Hayward: Plan to lower annual rent increases moves ahead

Hayward City Hall

Hayward renters could see their annual rent increases lowered from a current five percent cap to as low as two percent, according to a proposed revision to the city’s Residential Rent Stabilization Ordinance.

The three-member Hayward Housing-Homelessness Task Force moved forward a staff proposals last week that could tie rent hikes to increases in the Consumer Price Index. Over the past two decades, increases in the CPI have averaged 2.6 percent annually.

The Hayward City Council is likely to take up the item sometime before the November elections.

In July 2019, the council approved an ordinance that caps annual rent increases at five percent. Rental housing advocates, though criticized carve outs in the ordinance that allow landlords other avenues for raising rent above the threshold, while maintaining a fair return on their properties.

Landlords can choose to forego rent increases any given year and bank them for future years, under the current ordinance. In addition, landlords can pass-through up to 50 percent of capital improvement costs to renters. The ordinance covers residential rental building constructed before 1979.

In the year since Hayward enacted its Residential Rent Stabilization Ordinance, rents in the city have increased by an average of 4.7 percent, said Amy Cole-Bloom, a management analyst in the city’s housing division. The mark matches the rate of nationwide annual increases for most of the past decade, she added.

Seniors and the disabled in Hayward do not receive five percent annual wage increases, Wahab said. “People with union jobs don’t necessarily get a five percent increase.”

“The current threshold is effectively doing its job,” said Cole-Bloom. “Hayward increases are on par with rent increase for the region and will likely be consistent with long-term market-rate return.”

Councilmember Aisha Wahab, the only member of the council who is a renter, maintains the five percent threshold is too high in a city where one-quarter of its renters, many who are Latino and Black, are severely burdened with rental costs that make up at least half of their monthly income.

Seniors and the disabled in Hayward do not receive five percent annual wage increases, Wahab said. “People with union jobs don’t necessarily get a five percent increase. In fact, that’s getting whittled down as we speak with a lot of different communities.”

Councilmember Mark Salinas supported the proposal, but lamented polarization of the issue has fostered a lack of communication between both landlords and renters.

Councilmember Sara Lamnin, the chair of the task force, rejected the need for further restrictions on rents at this time and pushed for longer-term fixes to the city’s problems of homelessness and a lack of affordable housing. Lamnin suggested the task force’s focus on annual rent increases is limiting staff’s time for work on homelessness issues.

“Rent controls have been around for decades and we’re really not seeing a decrease in the housing crisis, and it ballooned when we had the last recovery because housing speculation ballooned, as well,” Lamnin said.

“I absolutely understand that people’s income don’t go up five percent and I understand the stress our families are in and I am hearing the stories,” Lamnin added. But when she motioned to keep the five percent threshold in place, Lamnin could not garner a second from Wahab or Salinas to proceed.

Lamnin later pushed for affordable home ownership in Hayward, an issue Wahab has championed in recent months. “The time to have preserved our starter home market was 50 years ago,” Lamnin said, “but the next best time to do it is now.”

When Wahab offered to work with Lamnin on the issue of affordable home ownership, Lamnin flatly declined the offer.