By Mary O’KEEFE
Housing is an issue in California. The costs of rent have climbed faster than the national average and city councils across the state are discussing the issue of rent control. Even though the official election results are not in, it does appear that Prop. 10, the rent control measure, did not pass with current statewide results at 40.1% yes, and 59.9% no. However, just because the measure did not pass does not mean that the issue of rent control has gone away as was evident at a meeting of the Glendale City Council on Nov. 13 that lasted over eight hours.
Over 100 people, both supporting and opposing rent control, spoke about the issue. There were tenants who talked about their rent being raised repeatedly, without any change or improvement to their complex or unit. The residents who spoke were representative of the entire population of Glendale; there was no division of gender, age or culture. All shared stories of how they had moved to Glendale because of the schools or had lived in the city most or all of their lives. There were elderly people on fixed incomes who struggle to catch up with the ever-increasing rents and young families that are trying to raise their kids in a good school system but are fighting to budget-in rent increases.
On the other side were landlords who had worked all of their lives to purchase investment real estate. Of those whose rental income is their only source of income, one woman spoke of her husband’s health issues and how they had gone through all of their savings. The rental incomes were the only thing keeping them afloat.
There was a lot of emotion on both sides that was also charged with anger.
“I have heard if they don’t like [the rent costs] they can leave. We can’t think like that,” said Glendale Mayor Zareh Sinanyan. “We are here not to [just] represent the haves but the have-nots as well.”
Sinanyan added he felt it was important to keep the city’s diversity intact and that wouldn’t happen if only the “haves” populated it.
“For me it is not an easy issue to witness a large exodus of people from the city,” he said.
The debate and differing opinions did not just occur during public comment but on the Council dais as well. There were talks of rent subsides for those in need, rent control and Right to Lease.
As the night meeting turned into an early morning meeting audience members interrupted the Council discussion, causing the frustration level to rise.
In the end, the Council deferred a vote on rent control or Right to Lease until staff can bring back information on both options.
The issue of Right to Lease, which had been discussed at the Sept.18 Council meeting, would have landlords offer a one-year lease and an option for a second year. During this time the renter would be guaranteed that there would not be an increase in rent. Then 120 days prior to the end of the second year, the landlord could increase the rent by a percentage determined later by the Council; talks varied from 7% to 10%. If the tenant were not able to meet the increased rent the landlord would then pay them a relocation fee. If rents were increased beyond the set percentage, landlords would have to go to arbitration to plead their case for the higher rate.
The staff was tasked to create presentations on Right to Lease and a rent control program. City Manager Yasmin Beers said the study for rent control would take several months, but Right to Lease would be brought back by the end of January.
In the meantime, the Council asked staff to create a rent moratorium, or freeze, for six months while the information for the options for the rent programs are created, discussed and voted on by Council. That rent freeze will be voted on next Tuesday.
The meeting adjourned at