Labor, allies win rent control in Sacramento

By Sheri Williams

After a fierce fight to protect working people from skyrocketing housing costs, Labor and its community allies have won a rent control measure in Sacramento.

“For more than two years, we’ve been working to get renter protections in the city of Sacramento,” said Fabrizio Sasso, head of the Sacramento Central Labor Council. “This is a historic first step towards providing some relief to working people who have been struggling to keep up with the highest average rent increases in the nation.”

In August, the City Council passed an ordinance, the Tenant Protection and Relief Act, which gives tenants greater protections.

The measure puts a 10 percent cap on annual rent increases and requires landlords to provide 120-day notice for many evictions.

The measure also limits when landlords can evict tenants – requiring that a landlord prove a renter has broken a lease, is engaging in illegal activity or has failed to pay their rent. It applies to most rental units built before Feb. 1, 1995 and also limits landlords from increasing rent more than one time in a single year to ensure renters aren’t subjected to continual increases.

Along with the Labor Council, rent control in Sacramento has been championed by a number of unions including SEIU Local 1000, SEIU-USWW, SEIU 2015 and others.

Speaking in front of the Council, union member Michelle Burgess told city leaders, “We need rent protection. I need to be able to save money to send my kids to college. Right now all of my money goes towards housing.”

The rules will go into effect this fall and will expire in five years.

“This agreement strikes the right balance between protecting tenants and ensuring that we don’t stymie badly needed housing construction in our city,” said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg in a statement. “Rising rents have contributed significantly to the crisis of homelessness that we face, and these reasonable limits will help prevent more people from being forced onto the street.”

The ordinance means that a ballot measure for rent control in the city will not move forward. But a state bill, Assembly Bill 1482, that would create a statewide rent cap and rental eviction restrictions, is still being considered by legislators. That bill is currently in a committee in the Senate. If passed, it would restrict rent increases on some rental units to about 10 percent a year and end evictions without cause.

Sasso said Labor will continue to fight for affordable housing. He pointed out that rents in Sacramento have increased more than the national average, putting intense pressure on working people.

“We all know that working people are straining to survive here and across the nation, and we will continue to fight to expand what this measure has started,” he said. “Everybody has the right to safe and affordable housing.”

Sacramento rents grew 4.1 percent last year, making the city’s average rent more than $1,400, according to RentCafe, an online rental tracker. The prior year, Sacramento had some of the largest rent increases in the country, topping 10 percent. Some tenants have reported their rent more than doubling in recent years.