Mayor, Councilmembers unveil significant new safeguards for Sacramento renters

Mayor, Councilmembers unveil significant new safeguards for Sacramento renters

This graphic shows the percentage of renters in each Sacramento City Council district who pay more than 30 percent and 50 percent of their income in rent.

This graphic shows the percentage of renters in each Sacramento City Council district who pay more than 30 percent and 50 percent of their income in rent.

 Mayor Darrell Steinberg along with Councilmembers Steve Hansen, Eric Guerra and Rick Jennings Thursday unveiled the Tenant Protection and Relief Act to protect Sacramento residents from unfairly losing their homes without discouraging new apartment construction that’s crucial to addressing the city’s housing affordability crisis.

 The proposal emerged after nearly a year of talks between Mayor Steinberg, Councilmembers Hansen, Guerra and Jennings and a coalition comprised of labor unions and non-profit advocacy groups. The talks were initially led by Mayor Steinberg and later resumed with Councilmember Hansen taking the lead.

 “This agreement strikes the right balance between protecting tenants and ensuring that we don’t stymie badly needed housing construction in our city,” Mayor Steinberg said. “Rising rents have contributed significantly to the crisis of homelessness that we face, and these reasonable limits will help prevent more people from being forced onto the street.”

The City Council debates rent control at a 2018 meeting

The City Council debates rent control at a 2018 meeting

 Councilmember Hansen noted that the Council has taken steps to encourage housing construction, including a vote last fall to eliminate most city fees on affordable housing projects. “We are doing everything we can to boost the supply of housing in our city, but it is clear to me that we have to provide housing stability for tenants by stopping rent gouging and unfair evictions.”

 The agreement would apply to most apartments and duplexes built before Feb. 1, 1995. Under its terms, the landlord of such a unit could not impose an annual rent increase of more than 6 percent plus the rate of inflation – the Consumer Price Index for the Western United States (CPI). Total rent increases could not exceed 10 percent annually, but would likely be considerably less since the CPI has run between 2 and 3 percent in recent years.

 Graciela Avila, a member of SEIU-USWW and a renter-advocate in the Housing for Sacramento Coalition, said the new ordinance would provide stability for her family.

“I live downtown and I can just barely afford my two-bedroom apartment I share with my son.  However, my 28 year old son and his 3 year old can't afford a place of their own and sometimes have to sleep in a chair or on the floor with us,” Avila said. “I support this ordinance that will help keep rent prices from skyrocketing downtown and will help keep rents affordable so my family can afford to live where they work.”

 A landlord could petition for a higher increase before a hearing examiner employed by the City. The higher amount would not be for routine repair, maintenance or operating costs. Rather, it would be for significant improvements to their property.

 The agreement also would extend new eviction protections to tenants who have lived in their units for more than 12 months. After that time, landlords could terminate a lease for only four reasons: failure to pay rent, breach of the rental housing agreement, criminal or nuisance activity, or failure to give access.

 Councilmember Eric Guerra said the proposed ordinance would improve housing security in Sacramento’s disadvantaged communities: “Sacramento has experienced some of the highest rent increases in the country, and more than half of our renters are considered cost-burdened,” Guerra said. “This will help ease the burden on the most vulnerable members of our community by addressing the needs of renters, while still encouraging the construction of new housing.”

 Landlords could also terminate leases to perform necessary repairs, move a family member into the unit or withdraw the unit from the market. In these cases they would have to give the tenant 120 days advanced notice.

 Landlords would have to provide written notice of lease terminations and rent increases. A tenant could file a petition alleging that the landlord violated the ordinance, which would be decided by a city hearing officer.

 If the agreement is adopted by the City Council as expected on Tuesday, Aug. 13, advocates have agreed not to pursue a rent control measure they had qualified for the 2020 ballot.

“The Sacramento Housing Alliance supports these historic renter protections,” said Cathy Creswell, president of the Sacramento Housing Alliance board and a member of the Housing for Sacramento Coalition.

 Councilmember Rick Jennings said the proposal would provide stability for neighborhoods and protect long-time residents from being forced out. “It’s gratifying to see Sacramento become an increasingly attractive destination for new residents, but we need to make sure we don’t displace the people who have long called Sacramento their home.”

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