Urgency moratorium on rent increases, evictions may be coming to Alameda

Members of the Alameda Renters Coalition last month
in front of City Hall. PHOTO/@AlamedaRenters

ALAMEDA CITY COUNCIL | Fears of rising rents and evictions in Alameda over the past year are being heard by City Hall. The Alameda City Council may approve a 65-day temporary moratorium on rent hikes and evictions Wednesday evening at a long-anticipated special meeting.

If approved by a supermajority of the council, the emergency ordinance could give time for the city to study more concrete steps toward easing the housing crunch, including rent stabilization and mechanisms for funding more affordable housing units in Alameda, which is already sorely lacking, according to a report.

A consultant’s analysis on the impacts of rising rents in Alameda, first approved more than a year ago, found the number of units set aside for affordable housing is severely lacking. In addition, high demand for housing in Alameda is exacerbated by very low vacancy rates, said the report. Alameda’s rate of vacancy in 2013 was 1.4 percent. The figure is lower than Alameda County, at-large, at 3.8 percent, and well below the 5 percent mark housing experts estimate is healthy.

Overall, renters make up of 53 percent of the island’s population. Of the more than 16,000 renters in Alameda, said the report, 5,125 are considered very low-income renters. In addition, nearly 3,000 of those renters pay more than half their income for housing. The high percentage puts many of these renters at high risk for homelessness and displacement, said the report. Furthermore, 25 percent of renters earn less than $25,000 a year and one-third are single.

The Alameda Renters Coalition, an advocacy group that has pushed the city to alleviate the increasing pressures facing renters, some reporting large rent hikes up to 50 percent. The group also supports rent control on the island. The latter being a great point of contention by landlords and apartment advocacy groups, who assert the exorbitant rent increases resides among a few “bad apples.” Out-of-state landlords have also been blamed for the hikes.

But the consultant’s report found just 3 percent of rental units are owned by out-of-state entities. Just over half of the units are owned by landlords residing in Alameda. In addition, the housing squeeze worsened in San Francisco by sharing economy sites like Airbnb are having no discernible effect in Alameda, said the report, with just 100 active hosts renting out their dwellings.

Among the potential steps the city could take if the short-term moratorium is approved Wednesday night, may include a draft ordinance enacting rent control, according to the staff report. The issue, however, if pursued, could become contentious. Last summer, the Richmond City Council, a far more progressive group than their colleagues in Alameda, passed a rent control ordinance. However, a petition was later successful in blocking the ordinance.

Provisions for enacting just cause regulations could also be studied in Alameda, in addition, to further reforming the Rent Review Advisory Committee and seeking funding for renovation or building affordable housing in Alameda.