the council to take action on rent control until after the November election. A repeal of the Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act is on the statewide ballot in November; if it passes, cities will be able to expand rent control policies.

Meanwhile, Councilmen Eric Guerra, Steve Hansen and Rick Jennings announced their City of Sacramento Tenant Protection and Relief Act and said they want the City Council will pass their ordinance by the end of the year.

Their proposed ordinance would require landlords to offer 18-month leases to new tenants, have a third-party mediator settle rent increase disputes and create a fund to help pay for affordable housing projects.

Guerra said it would provide “clear tools for tenants now.”

“I think it will be interpreted as a pragmatic step,” Hansen said. “We want to do something now.”

The most immediate protections would be the 18-month lease requirement and creation of a third-party mediator.

The councilmen said they will ask the city to seek mediators who can settle disputes when a tenant’s rent is raised more than 6 percent over a 12-month period. The program would be funded by a fee paid by rental property owners in Sacramento.

The mediation program would be available to anyone living in a rental property with five or more units. Palo Alto and Santa Barbara have similar programs.

The 18-month lease requirement would provide “a true sense of stability,” Guerra said.

The ordinance would also direct funding toward the construction of affordable housing, with an emphasis on projects that have 80 percent or more of the financing available. Several affordable housing proposals in Sacramento have relatively small financing gaps, including one at 17th and S streets in midtown and a building at 16th and F streets marketed as the first LGBT-friendly senior affordable housing complex in the region.

Some fees placed on affordable housing developments would be eliminated through the ordinance.

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