San Jose: Leaders reject proposal to tie rent increases in certain units to inflation

Sandra Robles is a renter advocating for stronger protections at a San Jose City  Council meeting on Tuesday.

SAN JOSE — Sandra Robles clutched a sign with the words “Housing Justice is Racial Injustice” as she waited to speak out against rent hikes that could force her out of San Jose. A row away from her, Tom Fleissner, a longtime property owner, told city lawmakers that they’re treating landlords like they’re “evil.”

The stark divide between renters and landlords in San Jose grew larger Tuesday. For the second time in the past year, city leaders rejected a proposal to tie rent increases in about 45,000 apartments to inflation — which advocates argued would give struggling renters a break in Silicon Valley’s exorbitant rental market.

Currently, San Jose caps rent increases in those units to no more than 5 percent per year. The City Council on Tuesday voted 6-5 to maintain that cap and rejected an idea from Councilman Don Rocha to explore adding 11,000 duplexes to the city’s rent control law. The dissenters were Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco, council members Sergio Jimenez, Raul Peralez, Sylvia Arenas and Rocha.

Renters like Robles said a decade of rent increases have forced her to consider fleeing to Modesto or Stockton. The 36-year-old cafeteria worker pays $2,600 for a two-bedroom apartment in San Jose — but she’s a single mom and her wages have remained stagnant.

Sandra Robles is a renter advocating for stronger protections at a San Jose City Council meeting on Tuesday.

“All my family lives in Mexico City and I’m divorced,” Robles said. “It’s hard for me. It’s so expensive to live here, and I feel like the landlords are being greedy.”

Fleissner, on the other hand, said San Jose’s stringent rent controls are forcing him out of business. He’s owned six rent-controlled units near downtown since 1989 — but it’s getting harder to survive here.

“You’re going to get rid of us sooner or later,” Fleissner warned lawmakers. “Most of my renters have been there for 20 plus years because I keep the rents down. You’ve got to give us a break.”

In the last two years, San Jose officials have debated stronger tenants protections in Silicon Valley nine times — from requiring landlords to pay relocation benefits to adopting protections against no-cause evictions. But one sticking point remains: Determining how much landlords can raise rent in San Jose’s 44,359 rent-controlled units. The law only applies to units built before 1979.

On Tuesday, hundreds of renters urged the City Council to support a proposal to tie rent hikes to the Bay Area consumer price index — which has ranged from 2.1 percent to 2.8 percent in the last five years. They said the current 5 percent cap is too high and renters are being squeezed out of one of the nation’s costliest rental markets.

But Mayor Sam Liccardo worried that adding more regulations would force landlords to leave San Jose — or to stop investing in their properties. “It seems to me that we have to allow folks the ability to invest the dollars they need,” he said.

Instead of amending the city’s rent control law, Councilman Tam …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Latest News


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