Four Housing Issues at City Council May 26

 AirBnB in BerkeleyAirBnB in Berkeley

1) CHANGE Council Item 21: Short-Term Rental Regulations:
This Tuesday, Berkeley City Council will outline their directive for legalizing short-term rentals in Berkeley. Right now, rentals of less than 14 days are prohibited, but over 1,000 such illegal rentals are listed online.

Mayor Bates, who co-sponsored the item with new Councilperson Droste, assured Rent Board Commissioners at Thursday’s 4×4 Committee that his proposal will protect rent controlled units by continuing the ban on short-term rentals in unoccupied housing. The Mayor seemed surprised when Rent Board folks told him that about 400 rent controlled units were currently used only for vacation rentals, and that several large landlords are renting multiple units on Airbnb.

However, the Mayor and Councilman Capitelli were noncommittal when the Commissioners asked to be included in the Council referral and pointed out that proposals such as requiring the owner’s permission before a tenant rents their unit on Airbnb may conflict with state and local laws.

Councilman Arreguin and Rent Board Commissioners also raised the importance of enforcing the existing law and considering enforcement when creating the new law.

BTU is still formatting our position on the issue, which must have at least one public hearing at the Planning Commission before it becomes law, but we stand with the Rent Board in believing that short-term rentals are taking away needed housing.

We call for continuation of the ban on renting whole, empty apartments only for short stays. We need those homes for Berkeley students, Berkeley families, and Berkeley workers! We call for the elected Rent Board to be included in the process of making the new laws, and we call for enforcement of the existing laws when large landlords rent multiple units only for short term guests.

2) SUPPORT Council Item 19, State Short-Term Rentals Regulation:
The Council will also vote regarding support for a state bill which would compel hosting platforms like Home Away and Airbnb to share information with local governments. California Senate Bill 593, by McGuire and Leno, is essential to regulating vacation rentals.

3) SUPPORT Council Item 25: Amend the Housing Element
Councilmember Arreguin has introduced changes to the Housing Element that BTU members and friends called for at the Planning Commission in February, but City Council left out of the draft they approved. The proposal returns essential language about Berkeley values that was taken out of the Housing Element, such as, “Ensure rent control and/or other tenant protections for all tenants, including vulnerable populations,” and “All Berkeley residents should have access to decent housing at a range of prices and rents in pleasant neighborhoods that meet standards of quality.”
Most importantly, Arreguin’s amendments put back the priority that we should protect rent controlled housing from demolition and enforce those laws!

4) CHANGE Council Item 35, Community Benefits from Tall Buildings
Downtown developers must contribute more toward affordable housing.

TO LEARN MORE:

City Council Agenda
http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Clerk/City_Council/2015/05_May/City_Council__05-26-2015_-_Regular_Meeting_Agenda.aspx

Rent Board on Short Term Rentals, Item 21:
“A summary of our major Rent Board concerns are as follows:
1) Loss of Housing: We hope that any Council policy recommendations to the Housing Advisory Commission and Planning Commission will focus on ensuring that whole units with kitchens that are not occupied by the host most of the year will remain available for permanent residents. Owners of multiple rental units in Berkeley should not be allowed to go into the hotel business.
2) Enforcement: Regulations must provide a workable enforcement mechanism with adequate funding and staffing. Penalties and remedies should be clear.
3) Tenants Rights: Berkeley’s new regulations must preserve rights tenants currently hold, such as the right to quiet enjoyment of their home as well as the right to sublet if they already hold that privilege. Council should include the Rent Board for input in their referral.”
Letter from the Rent Board regarding Short-Term Rentals

Text of the SB593 for Item 19: https://legiscan.com/CA/text/SB593/2015

Also on Item 19, SB 593: “This legislation is simple…It makes online vacation rental businesses follow local laws just like the rest of us.”  With concerns “about loud parties, traffic and other problems,” on the rise, this move could not come at a better time….If passed, Senate Bill 593 will help ensure short-term online rental companies follow some simple rules and regulations to preserve our neighborhoods, ensure consumer safety, and protect the well-being of longtime residents in communities across California.”
http://www.overnightoversight.com/ca-legislation-addresses-short-term-online-rental-concerns/

On Item 25, the Housing Element: http://berkeleytenants.org/?p=1195

On Item 35, Community Benefits from Downtown Buildings:
http://berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2015-05-22/article/43322?headline=Significant-Community-Benefits-an-open-letter-to-the-Berkeley-City-Council

In Other News

Thanks to BTU Members Who Sent in Most of These Stories

Windfall Profits Tax On High Rents (Fund Affordable Housing)
The only way off the treadmill is to build or buy housing that will be owned by non-profit organizations, land trusts and limited-equity cooperatives. And that takes money, a lot of money. So let’s tax the rising rents that increase the need for affordable housing in the first place.”
http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2015-05-22/article/43326?headline=Fund-Affordable-Housing-with-Windfall-Profits-Tax-on-Rising-Rents-News-Analysis—Stephen-Barton

Berkeley Development: Call for Moratorium on Luxury Construction
“…while the City is fully caught up and already ahead on its higher income units, we haven’t even made our quota for moderate or lower income units for 2006 yet. This makes the big push to build block after block of high rent homes and apartments unfathomable.”
http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2015-05-15/article/43314?headline=Berkeley-Needs-a-Moratorium-on-High-Rent-Units–Rhiannon 

California: Rents Go Up Fast, Income Goes Up Slow
“Since the end of 2010, rental prices have surged at nearly twice the pace of average hourly wages, according to data from the real estate firm Zillow and the Labor Department.
More than 30 percent of renters in California, Florida, New Jersey and New York state devote at least half their incomes to housing and utilities, according to the analysis.”
http://m.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/1-in-4-us-renters-must-use-half-their-pay-for-housing-costs/Content?oid=2928601

California: Wall Street Invests in Single-Family Home Rentals
“California tenants renting single-family homes from the three biggest Wall Street landlords in the state, Blackstone/Invitation Homes, Waypoint Homes, and Colony American Homes, pay higher rents than their neighbors and face challenges getting repairs,” according to a new research report by Tenants Together.
http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/5247/p/salsa/web/common/public/signup?signup_page_KEY=9191

SF: Mission Renters in NY Times
“When a family in a rent-controlled apartment leaves or is forced out, the rent is jacked up to market rate, apartments become condominiums or are advertised by the landlord on Airbnb as a good place for short-term visits.”
http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/05/23/us/high-rents-elbow-latinos-from-san-franciscos-mission-district.html

City of Alameda Considers Eviction Protections
“Advocates for local renters, who make up about half the Island’s population, have pressed for rent control and other protections. But at least three members of the council have questioned whether rent control would be an effective solution to renters’ woes, or whether the city should get involved in rents issues at all.”
http://thealamedan.org/news/rents-blog-just-cause-eviction

San Jose Renters Hold Rally
http://kron4.com/2015/05/13/activists-hold-rally-in-support-of-san-jose-renter-protections/

Lafayette Considers Rent Control or Rent Freeze May 26
“…City Council acknowledged that high rents are a problem all over the Bay Area, but also expressed sympathy for the renters, saying that 90% increases were “crazy” and “beyond the pale.”   In the end, the Council asked for more information from small towns similar to Lafayette that have adopted rent control or stabilization policies (such as Los Gatos).  It also asked the City Attorney to investigate whether the City could impose a temporary moratorium on rent increases.”
http://lovelafayette.org/Home/Components/News/News/966/18?backlist=%2Fhome

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Short-Term Rentals Update

The Trouble With AirBnB

The owner of 3100 College lists 11 Berkeley apartments on AirBnB.

The owner of 3100 College lists 11 Berkeley apartments on AirBnB.

The Berkeley City Council will begin the process of legalizing short-term rentals.

Right now, Berkeley law prohibits residential rentals of less than 14 days, according to a March 18 Planning Department staff report. However, over one thousand such rentals are listed on hosting platform Airbnb in Berkeley. The City plans to legalize these rentals in some form, and collect the hotel tax from them.

The Berkeley Rent Board has identified three issues with potential short term rentals regulations in a letter they are sending to the City Council: the loss of rental housing, adequate enforcement of new laws, and preservation of existing rights for tenants. “Allowing unlimited short-term rentals or creating regulations that lack enforcement will contribute to the housing crisis in Berkeley,” they said.

Meanwhile, Berkeley’s code inspectors don’t seem to be enforcing the existing prohibition. Two Berkeley Tenants who have been to code enforcement have been told different things. A few months ago, a tenant who lives beneath a vacation rental was told at the counter that “it’s illegal but there is nothing you can do about it.” Another Berkeley Tenant who lives next door to such a rental spoke to code enforcement last week and was told it is hard to find evidence of the rentals. Meanwhile, San Francisco fined one landlord $276,000 for evicting tenants with the Ellis Act and then renting to tourists on VRBO.

The central question in the local debate seems to be how to limit short-term rentals of rent controlled units, particularly in owner-occupied, smaller buildings. The Rent Board letter says that such rentals could still have a big impact on available rental housing, and cites a chart from the Housing Element which shows 21% of all Berkeley housing is in 2-4 unit buildings. It seems that the Rent Board is discussing rentals of empty units like hotel rooms, not homes where the occupant is away on their own vacation. BTU has identified a handful of large landlords renting five or even ten units to tourists all year round, and is examining Santa Monica’s new law as a model, since that town has rental control rules similar to the Berkeley laws on rental units.

If you are a tenant who has been displaced – and replaced – by a tourist rental, contact BTU. We are also looking for more tenants who can no longer relax at home because the unit next to them has been turned into a hotel.

The City Council is expected to discuss a framework for regulations, then refer the issue to the Housing and Planning Commissions, as early as May 26.

IMPORTANT DATES

Thursday May 21 @ 10 AM
4×4 Committee (Rent Board/City Council)
2001 Center Street
Rent Stabilization Program’s Law Library, 2nd floor
http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Clerk/Home/4x4_Committee_Homepage.aspx

Tuesday May 26 @ 7 PM
City Council Meeting
2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
ITEMS 19 and 21
http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Clerk/City_Council/2015/05_May/City_Council__05-26-2015_-_Regular_Meeting_Agenda.aspx

LINKS

March 18 Staff Report to Planning Commission:
http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Clerk/Commissions/Commissions__Planning_Commission_Homepage.aspx

Berkeley Rent Board Letter to City Council (Item 4):
http://www.cityofberkeley.info/Rent_Stabilization_Board/Home/Agenda__RSB_2015_May_11.aspx

San Francisco City Attorney Sues Landlords Over Short-Term Rentals
“Illegal conversions that push long-term tenants out of their homes diminish the availability of residential rental units for San Franciscans, and they’re a significant contributor to our housing affordability crisis,” Herrera said. …The City Attorney’s Office suspects that the Lees aren’t the only landlords flouting state and city laws in that fashion, and is eager to pursue other cases like this one. Folks who want to report violations like the Lees’ are encouraged to contact the City Attorney’s code enforcement hotline.”
http://sfist.com/2015/05/07/landlords_who_evicted_tenants_to_ma_1.php

“Also last year, Herrera filed a similar case against landlords in North Beach. That case settled in January with the landlords paying $115,000 in penalties and agreeing to a similar injunction.”
http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Landlords-fined-for-evicting-tenants-to-make-a-6246550.php

Santa Monica Bans Short Term Rentals of Whole Units
“Santa Monica has taken one of the strongest stances of any city against the practice of professional landlords hoarding all their properties for tourists instead of for actual renters, keeping housing off an already crunched and expensive market. Full-unit rentals account for the overwhelming majority of the listings on Airbnb in Los Angeles, and for nearly all of the listings that actually make money.”
http://la.curbed.com/archives/2015/05/santa_monica_just_banned_airbnbs_biggest_moneymakers.php

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Got Bed Bugs?

1280px-Bed_bug,_Cimex_lectularius

The Berkeley Rent Board awarded two tenants 100% of their rent back after a young couple moved into a room on University Avenue that already had a serious bed bug infestation.

One tenant testified that the very first morning after he slept in his new home he counted more than 80 bites. The couple said they slept in 4-hour shifts, with one staying on guard to fend off the bed bugs, for several weeks. Commissioners described the photos as “horrifying” and voted unanimously to uphold the hearing examiner’s award of a 100% reduction in rent for the time that the bugs were present.

According to documents in the Appeal heard by the Board on Monday night, a Vector Control inspection made just nine days after the renters moved into the living room suggested that the blood-sucking pests were in the unit well before the new renters arrived. According to the Rent Board staff’s legal recommendation in the appeal, the landlord should have known about the bugs. Not only would the owner have seen the “100’s to thousands” of bugs in the living room curtain had he checked the unit before renting it, but he should also have been aware of the pests since other tenants had moved because of bed bugs.

These tenants did everything right: they contacted the owner immediately, made their expectation that he hire a professional clear, contacted the Berkeley Rent Board, and arranged an Environmental Health inspection within days of the first bites. It seems they followed all the difficult steps in cooperation with the exterminator as well, because they got rid of the notoriously challenging bugs within weeks.

Unfortunately the owner initially made the situation worse by spraying some bug spray himself. There is no known over-the-counter treatment for bed bugs, and these bugs are known for spreading to other rooms and other units if disturbed by an ineffectual poison. Someone also said the landlord brought a blow torch into the unit to treat the furniture and dragged an infested mattress onto the roof to lay in the sun.

It is not known why the renters in the other two rooms in the unit did not join in the complaint. The landlord rents each room separately.

Got Bed Bugs?

  1. Contact the Rent Board Agency: rent@cityofberkeley.info
  2. Contact the Health Inspector: envhealth@ci.berkeley.ca.us
  3. Drop us a line at info at berkeley tenants dot org
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Berkeley Tenants are urged to join members of the notorious Berkeley Property Owners Association at a Public Hearing this Monday, May 4 at 7 PM

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 1.01.34 PM

The Board must consider raising their registration fees for the first time since 2009.

Tell Them Yes
The Rent Board must maintain or increase their services!

The fee might go up as much as 10%.
Market Rents have gone up at least 10% EACH YEAR, according to several sources. Even rents under rent control have gone up over 8% since the last time the Rent Board raised their fee. But the landlords are going to tell the Board they can’t afford another $19 a year. Even though the entire registration fee is less than 1% of the average rent for a one-bedroom in Berkeley.

Please join BTU on Monday.
Tell your story.  Encourage the Board to maintain staffing, or even increase services.

Landlords Can Afford It: Rents Going Up Up Up!

Rents in the East Bay up 62.5% in five years
http://www.ctbtapartments.com/images/reports/Bay_Area_Multi_Family_Snapshot_Q1_2015.pdf

“Berkeley had the largest change, with a 32.4 percent spike in rents from January 2014 to January 2015.”
http://sf.curbed.com/archives/2015/02/24/yikes_the_bay_area_leads_the_nation_in_annual_rent_growth.php

http://www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_26733312/bay-area-apartment-rents-at-record-high

http://abc30.com/realestate/san-francisco-bay-area-rents-continue-to-climb/504262/

Where Does the Money Go? Rent Board Info:

7a3_Prelim Mkt Medians Report for Q2 Q3 Q4 2014-1

At BTU, we’ve always found the above chart from the Rent Board a little curious. We never see Berkeley apartments on Craigslist for as low as these “median” rents above. For more info on REAL rent increases in Berkeley, see http://berkeleytenants.org/?p=1085

The Rent Board voted to increase the fee by $19 on May 11, 2015. BTU had three times as many speakers as the landlord association at the May 4 hearing.

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Important Upcoming Dates

Rented building applying for demolition

Rented building applying for demolition

1) Rent Board Ad Hoc Committee:
Friday April 3rd @ 3 pm
Short-Term Rental Regulations
Side Entrance on Center Street @ Milvia

2) Zoning Hearing on Demolition:
Thursday April 9th @ 7 pm
Rent Controlled Triplex 1920 10th Street, UP #2007-0063
2134 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way @ Allston

3) Planning Commission:
Wednesday April 15 @ 7 pm
Short-Term Rental Regulations
Edit: vacation rentals not on this agenda
1901 Hearst Ave @ MLK

4) Zoning Board:
Thursday May 14 @ 7 pm
Removing Rent Control at 2332 Channing to add 3 units.
2134 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way @ Allston

5) Affordable Housing Week: May 8-17, 2015
East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO)
http://ebho.org/our-work/affordable-housing-week#ahw

In Other News

Thanks to BTU Members Who Sent in Most of These Stories

The Windfall Profits Tax on High Rents (Robin Hood)
“In Berkeley, activists are in the early stage of advocating for a so-called “windfall profits tax,” which would increase the business license tax for larger property owners and thus generate revenue that could be invested into affordable housing. “This money is being extracted from tenants for the benefit of people who own real estate, and it’s windfall profits,” explained Stephen Barton, former housing department director for the City of Berkeley, who is pushing for the windfall tax. “We’re going to take some of [the money] that’s being extracted from the community … and use it to mitigate some of the harms of the system.”
http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/how-east-bay-tenants-get-displaced/Content?oid=4216802

More Berkeley Seniors Threatened – Oregon Park
“While much of the conflict stems from an ongoing disagreement about the board leadership, housing attorneys said they were especially concerned about the board’s attempts to evict a number of outspoken tenants. Earlier this year, Ibrahim Moss, a management consultant, served eviction notices to at least nine residents — and subsequently filed eviction lawsuits against at least four of them.”
http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/an-eviction-nightmare-at-oregon-park-senior-apartments/Content?oid=4229738

San Francisco Can’t Enforce Vacation Rentals Law
“To enforce the Airbnb law, the city needs booking data so the planning department can make sure rentals are registered with the city. It also needs a clear limit on the number of days a unit can be rented out each year. Currently, the law says an owner can rent 90 days if they aren’t home, but that’s difficult to prove.”
http://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/morning_call/2015/03/san-francisco-airbnb-law-unenforceable-rentals.html

SF Supervisors Want to Fix Airbnb Law
The legislation would prohibit all tenants or homeowners, regardless of whether or not they live in their house or apartment full-time, from renting out their spare space for more than 90 days a year. If they did, neighbors would have the right to sue them. The legislation would extend the existing 90-day limit from entire homes to smaller spaces.”
http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/2-supervisors-want-to-tighten-up-law-regulating-6153957.php

California Considering Statewide Law on Short-Term Rentals
“…
online home-sharing companies would have to make regular reports to cities and counties about which homes in their area are renting rooms, for how many nights and how much money the homeowners are collecting for the short-term rentals.”
http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article15202547.html

New York City Enforcing Vacation Rentals Law
“New York’s investigators have cited over 7,000 fire and building code violations, shut down over 200 short-term apartments and sued several operators — ending an additional 250 short-term rentals — over the last nine years, according to the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement. With Airbnb and other websites sparking a short-term rental boom, some lawmakers now want to triple the illegal-hotel investigation staff and have it go beyond answering complaints to scour the web for suspect listings.”
http://www.usnews.com/news/business/articles/2015/03/28/in-nyc-an-unusual-task-force-fights-home-as-hotel-rentals

SF Collective Living in Commercial Space Avoids Eviction
“Housing activists came out in full force March 2 to support Station 40 at a press conference to denounce gentrification and urge the Jolish family to accept an offer to buy the building from the San Francisco Community Land Trust.
Though the landlords at first denied the offer, which would keep the property available as below-market rate housing, Station 40 says the Jolish family is now willing to consider selling.”
http://www.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/housing-collective-avoids-eviction-from-mission-district-home/Content?oid=2924912

Cooperative Housing
One way to attack escalating property costs is to increase the number of limited equity cooperatives, where people own property collectively, run it democratically and don’t extract profit from it, says Bay Area Community Land Trust Executive Director Rick Lewis.”
http://www.contracostatimes.com/tri-valley-times/ci_27706941/berkeley-runaway-housing-costs-make-co-ops-attractive

SF Rents – Cool Map!
“This map from the folks at Zumper found that we reached an all time high for a 1-bedroom apartment in February, clocking in at an average of $3,460.
On top of that, it’s only going upwards. They reported that San Francisco rents have “continued upwards, increasing 1.5% month over month and 3.3% over the last quarter.”
http://www.upout.com/blog/san-francisco-3/san-francisco-rents-hit-record-high-again-last-month-its-only-getting-worse

Daily Cal Housing Issue
Berkeley has the 10th-highest income inequality in the country, according to a ranking of 300 cities with more than 100,000 people in the United States by Bloomberg.
“Our city is at a crossroads,” Arreguin said. “We’re becoming the city of the haves and the have-nots.”
http://www.dailycal.org/2015/03/13/berkeley-residents-priced-homes-rental-rates-rise/

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Vacation Rentals: News RoundUp

The Planning Commission will be discussing Vacation Rentals on March 18, 2015!

SF’s New Vacation Rental Law Making Everyone Unhappy
http://www.triplepundit.com/2014/10/san-francisco-airbnb-wins-vacation-renters-lose/?doing_wp_cron=1425914928.0972390174865722656250
“Residents were previously restricted from renting out their homes for periods of less than 30 days, according to a law that the city said protected housing rates and helped to regulate property rentals. The new law allows residents who live in the city for a minimum of nine months of the year to rent out rooms or residences for short stays for up to 90 days of business per year….
The legislation, he said, was “easily subvertible” and encourages homeowners to try to find a way around the restrictions. “A person has to declare that it’s their permanent residence, and anyone can say that about any place [and] this invites people to do all sort of things and then say ‘come catch me,’” he told SFGate.”

SF Already Discussing Changes; Can Law Be Enforced?
http://www.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/san-francisco-considers-revising-airbnb-law-to-help-enforcement/Content?oid=2922455
“But high-ranking city planning officials said there are loopholes in the current law that no amount of resources could fix.
“The department said that without cooperation from the host platforms, it can’t enforce the requirement that there be 90 days of unhosted stays — those where the resident is not at the rented unit — when there is no cap on hosted stays. There has also been concern about the low number of short-term hosts who have taken steps to register under the law. Sixty residents successfully applied and received registration numbers, which are required to be included in the host’s listings on websites like Airbnb. But there are an estimated thousands of other listings that remain illegal.
Sanchez said the department is “frustrated” that hundreds turned out to support the law’s adoption but there hasn’t been the same turnout to comply with it.”

SF City Attorney Sues Two Landlords
http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/S-F-city-attorney-sues-2-landlords-over-5425826.php
“Illegal short-term rental conversions of our scarce residential housing stock” are contributing to “a housing crisis of historic proportions,” Herrera said in a statement.
To illustrate, the suits cited the proliferation of short-term vacation rentals in San Francisco advertised on popular websites: 6,225 on Airbnb, 1,413 on VRBO and 1,351 on HomeAway, VRBO’s parent company.”

SF Tenant Advocates Sue Two Vacation Rental Firms
http://www.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/housing-rights-committee-lawsuit-alleges-vrbo-homeaway-violating-sf-laws/Content?oid=2918721
“The legal action comes a day after The City’s Short-Term Residential Rental Ordinance legalizing home rentals for periods of less than 30 days went into effect. Hooshmand said the new legislation allowing property owners or tenants to rent space short-term if they meet specific criteria will not rectify the various allegations against VRBO and HomeAway.
The new legislation, according to the Committee’s Executive Director Sara Shortt, does not include a strong enforcement mechanism and “actually gives us all the more resolve to put the brakes – in this case through litigation – because the new rules are not going to adequately protect tenants from displacement due to the short-term rentals industry.”

SF Sued by HomeAway – New Law Too Strict
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/nov/5/homeaway-sues-san-francisco-over-airbnb-law/
“The lawsuit filed Monday by HomeAway says the law stymies competition and discriminates against both vacation hosts by requiring them to be city residents and vacation-website companies by mandating they collect the city’s 14 percent hotel taxes….”

Even Senator Diane Feinstein Opposes SF Law
http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/openforum/article/Don-t-hand-San-Francisco-over-to-Airbnb-5835325.php
“This is a shortsighted action that would destroy the integrity of zoning throughout San Francisco, allowing commercial and hotel use in residential areas throughout the city.”

SF’s Current Vacation Rental Law – Overview
http://www.sf-planning.org/index.aspx?page=4004

San Diego Begins Revision of Codes for Vacation Rentals
http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2015/mar/08/airbnb-vacation-rental-growth-causing-confusion/
“In San Diego, the regulations that come closest to encompassing short-term rentals are those governing bed-and-breakfasts where residents are renting out one or more rooms in a house in which they are living. In those cases, special permits are needed that require owners to notify surrounding neighbors.”

New York State Bans Most Short-Term Rentals
http://www.nycinsiderguide.com/nyc-vacation-rentals#.VP5CQ44lRzp
“The short of it, is that unless the Landlord owns the entire building, it is illegal to rent or sublet a co-op, condo or apartment for stays less than 30 days. In 2010, the NY State Governor passed a bill and NYC plans to crack down on this law.”

NY City Council Considers Innovative Enforcement
http://town-village.com/2015/03/10/mendez-bill-would-make-illegal-hotels-a-form-of-tenant-harassment/
“(Short-term renters) are coming in at all hours, bringing people they meet into the apartment and it’s then impacting the quality of life, in that there are strangers in their building,” Mendez said. “It’s a breach of peace and quiet in your home because of the noise and people traffic.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo, Schneiderman and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the launch of a joint enforcement task force last week called the Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force that will investigate and bring enforcement actions against landlords who harass tenants. Under Lancman and Mendez’s tenant harassment bill, illegal hotel conversions would be included in that definition of harassment. It would fall under the jurisdiction of the task force and would be subject to its investigations and enforcement actions.”

NY City Council Discusses Enforcement, Housing Crisis
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/21/nyregion/hearing-pits-tenants-who-denounce-airbnb-against-those-who-profit-from-it.html?_r=0
“At the hearing on Tuesday, which focused on Airbnb, members of the City Council took turns fuming over what they called a reckless enterprise that put neighborhoods in jeopardy and sapped an already-weak affordable housing market. Speaking before a crowd of hundreds who waved placards reading “My Home Is Not a Hotel,” they variously compared Airbnb to a “marauding army” and an “epidemic.”
“No one should have to live in a building or next to someone where the apartment is being used as an illegal hotel, people coming and going, traipsing in and out, no idea who they are,” Councilman Corey Johnson, a Democrat from Manhattan, said.
The hearing, which focused on how the city enforced a state law barring people from renting an apartment for under 30 days unless the apartment’s resident also stays there, grew into a wide-ranging face-off between two groups of city residents who each said they were being battered by the growing cost of housing.”

Guardian Summary of the Debate on Vacation Rentals
http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2014/jul/08/airbnb-legal-troubles-what-are-the-issues
“While the heat is on in Barcelona – where Airbnb have just been fined €30,000 for breaching local tourism laws – the company is also under attack in a growing number of other cities. In New York it is currently in the midst of a prolonged legal dispute with the attorney general, while authorities in San Francisco, New Orleans, Malibu and other US cities are also mounting crackdowns. In Berlin – where Airbnb has been partly blamed for increasing rents – city officials have created a new housing law banning regular short-term letting of rooms without permission from the authorities, something that could have a big impact on the number of Airbnb hosts in the city.”

Spain Makes Nationwide Law
http://www.spain-holiday.com/rentalbuzz/dispelling-the-myths-about-holiday-rental-licences-in-spain
“In the UK you could not rent your home out as a furnished holiday let without meeting set standards in safety and cleanliness, and declaring your earnings to the tax man. And this is essentially what the new law in Spain sets out to do.”

Barcelona Suspends New Licenses
http://www.spain-holiday.com/rentalbuzz/barcelona-suspends-the-issue-of-further-holiday-rental-licences-for-six-months
“…the rights of local residents were being undermined and community life was suffering, due to the volumes of tourist apartments springing up in local neighbourhoods.”

Paris Actually Enforces Vacation Rental Laws
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-08-07/paris-airbnb-cops-want-to-know-if-you-re-rental-is-legal
“As in New York and Barcelona, officials in the French capital say companies such as Airbnb Inc. have spawned a cottage industry of scofflaw landlords who are cheating citizens out of housing and depriving localities of much-needed revenue from the growth in international travel.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has a 20-person team making unannounced visits to apartments whose owners are suspected of, or turned in by nosy neighbors for, unlawfully renting to visitors.”

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Everybody Wants Rent Control!

Did you know most states prohibit rent control? Or that here in California rent control is not allowed, only rent stabilization? Plus, the State of California won’t let any local jurisdiction put any building built after 1995 under any form of rent restriction!

Even in California, rent control comes in many shapes – but more and more places are strengthening tenant protections, and soon we will have a statewide movement big enough to repeal Costa-Hawkins, end the Ellis Act, and allow real rent control like Berkeley once enjoyed!

People are starting to realize that “rent control drives up housing prices” is just another landlord lie. If rent control drives up rents, why does it cost just as much to live in Albany (no rent control) as in Berkeley?

Here’s some good info on exciting changes all around us:

San Mateo County
http://www.mercurynews.com/san-mateo-county-times/ci_27620755/san-mateo-county-affordable-housing-crisis-inspires-talks
“If the supervisors were to adopt rent stabilization, the policy would apply only to the county’s unincorporated areas, including the rural coast and the hills of San Mateo and Redwood City. But County Manager John Maltbie said the task force could have a broader impact by engaging city leaders in the conversation.”
“Joshua Howard, with the local apartment association, said job growth has caused the demand for housing to skyrocket and that some property owners he called a “few bad apples” have taken advantage of their tenants by jacking up their rents. “We are discouraging property owners to not be the poster child for rent control,” Howard said about property owners who have raised rents exorbitantly and recent efforts to highlight the impacts on the area’s working poor.” http://www.smdailyjournal.com/articles/lnews/2015-02-25/san-mateo-county-to-study-rent-control-supervisors-form-blue-ribbon-task-force-on-housing/1776425139003.html

Emeryville Wants to Organize
https://neighborland.com/ideas/emeryville-rent-control

63% of Emeryville Households Rent
http://evilleeye.com/news-commentary/commentary/op-ed-the-800-pound-gorilla-in-the-city-is-housing/

Mountain View Wimps Out
http://www.sanjoseinside.com/2014/10/29/rent-control-off-the-table-in-mountain-view-for-now/
“While many of the prospective candidates for the council sympathized with Garcia, none seem keen to take on developers and big-monied apartment lobbies like the California Apartment Association’s Tri-County Division and the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors. Of the nine candidates, most said they simply don’t think rent control will work, including all three renters in the race.”

Rumors say San Jose Renters Want Better Protections
www.sanjoseca.gov/FAQ.aspx?QID=521
“Apartment rents can be raised without a hearing by 8%. They can be raised 21% if the last increase was more than 24 months ago. A landlord can propose a larger rent increase, but it can be contested by the tenant.”

Alameda – the City with a Rent Board but No Rent Increase Restrictions!
http://www.alamedamagazine.com/Alameda-Magazine/July-2014/Is-Rent-Control-the-Answer/

Richmond Housing Element Rejects Rent Control, for Now
http://richmondconfidential.org/2013/01/23/housing-plan-sparks-arguments-on-rent-control-just-cause-evictions/

Richmond Did Extend Good Cause for Eviction to Foreclosures:
Richmond Municipal Code § 7.105.020

Costa-Hawkins:
www.sfaa.org/pdf/CAA-Insights-Costa-Hawkins-Rental-Housing-Act.pdf

Rent Control Laws By State:
http://www.landlord.com/rent_control_laws_by_state.htm

California Cities with Rent Restrictions:
http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Rent_Stabilization_Board/Home/Other_Rent_Control_Jurisdictions.aspx

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SOS – Save Our Seniors!

Riverwood_Gardens_DDC-1“Before vacancy decontrol modified rent control in California, 42 percent of tenants in rent-controlled units in Berkeley were 55 or older. But since 1999, because of California’s Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, landlords can charge market rates each time new tenants move into a rent-controlled unit. (Apartments built after 1980 are not under rent control.) Today, just 6 percent of people in regulated units are 55 or older, Harr said, adding that the situation is getting worse due to skyrocketing rents.”

Actually, what I said was rent controlled units with people who moved in before 1999 – before vacancy decontrol – CURRENTLY have 42% over 65 but only 6% of post-1999 tenancies have seniors. I also pointed out that senior housing is identified as a growing need throughout Berkeley’s Draft Housing Element, but there are few programs in the plan to actually address that need.

With me on the Gray Panthers panel was former Rent Board Commissioner Eleanor Walden, who spoke of senior and disabled residents feeling harassed by management at Redwood Gardens. That’s a 169-unit, HUD-subsidized senior housing complex on the Clark-Kerr part of campus, at the top of Derby. It’s a problem BTU has been getting a lot of mail about: affordable housing now managed by for-profit corporations, and Boards at “cooperative” senior housing that are not responsive to residents. We’ve heard from seniors in two places just this month!

Coverage of the Gray Panthers Meeting
http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_27443340/berkeley-seniors-call-affordable-housing

Problems at Redwood Gardens
http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2014-12-19/article/42869?headline=Troubles-in-Berkeley-s-Redwood-Gardens–Lydia-Gans
http://www.thestreetspirit.org/tenants-seek-fair-treatment-at-berkeleys-redwood-gardens/

Berkeley’s Draft Housing Element Goes to City Council in April or May
http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_27491384/berkeley-commission-examines-housing-issues
http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/housingelement/

 

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Give Input on Housing Policy

Household-Income-DistributionOn Wednesday February 18 the Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the Housing Element of Berkeley’s General Plan. The hearing is at 7 PM at the North Berkeley Senior Center. BTU needs tenants to come speak out!

Berkeley’s 2015-2023 Housing Element is the basis for housing goals and policies for the next eight years. It is important that renters comment on this draft now, in order to maintain tenant protects and expand development of actual affordable housing.

Your Berkeley Tenants Union has written an extensive critique of the draft, linked below. We hope you will attend the hearing or write the Planning Commission right away supporting our goals:

  1. Demo Ordinance: Rent controlled housing must remain protected from demolitions.
  2. The Affordable Housing Mitigation Fee charged to developers should be high enough to actually mitigate the lower-income housing needs created by new development.
  3. “Illegal” Units: City should provide path to legalize 4,000 rent controlled units which do not have permits – San Francisco’s program could be our model.
  4. Code Enforcement / Habitability: Increase proactive inspections; allow anonymous complaints.
  5. Better monitoring of Below Market Rate “Inclusionary” Rentals

Write to planning: JHarrison@cityofberkeley.info; aamoroso@cityofberkeley.info

Full BTU Letter to Planning
2015.Planning Commission Feb 18.BTU

Article on first Housing Element hearing:
http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_27491384/berkeley-commission-examines-housing-issues

Draft Housing Element itself:
http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/housingelement/

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