Hayward continues slow track toward easing growing housing crisis

Hayward Councilmember Elisa
Marquez pushed for a moratorium
on rents Tuesday, but gained only
tepid support from her colleagues.

The Hayward City Council gave direction to staff Tuesday night to study a menu of new protections for the city’s renters, including non-binding mediation to resolve rent increases and possibly a moratorium, also on rent hikes. It was the third such council discussion since late January without any concrete movement toward a short-term plan for struggling renters.

But as increased pressure by local grassroots organization and a growing perception among some Hayward residents that rental prices are rising, the outreach appears to be moving the council, if ever so slightly. Tuesday night’s direction to city staff may return a set of proposed policies and additional information, particularly on various moratoriums sometime in May, said Hayward City Manager Kelly McAdoo.

However, time is of the essence, said a number of Hayward residents Tuesday night. Some detailing fears of displacement from the city and others critical of the council’s perceived intransigence over their plight.

A trio of prescriptions for limiting the hurt on the city’s renters has been offered since the beginning of the year by a grassroots group calling itself the Hayward Collective. They have consistently asked the council to enact changes to the existing rent stabilization ordinance to allow for vacancy decontrol; a moratorium on rent increases; and just cause eviction protections.

An additional issue, allowing for mediation to resolve rent dispute, albeit non-binding, appeared to have support from a majority of the council Tuesday. Assistance in the form of just cause and a moratorium was less clear.

Hayward Councilmember Elisa Marquez voiced exasperation with the slow speed of movement over the issues. Twice she made passionately pleas to her councilmates to support a moratorium and place a “pause” on rent hikes, she said. “The only way we’re going to stop these issues is to do it immediately.”

In response to an often repeated notion that a “few bad apples” exist among landlords, Marquez said the line is false and far more pervasive in Hayward than is being acknowledged.

Councilemember Mark Salinas also suggested support for a moratorium. “I want to make sure there is a pause… and give it a year and work with landlords to come to a clear policy on what we’re going to do because I think what is going on right now is not good,” he said.

The stance is somewhat out of character for Salinas, who has fashioned himself as one of the more moderate members of the council. Salinas is also a declared candidate for mayor this November. In a bit of passive aggressive jousting, Councilmember Al Mendall, during the meeting, called Salinas’ comments “political grandstanding.”

For Mendall, the root problem of Hayward’s housing woes is the lack of supply over excessive demand in the Bay Area over the past few decades. “The long-term fix is building more housing, period,” said Mendall. “Everything else that we’re talking about is, for me, what I term as a short-term Band-Aid, but many will make them worse in the long-term.” Instead, said Mendall, some of the proposals Tuesday night will lower incentives for developers seeking to build new housing in Hayward.

Councilmember Marvin Peixoto echoed the sentiment. Specifically, he predicted if a moratorium is approved by the council, a series of extension would ultimately become “de facto rent control” in Hayward. However, Peixoto is also willing to listen, he added, “Most of what I see on the table tonight are Band-Aid approaches, but if there is any way to stop the bleeding I’m willing to do it,” said Peixoto.

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