The Half Moon Bay City Council is interested in adopting several protections for renters in the near future, with some councilmembers also open to rent stabilization, though such a measure would be pursued separately and likely at a later time.
A renter protection ordinance could include minimum lease terms, enhanced notice provisions, relocation assistance and tenant-landlord mediation, and is expected to be the subject of a public hearing in January.
In the meantime, staff will research rent control or stabilization options as well as just cause eviction to be considered separately after extensive research and community input. A part-time consultant may be hired to help research those options. Rent stabilization means landlords can’t increase rents more than a certain amount each year.
“It’s time to stop talking and start acting to help our tenants,” Vice Mayor Harvey Rarback said at a meeting on Nov. 20. “We keep talking and saying the housing crisis is so awful. This is a chance we have to actually make a significant difference.”
Minimum lease terms require landlords to offer prospective tenants a written lease for a minimum of one year, during which time rent would not increase, and after a year, the landlord would have to offer another one-year lease and could charge more for rent.
Enhanced notice provisions require landlords to notify tenants usually between 30 and 60 days before they end tenancies, though some cities require between 90 and 120 days advance notice, according to a staff report.
Relocation assistance requires landlords to compensate tenants if they have not violated the terms of their lease and are being evicted.
Tenant-landlord mediation could also be offered or required if rents are raised above a certain level.
Those four protections for renters received unanimous council support at the meeting, though Penrose wants to go further than that.
She also wants a just cause eviction ordinance, an ordinance requiring upkeep of apartments and a three percent cap on rent increases for a period of three years to allow the city time to build affordable workforce housing.
Rarback also wants rent stabilization, but Councilwoman Debbie Ruddock felt it was too soon to implement such a measure.
“I’m not prepared to make a decision on rent stabilization, I think that’s a serious issue that requires a community conversation and probably a ballot or at the very least it requires a lot of outreach to stakeholders and I think we should have a sitting five-member council to make that decision. Same with just cause eviction, another complex issue that deserves attention,” she said.
Ruddock is concerned that pursuing such measures could also distract staff away from tackling other priorities, including completing the Local Coastal Program. She also feels hiring a consultant to look into rent stabilization is not the best use of city resources.
“I voted for Prop 10, it didn’t pass, and have told folks during my campaign that I take the issue of a market intervention like that very seriously and it deserves broad public outreach,” she continued.
Ruddock wants building affordable housing to be the main focus and expressed some doubt that rent stabilization would make a big difference in Half Moon Bay.
“We don’t know what the scope of the rent issues are and we don’t know whether rent stabilization here will make a difference, we don’t know how many units it will apply to,” she said. “Rents are already really high, we’re not going to roll back rents. I need to understand in detail the scope of the problem and how much of a difference it will make if it will make any difference. So I won’t make a decision until we do our homework.”
Ruddock’s colleagues agreed that research and understanding the scope of the problem in Half Moon Bay is crucial, but maintained rent stabilization should be a seriously considered and soon.
“I agree we should know what we’re talking about and have data, but we should not use that as an excuse for not moving forward. I think these are really important measures for our community,” Rarback said. “The tenant protection ordinance is a good start, but I believe we should go beyond that and do what’s right for our tenants and stabilize these crazy rents.”
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