Soapbox

Sacramento needs a real plan to help renters, not another windfall for landlords

Voters hold signs demonstrating their support for legislation that would allow California communities to expand rent control policies during a legislative hearing in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. The proposal would repeal a law known as the Costa-Hawkins Act that limits cities’ ability to adopt rent control measures on properties built after 1995. (AP Photo/Kathleen Ronayne)
Voters hold signs demonstrating their support for legislation that would allow California communities to expand rent control policies during a legislative hearing in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. The proposal would repeal a law known as the Costa-Hawkins Act that limits cities’ ability to adopt rent control measures on properties built after 1995. (AP Photo/Kathleen Ronayne) AP

Sacramento demands better solutions to the renter housing crisis than giving our tax dollars over to market-rate landlords.

The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board called on the “powers that be – members of the Sacramento City Council, developers, SEIU-backed tenants’ rights groups...to come up with a legitimate plan to address the affordable housing crisis.”

 
Opinion

The tenants’ rights groups are in a coalition of community and labor organizations called Housing 4 Sacramento, and we support swift and equitable solutions to the rental housing crisis in this city. With all due respect to the editorial board, it shouldn’t be our job to solve the affordable housing crisis. Still, we are doing as much as we can to bring good housing policy to our elected leaders because, thus far, they have failed to implement real solutions.

The Housing 4 Sacramento coalition, the author of the Sacramento Renter Protection and Community Stabilization Charter Amendment, has put forward a legitimate solution to the outrageous rent increases and displacement that our community members are facing. We have been in negotiations with the mayor and discussions with City Council members for months to get relief for the most renters on the shortest timeline, knowing that we would have to give up important provisions of our initiative to reach an agreement.

We came to the table to negotiate in good faith. In fact, we were even negotiating with Region Business – and making progress, we thought – before it walked away from the table. That is why we find their opinion article so objectionable. Region Business suggests we give market-rate developers and landlords a free ride on the backs of taxpayers: streamlining permits, cutting fees, and – most alarming – using Measure U funds to subsidize market-rate landlords.

That would mean that a regressive sales tax that would hit low-income people the hardest would be used to pay landlords their outrageous rent increases. Rather than put reasonable limits on rent increases (while still providing a fair return on investment, as our rent stabilization proposal would do), Region Business suggests that we give market-rate landlords our tax dollars.

This type of thinking is backwards, and the emphasis on rent subsidies distracts from the scope of this problem. More than half of Sacramento residents are renters, 80 percent of whom make less than the area’s median income. If we were to use every penny raised by Measure U to subsidize landlords, we’d still come up short.

Sacramento needs a comprehensive solution to our housing catastrophe, including reasonable rent stabilization, which will cost taxpayers nothing. If we pass Measure U, we should use those dollars to create deed-restricted affordable homes.

Housing 4 Sacramento will continue to work with the mayor in good faith as we try to negotiate a compromise. We are not “waffling” as the editorial board suggests; we’re here to find solutions for renters.

If the mayor and council cannot agree on an equitable solution on rent stabilization, the voters will get to decide.

Michelle Pariset is a policy advocate with Public Advocates and a board member of Organize Sacramento and can be contacted at mpariset@publicadvocates.org. Fabrizio Sasso is executive director of the Sacramento Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, and can be contacted at fabrizio@sacramentolabor.org. Their organizations are part of the Housing 4 Sacramento coalition.

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