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.”