Comstock, June 11, 2018

“Sacramento Needs Rent Control” by SHA Board President Cathy Creswell

Between 2016 and 2017, Sacramento suffered a staggering average 9.9 percent rent increase — the largest year-to-year increase in the country. Compounding this hardship, Sacramento landlords evicted 2,044 households in 2016, which was the third-highest number among California’s 57 largest cities, according to a study by the Eviction Lab at Princeton University.

Escalating rents and the eviction crisis directly relate to the growing number of people experiencing homelessness. According to a recent report by the California Department of Housing and Community Development, every $100 median rent increase is associated with between a 15-39 percent increase in homelessness. Sadly, this trend shows little sign of slowing down in 2018.

Sacramento stands at a crossroads. Will it remain a place where teachers, firefighters, nurses and retail clerks can live in the same city as the people they serve? Will Sacramento maintain its identity as a diverse city; a place to put down roots and raise a family? Or will it succumb to the fate of other metropolitan areas, where the people who work to make our city run can’t afford to live here? This November, Sacramento voters can answer these questions by voting for the Sacramento Renter Protection and Community Stabilization Charter Amendment.

Landlord lobbyists argue the path forward isn’t up for debate — the only solution is increasing the supply of market rate housing. Our best hope, they argue, is to wait years for more, mainly luxury housing to be built, and eventually, if we’re lucky, the increased supply will bring rents down.

The Housing 4 Sacramento coalition knows this approach will not work. As a coalition of labor and affordable housing experts, and civil rights and community activists, we advocate for a holistic solution to the housing crisis: long-term investment in constructing affordable homes, and protections against rising rents and unfair evictions.

The ordinance balances private property rights by ensuring a fair return on investment and protecting basic human rights to shelter. The ordinance ensures a fair return for landlords because it allows for a 2-5 percent rate increase every year (pegged to the Consumer Price Index) and includes a process for raising rents if landlords make investments in their property.

By limiting rent increases each year to a reasonable percentage tied to inflation, rent control would keep people in their homes. Research supports rent control’s efficacy. The Urban Displacement Project, a research effort on housing displacement between UC Berkeley, UCLA and Portland State University, illustrated the connection between areas with rent control policies and lower displacement. Researchers at Columbia and New York University studying displacement in New York, as well as a University of Washington study on gentrification, revealed similar findings. An analysis by the business-aligned Bay Area Council Economic Institute showed rent control policies in their region prevented 16,000 households from being displaced.

The central argument leveled against rent control is that it would prevent new housing development. Yet, the experience in other California cities with rent control shows this to be demonstrably false. These cities have some of the highest rates of development in the state, including Los Angeles and San Francisco. Rent control has been so effective at stopping displacement and protecting our communities that 10 California jurisdictions are pursuing some form of rent stabilization through this November’s ballot, including Long Beach, Santa Cruz, San Diego, Santa Rosa and Pasadena.

Rent control is simply the right thing to do. Rising rents force fellow Sacramentans to make terrible decisions. Decisions like paying the rent versus feeding their children or seeing a doctor; or whether they pull their children from the school they love and move miles away from their jobs and neighborhoods to find affordable housing.

For those that love Sacramento, watching it transform from a place of community stability to a place of disruption is painful and unnecessary. The proposed rent control measure balances private property rights by ensuring a fair return on investment, and protecting a Sacramentan’s basic right to shelter and having a place to call home. Implementing rent control, along with increased efforts to build more affordable homes, would ensure Sacramento is the inclusive and prosperous city we all envision.

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