California Forum

Sacramento’s housing crisis won’t be solved without rent control

Pedestrians walk past a vacant building with ‘Rent Control!’ graffiti on J Street between 10th and 11th in Sacramento, Calif., on Monday, Jan. 29, 2018.
Pedestrians walk past a vacant building with ‘Rent Control!’ graffiti on J Street between 10th and 11th in Sacramento, Calif., on Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. rbyer@sacbee.com

In the Jan. 31 editorial “Unsure About Rent Control? Here’s Another Way to Protect California Tenants,” the columnist Erika Smith presented repetitive myths about the key role rent control plays fighting our local and statewide housing crisis.

Labeling rent control as “extreme” is a talking point of a special interest group, the California Apartment Association (CAA), a lobby group for landlords statewide and a staunch opponent of rent stabilization measures.

From June 2016 to June 2017, Sacramento had the highest year-over-year rent increases in the nation, an average increase of 9.9 percent.

Let’s look at the facts. From June 2016 to June 2017, Sacramento had the highest year-over-year rent increases in the nation, an average increase of 9.9 percent. As a result we’re seeing the mass displacement of community members unable to afford such drastic increases. The policy Smith calls for, protection against rent-gouging, actually is the purpose of rent control.

Generalizing that rent control is bad policy doesn’t make sense since every rent control ordinance in California is different, tailored to the local conditions of its housing market. Nor is it factual that rent control decreases supply; cities with rent control see more housing production than ones that don’t. The statistics show rent control is effective at keeping people in their homes.

We welcome rental assistance programs, but not as the alternative to rent control. Rental assistance is a critically needed lifeline for many families struggling to choose between paying rent, medical bills or food; in a one-time crisis, rental assistance can help a family stay in their home.

While Smith cites the 1,800 families Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s proposed rental assistance program could help, it’s not enough. Between 2000 and 2015, the median rent in Sacramento County increased 18 percent, while incomes decreased by 11 percent, according to the California Housing Partnership. Nearly half of Sacramento residents are low-, very low-, or extremely-low income; many are paying more than half of their income towards housing. Our growing housing crisis in Sacramento demands an immediate, low-cost, proven solution; rent control is all of those things.

To meet our growing need in Sacramento, we need to keep our neighbors in their homes, and fight for long-term solutions to the housing crisis. Cities such as San Francisco have found that without rent control, working-class and communities of color would have been completely displaced decades ago.

It has been a lifeline. The housing crisis will not be solved without strong displacement protections. We invite you to learn the facts; visit our website at www.housing4sacramento.org.

Margarita Maldonado, vice president at SEIU Local 1000, and Jefferson McGee, a landlord and activist with ACCE Sacramento, are members of Housing 4 Sacramento, a Sacramento renters’ advocacy group. Mmaldonado@seiu1000.org, Housing4Sacramento@gmail.com.

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