Hayward approves emergency moratoriums for renters, while landords fume

Rosaura Figueroa Mendoza, a member of the Hayward Collective, advocating Tuesday night for the Hayward City Council to provide just cause protections for all renters.

Hayward is pressing the pause in order to study further legislation to help the city’s struggling renters. The Hayward City Council unanimously approved an 18-month emergency moratorium on landlords seeking to decontrol any of up to 1,600 rental units. The emergency moratorium also reintroduces just cause protections to more than 14,941 previously decontrolled rental units, roughly two-thirds of Hayward’s entire rental supply.

Tuesday night’s decisions follow months of council discussion and public meetings that have pitted landlords against renters and both groups against the City Council. “There are some thorny issues here,” said Hayward Mayor Barbara Halliday. “We do have to balance interests and do they best we can to protect the future of the community.”

Halliday said the rental housing crisis that has now clearly spread to Hayward is not the fault of the city, but a regional issue. She later downplayed whether Tuesday night’s pair of moratoriums will do much to alleviate the overall problem. Halliday later successfully added an amendment to the motion that requires city staff to evaluate the moratoriums after nine months.

Over the past few decades Hayward’s current residential rent stabilization ordinance has been slowly diluted as landlords petitioned the city to decontrol units following tenant move-outs. Vacancy decontrol allows landlords, pending city approval, to then raise rents to unlimited amounts, provided they improve the units. Over time, the city’s nearly 15,000 controlled rental units have dwindled to between 1,000 and 1,600, according to the city. Tuesday’s moratoriums will allow city staff to study the issue and determined, for example, whether the amount of improvements required in order to trigger vacancy decontrol are too low.

“You turned your back on property owners. Really, really take a good hard look at your unintended consequences. Tread with caution.–Tom Silva, Rental Housing Association board member

A large number of landlords and real estate interests wearing red stickers that read “Reasonable Landlords,” warned the moratoriums would place a pall over current and future investment in Hayward and force property owners to pull rental units off the market, further tightening already limited supply. Representatives of the Rental Housing Association of Southern Alameda County, an advocacy group for local landlords were visibly upset with the council’s proposal, asserting it’s an overreaction to the current housing situation.

“Your credibility is gone,” said Tom Silva, a representative for the group and a member of its Board of Directors. “You turned your back on property owners. Really, really take a good hard look at your unintended consequences. Tread with caution. Today, is the house on fire? I don’t think so.”

Councilmember Elisa Marquez, the most vocal supporter of renters, acknowledged renters were getting the better part of the deal Tuesday, but said the moratoriums are intended to give relief to the city’s least fortunate residents. Addressing landlords, Marquez said, “If you are conducting business in the right way, this will not impact you.”

An emerging force in the city’s politics, a grassroots group advocating for renters and affordable housing named The Hayward Collective, had previously pushed for the moratoriums, but also another on rent increases. Hayward city staff, however, recommended against the proposal, arguing the context of similar moratoriums on rent hikes in other cities was related to pending legislation.

Nevertheless, the group urged the council to expand just cause protections, which require landlords to have a specific reason for evicting tenants, other than issues such as, for instance, a failure to pay rent or damage to the units. “People need these safety nets in order to purchase homes and lay roots,” said Aisha Wahab, a member of the Hayward Collective and a declared council candidate this fall. “Seniors, disabled residents on fix incomes, working folks don’t see five percent increases in pay. This is a step toward equity and a time for change.”

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