(File photo/iStock)
(File photo/iStock)

Oakland renters will soon have greater protection against major rent increases. Under an ordinance approved by the City Council on Tuesday night, annual increases related to capital improvements will be capped at 10 percent, and 30 percent over a five-year period.

The new regulations, which go into effect Aug. 1, also stipulate that landlords will be able to pass through only 70 percent of the cost of improving their buildings, and will have to issue a notice for rent hikes used to cover those costs.

Tenant advocates spent several years lobbying the council members for what organizer Robbie Clark of the activist group Just Cause called “their most pro-tenant action in years.” The rapid increase in the cost of housing in Oakland likely helped move the issue.

“The external conditions were also really ripe for the council to take action because they do want to do something to address gentrification and displacement,” said Clark.

Property owners argued against the new regulations. They say that restricting the recovery of costs for building improvements will remove the financial incentive for landlords to maintain tens of thousands of apartments throughout the city.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, Adams Point resident Clifton Harrison thanked the council for the new regulations. He said his landlord recently informed him of a more than 100 percent rent increase attributed to capital improvements in his building.

“I’ve been in my place for 27 years,” Harrison said. “… I live in a beautiful place in a beautiful neighborhood, and I might lose that.” He added that due to rising rents and displacement of longtime residents, he can “see the neighborhood is changing before my eyes.”

The new ordinance is not retroactive, so it won’t help Harrison fight his rent increase.

“What I’m happy about is that no other resident of Oakland will have to go through what I’m going through and my family is going through right now,” Harrison said. “That’s a good thing.”

  • RICHwLIFE

    This is truly short-sighted policy that puts a band-aid on an arterial wound. You know what works better at slowing down rent increases? Smart urban planning around infill development, and zoning and infrastructure density that increases metropolitan walkability and the supply of housing stock to a level that, at the bare minimum, matches the level of job growth cities continually generate and encourage year to year. As of today, there is not a single city or county in the Bay Area that builds as many new housing units as it creates new jobs, and that is the singular reason why the cost of housing has been ballooning in the region over the last several decades. This is a sort of NIMBYism that is encouraged by incumbent property owners, and even the tenants themselves, until one day the rug is pulled from under their feet and more populist band-aids are applied to a worsening issue.

  • Hitman

    With the release of this article, multi-unit buildings just got cheaper and landlords just got more reluctant to maintain buildings. In SF, this might be offset with demand but sorry Oakland you ain’t SF. Think about it… if you live in East Oakland, getting a hold of your maintenance man just got tougher.

    • OhSay CanuSee

      Thank God Oakland isn’t SF.

      And your logic is severely flawed.

Author

Andrew Stelzer

Andrew Stelzer has been reporting for KQED since 2010.  His work has been featured on programs including NPR’s Weekend EditionPRI’s The World, Studio 360, Marketplace,Living on Earth, On the MediaLatino USA, Radio Netherlands, World Radio Switzerland, and Radio France International. He also works as a producer at Making Contact in Oakland. Andrew has written publications including for In These Times, The Progressive,  Interpress Service, The St. Petersburg Times, and The East Bay Express.

Andrew’s work has received numerous awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, and the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

From 2004-2006, he was the senior reporter and anchor at  WMNF radio in Tampa, FL.  From 2001-2004 he was  based out of KBOO community radio in Portland, Oregon, where he also worked as KBOO’s youth advocate, supervising the stations’ youth collective. Andrew has conducted radio production trainings in Algiers, Algeria; Bolivia; Southern Jordan; Mexico; New Orleans; Tampa; Hattiesburg, Mississippi; Immokalee, FL; and Portland, OR.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor