Rent Control Fight Goes before City Council

With the rental market heating up, more people are asking for the city’s help to mediate lease rate hikes. The City Council on Tuesday will decide whether to pay more for a program to mediate and arbitrate cases between landlords trying to keep up with the market and tenants getting priced out of their homes.

Since 2011, average apartment rents have shot up by 25 percent, according to RealFacts.

“Not surprisingly, the [city] has seen a large increase in the number of residents calling to report significant increases in their rents,” reads a memo authored by San Jose Housing Director Leslye Corsiglia. “This has resulted in an increased demand for mediation and arbitration services.”

By the end of this fiscal year, the city expects to adjudicate at least 300 cases related to rent increases. That’s nearly 100 more than the previous year and, at $120,000, nearly twice the cost to manage.

The cost to administer decades-old rent control ordinances is mostly funded by fees paid by apartment and mobile home park landlords. Of the 84,017 apartment units covered by the ordinance, only half are rent-controlled, paying a tax of $7.50 per unit, and occupied by poor families and senior citizens on fixed incomes.

More from the San Jose City Council agenda for January 14, 2014:

• The city will spend $30,000 on an artist-led project that raises awareness about childhood lead poisoning. The program, led by Mel Chin Studios, is called Operation Paydirt.

• The National Endowment for the Arts granted San Jose $75,000 for public art projects.

Steven’s Fruit Barn, an old fruit stand on Senter Road, is up for consideration as a historic landmark to commemorate the Santa Clara Valley’s agricultural roots. Earning the designation will allow property owners to apply for historic preservation grants to rehabilitate the stand.

• A long-term plan to reduce the amount of trash that ends up in the region’s waterways goes before the council. The city’s decisions to ban polystyrene takeout food containers and plastic grocery bags have helped cut back on waterborne litter tremendously, according to this report.

• The city’s legislative guiding principles—governing which state and federal bills the city will support—include protecting local control, public safety, promoting sustainable development and making sure the region improves economic competitiveness.

• The city’s moving forward in its transition to paperless filing for campaign documents.

• An annual audit of service efforts lays out no recommendations, just a recap of what San Jose accomplished in the 2012-13 fiscal year. The city’s budget that year was $1.3 billion, or about $1,300 per resident. The biggest per-resident expense was public safety, which saw many challenges, including slow response times and a shortage of staffing. Despite that, a survey found that 65 percent of those polled considered San Jose a “good or excellent” place to live.

• It takes six years for Code Enforcement to inspect apartments to make sure landlords and tenants are complying with occupancy permits, according to an audit of the department. The department needs to improve the timeliness of its response to those and other cases, the report states.

WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

3 Comments

  1. Rent control is badly needed in San Jose, but the ordinance we have now is horrible. When the ordinance was first adopted it was good, now it so watered down it is ridiculous. Given the ordinance we have now, I have no clue why they even call it “Rent Control!”

  2. I really hope the city council proceeds with open eyes, aware of the long term consequences of rent contol beyond the basic limiting increases in rent.  Santa Monica and San Francisco are good examples of places where it has created some serious issues.

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