The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

Concord City Council Suspends Recently Approved Rent Stabilization and Tenant Protection Ordinance

Blake Amis

In an abrupt turnaround last month, the Concord City Council officially suspended a rent control and just cause eviction ordinance that would have implemented historic protections for renters in the city.

The move came just three days after the measure’s March 5 approval by the council, after the city clerk received a proposed referendum petition challenging it. 

The unexpected suspension was welcome news to members of the East Bay Rental Housing Association, which has been a prominent opponent of rent control in the city.

“In places where rent control is, we see a serious deterioration in the rental housing market,” said Chris Tipton, a spokesperson for the association, before the council decided to go back on its March 5 decision.

The vote to establish rent control in Concord followed eight years of discussion and deliberation in which tenants and landlords made their respective cases. The city council’s 4-1 vote on Feb. 13 to pass the rent stabilization and just cause eviction ordinance was approved only to be suddenly suspended in favor of allowing citizens to instead gather enough signatures to put the referendum before voters in November.

To qualify for the ballot, the petition must obtain 7,204 valid signatures from registered Concord voters within 30 calendar days. If it does, the City Council will then decide whether to repeal the ordinance or place it on the November election ballot for local voters to decide on.

The initial decision was seen as a significant victory in the movement to protect the rights of Concord’s renters. The ordinance, which was set to go into effect on April 4, would add limitations on annual rent increases, capping them at 3 percent, or 60 percent of the Consumer Price Index (CPI), whichever is lower.

It would apply to multi-family rental complexes built prior to February 1, 1995, excluding single-family homes, condominium units, and accessory dwelling units.

The ordinance also introduces ‘just cause’ eviction regulations, which protect tenants facing evictions for reasons unrelated to their conduct.

Notably, in cases of ‘no-fault‘ evictions, property owners are required to compensate tenants with $3,000 for relocation expenses in addition to three times the amount of the Federal Housing and Urban Development fair market rate (FMR), which helps determine the value of rental units.

Concord resident Guadalupe Torento expressed her feelings about the ordinance during the March 5 meeting.

“We, the tenants, are the most vulnerable, and this ordinance is extremely important to us as the rent is too high, and it’s impossible to pay another $200 rent increase,” she stated.

“It may not be much for you, but for us, it deprives our children of food.”

The initial vote to approve the measure followed eight separate public city council meetings on the topic. Each included passionate debates and moments of tension, one of which lasted over five hours.

The new ordinance received further review and received public comment at the March 5 meeting, during which the measure was officially adopted. This was despite a large community turnout that included over 20 speakers ranging from local landlords to groups like the EBRHA, which urged the city council to put the decision in the hands of voters.

Ahead of the March 5 meeting, residents, tenant advocacy groups and landlord associations expressed their opposing views on rent control, after tensions already emerged during council deliberations in December and January.

There have even been reports of threats and personal attacks directed at council members, according to Concord Mayor Edi Birsan.

The passage of the measure represents the culmination of years of advocacy for enhanced renter protections, juxtaposed against lobbying efforts by landlords and property owners.

According to the city’s 6th Cycle Housing Element Update report, nearly half of Concord renters spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, while just over a quarter pay more than 50 percent.

Of the renters paying more than 50 percent of their income on housing costs, 3,665 households are considered extremely low-income.

“This has been an eight-year effort, and it’s been led primarily by impacted tenants, low-income residents of color, immigrants, families with young children, seniors, faith leaders, and nonprofit organizations,” said Rhea Laughlin, executive director of Rising Juntos, an affordable housing advocacy group that supports tenants across the East Bay.

Of the 482 cities in California, around 15 already have rent control or rent stabilization ordinances. Concord is now aligned with other successful local efforts in Berkeley, Oakland, Antioch and Richmond, all of which have established similar renter protections.

Mayor Birsan said the measure signals a change that is likely to stir people’s emotions on both sides of the issue.

“There are heartaches on both sides. There are bad tenants, and there are bad landlords,” he said.

Birsan, a long-time supporter of rent stabilization, has dedicated much of his energy on the Concord City Council to trying to further the conversation around renter protections.

“I couldn’t even get votes to put [rent control] on the agenda to talk about it,” Birsan said.

The city’s lone councilmember who voted against the ordinance on March 5, Laura Hoffmeister, said she could not support the measure because it would wrongfully punish landlords.

“Our problem is housing supply,” Hoffmeister said. 

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About the Contributors
Kalli Mejia, Staff Writer
Blake Amis, Graphic Artist

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