San Jose Rejects Stronger Rent Control

Tenants protest outrageous rent hikes at San Jose City Hall and call for maximum annual rent hikes to be set equal to the rate of inflation (CPI). Photo: Kristin Pedderson

On Tuesday November 14 the San Jose City Council voted 6-5 to reject a proposal to strengthen the city’s weak rent control rules, which cap annual rent increases to 5 percent on the city’s 44,359 apartment units occupied before September 1979. San Jose’s own Housing Department staff and Housing and Community Development Commission recommended switching the annual cap to the lower rate of inflation (CPI) to provide relief to renters crushed by the city’s skyrocketing rents.

Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco and City Council members Donald Rocha, Sergio Jimenez, Sylvia Arenas, and Raul Peralez voted in support of capping maximum rent increases at the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose Consumer Price Index (CPI), which has averaged 3.8 percent over the past ten years. The proposal would also cap annual rent hikes to 5 percent if the CPI went higher than that. Only 49 percent of the rental apartments in San Jose qualify for the city’s current 5 percent fixed annual cap rent control ordinance, with no “banking” of rent increases for future years allowed.

The city’s 11,000 duplex units and all its single-family detached homes will remain exempt from the rent controls. City Council member Donald Rocha called for applying the city’s rent control rules to its 11,000 duplex units, but that proposal fell short of the six votes needed to win majority support.

“There are an overwhelming number of families and individuals whose quality of life is severely compromised in order to meet the demands of their rents. It is now time to revise our outdated Apartment Rent Ordinance to create the housing stability they deserve to live, work, and thrive in our City.” – Magdalena Carrasco and Raul Peralez, November 13, 2017

“Please do the right thing and protect the most vulnerable members of our community,” urged South Bay Labor Council Political Director David Urhausen.

“We should not allow families to be forced into homelessness while waiting for housing to be developed,” said resident Catherine Hedges.

“Housing is a human right!” declared resident Tim Gildersleeve. “Repeal Costa-Hawkins!”

But the six-member “pro-business” majority of the City Council voted to keep the existing 5 percent annual cap on rent increases for eligible units. Mayor Sam Liccardo, and council members Lan Diep, Johnny Khamis, Dev Davis, Tam Nguyen, and Chappy Jones.

“It seems to me that we have to allow folks the ability to invest the dollars they need,” said Liccardo, siding with the landlords insisting they need to be able to raise their rents by 5 percent every year to maintain their properties.

The City Council decided in April 2016 to lower the annual cap on rent increases on rent-controlled units from 8 to 5 percent, which is still the highest in California for any city with rent controls, except for Beverly Hills, which allows 10 percent annual increases.