During a somewhat routine update to Hayward’s rent stabilization ordinance last week in which certain tweaks and language intended to align the ordinance with changes in state law were offered by city staff, Hayward Councilmember Aisha Wahab sought a  significant change by proposing to lower the threshold for rent increases to roughly two percent a year.

Hayward beatThe reduction in the rent increase cap has been long sought by Wahab, local activists and housing advocates. Neighboring cities such as Oakland and Alameda have similar restrictions on how much landlords can raise rents each year.

Hayward’s allows for up to a five percent annual increase in rent. In some cases banked increases, fair return for landlords, and capital improvement pass-throughs can raise the cap to up to 10 percent. Hayward’s rent stabilization ordinance was approved by the city council in July 2019.

The state’s restrictions are similar, allowing five percent annual rent increases plus any change in the Consumer Price Index, although capped at no more than 10 percent.

A motion by Wahab to make the change initially received a second from Councilmember Elisa Marquez, but was later withdrawn in an odd exchange in which Mayor Barbara Halliday appeared to anticipate Marquez would pull her second and replace it with a motion to have the city’s Homelessness and Housing Task Force take a look at the plan, possibly in September. The motion was later approved by the council.

Despite Wahab’s repeated protestations, Halliday ignored her and allowed Marquez to proceed. Councilmembers Al Mendall, Sara Lamnin, and Wahab, each questioned why other members were not allowed to provide a substitute motion. But Halliday, City Manager Kelly McAdoo, and City Attorney Michael Lawson were adamant that the mayor had asked for a new motion from her colleagues. A review of the recording shows Halliday never did.

In addition, to Wahab and Marquez, Councilmember Francisco Zermeno voiced interest for a reduction in the annual rent cap. Lamnin, meanwhile, suggested high rents in Berkeley are a function of that city’s restrictions on rent increases. The talking point is often used by landlords’ groups who oppose various types of rent control. The comment is often used in tandem with Oakland, which also has restrictive rules for raising rents.

“I’m confused and disappointed,” Councilemember Mark Salinas said. “We went in here to essentially clean up our language and fine-tune this ordinance with the understanding we would come back to council later in the year to make the tweaks and revisions that we need to have happen.”