Rent Increases in Berkeley

Screen shot 2014-08-25 at 9.23.29 PMRents in Berkeley are rising dramatically. What’s going on? Two things are creating upward pressure on both rent- and non-rent-controlled units. These phenomena are:

1) The skyrocketing rents in San Francisco, which push people across the Bay, and
2) The ongoing construction of expensive new (thus not rent-controlled) apartment housing in Berkeley.

If you’re a doctor or high-paid techie, no problem. But if you’re a teacher or postal worker, good luck! Berkeley is becoming a bedroom community of upper-middle class professionals.

After the jump are some examples of how rents are changing. Read more ›

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Too Damn High Indeed!

Rent Prices Are Going Up, But Your Income Isn't. Original chart with data source: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/06/rental-affordability-crisis-hud

Rent Prices Are Going Up, But Your Income Isn’t. Original chart with data source: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/06/rental-affordability-crisis-hud

Average rent in San Francisco jumped 19% this year.

“Priceonomics puts the median price of a San Francisco apartment renting today at $3,600, up from $3,023 last year. Studios are fetching $2,300, one-bedrooms come in at $3,120, the median two-bedroom costs $4,000, and three-bedrooms are going for $4,795.”
http://sf.curbed.com/archives/2014/08/14/colorcoding_san_franciscos_totally_bonkers_rental_market.php

The numbers are a good indicator of why any eviction from a rent-controlled unit today is also an eviction from San Francisco entirely: prices are just too damn high to find a new apartment at a comparable rate.
http://www.sfbg.com/politics/2014/08/13/san-francisco-rent-explosion-median-rent-two-bedroom-apartment-tops-4k

It’s a national problem: the foreclosure crisis made former owners into renters, the federal government cut housing assistance, and now more than 28% of Americans pay more than half of their salaries for rent.

Mother Jones: National Data on Rising Rents
http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/06/rental-affordability-crisis-hud

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SF To Stop Speculative Evictions

Recently, San Francisco leaders changed the Ellis relocation payments law: speculators who buy a building to “go out of the rental business” will have to pay tenants the difference between their current rent and the market rent – times 24! Naturally, landlords have filed a lawsuit.

Now, SF activists are fighting the Ellis crisis with a ballot measure they call an “Anti-Speculation Tax.” The tax was first proposed by activist Supervisor Harvey Milk around the time that San Francisco got rent control – over 30 years ago! Today, SF’s Prop G is sponsored by four members of the Board of Supervisors and would impose a tax on buildings sold in the first five years after purchase, but exempt owner-occupied homes.

“Prop G would tax the entire value of the building, beginning at 24 percent if sold within one year of purchase. The rate would be less after each successive year, falling to 14 percent if sold five years out. It would not apply to owner-occupied buildings, so as long as the buyer moved into the property they could sell it within five years and not face the tax.”
http://www.ebar.com/news/article.php?sec=news&article=69972

“…Additional Transfer Tax on Residential Property Sold Within 5 Years of Purchase seeks to discourage real estate speculators from buying up properties with the aim of flipping them, a process that tends to involve bringing down the hammer of the Ellis Act to evict long-term tenants.”
http://www.sfbg.com/politics/2014/08/12/who-will-san-francisco-dems-back-november

 “The anti-speculation tax — which would be 24 percent of the sale price if resold within the first year of purchase and drop to 14 percent if resold within five years — was the among the final pieces of legislation that Supervisor Harvey Milk pushed before he was assassinated in 1978.”
http://www.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/sf-tenants-rally-for-support-of-proposition-g/Content?oid=2879961

“The law, which went into effect June 1, requires landlords to give tenants in Ellis Act evictions a relocation assistance payment equal to two years’ worth of the difference between the tenant’s current rent and the cost of comparable housing in the city.”
http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2014/08/22/judge-refuses-to-block-sf-law-increasing-relocation-payments-to-evicted-tenants-trial-put-on-fast-track/

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Special to the Daily Cal

IMG_0571The Daily Californian asked Berkeley Tenants Union to send an editorial!

Here’s what John Selawsky had to say on our behalf:
http://www.dailycal.org/2014/07/28/berkeley-tenants-union-weighs-affordable-housing/

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Tenant Convention Chooses Rent Board Slate

The 2014 Rent Board Slate: (left to right) John Selawsky, Paola LaVerde,  Katherine Harr, and James Chang. Not pictured: Jesse Townley

The 2014 Rent Board Slate: (left to right) John Selawsky, Paola LaVerde, Katherine Harr, and James Chang. Not pictured: Jesse Townley

The Berkeley Tenant Convention on Sunday July 13 chose the five candidates most Highly Recommended by the Berkeley Tenants Union screener: incumbents Jesse Townley and Katherine Harr, former School Board Director John Selawsky, and first-time candidates Paola LaVerde and James Chang. Selawsky, Harr, and Chang all serve on the BTU steering committee.

Daily Californian Celebrates Student Candidate
“I’m talking about fighting for the soul of Berkeley,” Chang said at the convention. “In Berkeley, student issues are community issues, and community issues are student issues.” http://www.dailycal.org/2014/07/13/pro-tenant-slate-chosen-berkeley-rent-board-race/

More Information on the Convention:
http://berkeleytenantsconvention.net/

In Other News

Berkeley City Council Passes NAACP Recommendations
“Ultimately, these measures will not be enough. They are a set of steps to stop the bleeding of lower-income residents from Berkeley, many of whom are people of color. But in the long run, the only effective way to combat gentrification is through the strict application of rent control.”
http://www.dailycal.org/2014/07/14/berkeley-housing-vote-step-right-direction-miles-still-go/

No Rent Control? No Security Against Displacement!
When one unit in the predominantly artist-occupied complex was put on the market a couple months ago, an attorney who had her eye on the space offered to pay $2,650, or $300 above the rental listing price. The landlord, one of the original developers of the complex in 1990, accepted the offer. Wells’ landlord, who had recently inherited the property, got word of the unprecedented demand, and notified her that her rent would be raised as well, from $2,200 to $2,650 — a 20 percent increase — effective in September. Wells, and another tenant whose rent was also increased, have no choice but to leave.”
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2014/07/03/is-the-tech-boom-putting-pressure-on-berkeley-rents/

No Dogs Allowed
“Rental search startup Lovely reports that just 17 percent of the rental apartments on their site specifically indicate that dogs are accepted, compared with 40 percent in Los Angeles and 48 percent in Chicago.”
http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Pet-owners-struggle-as-fewer-S-F-landlords-allow-5603191.php

Demolition Evictions in SF up 300%
“…evictions for things like owner move-ins, demolitions and withdrawal of units from the rental market rose dramatically last year to 673.”
http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2014/03/24/rent-board-report-san-francisco-demolition-evictions-up-300-percent/

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CALLING ALL BERKELEY RENTERS!

This Sunday the 2014 Rent Board Convention will choose the pro-tenant slate for the fall election.

BTU joined community groups like the Peace and Freedom Party, Berkeley Citizen Action, and Grey Panthers in sending someone to interview the candidates and rank them according to their responses to the interview and the questionnaires. Here are the BTU screener’s ratings (click to enlarge)!

BTU-rentboardscreen

JOIN US SUNDAY at 1:30 PM at 2939 Ellis (corner of Ashby)

The World Cup will be on in the lounge at the Center starting at noon!
Childcare provided during the convention.

See candidate questionnaires on the convention website:
http://berkeleytenantsconvention.net/?page_id=38

Daily Californian on the upcoming convention:
Sid Lakireddy, president of the Berkeley Property Owners Association… ‘There is a sentiment amongst board members that all property owners and landowners should not be in business and property should be free,’ he said.”
http://www.dailycal.org/2014/07/08/6-candidates-compete-berkeleys-dominant-rent-board-slate/

Posted in Actions

Hancock Vote Hurts Renters

Like her husband Mayor Bates, Berkeley’s representative in the California Senate is starting to vote against tenants. BTU needs you to stand with us, and tenants across the state, to stop a very real threat.

We are asking you to take two actions:

  1. Call Loni Hancock right now, and tell her you are ashamed of her vote on AB1513.
    Call (510) 286-1333
  2. Sign Tenants Together’s message to our Senator and ask your friends to do so too!
    http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/5247/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=17893

The proposed law Hancock voted in favor of at the Senate Rules Committee is sponsored by the Association of Realtors. The wording allows any owner to ask the police to evict a tenant without going to court if the landlord claims the tenant is trespassing. That means any renter who can’t produce a written lease when the cops come to the door is at risk.

Banks claim they want this extra- judicial eviction option because there are squatters, but banks have a long history of trying to evict legitimate tenants. Even though the bill has been amended to impact “only” three cities, it sets a dangerous precedent, it could be expanded and it leaves tenants in Palmdale, Lancaster and Ukiah at risk of being thrown on the street without having their day in court. Regular eviction proceedings are already fast tracked. There are laws against trespassers, too. This law is unnecessary!

Additionally, the bill has no penalties for landlords who lie. So if the tenant later shows they were legit, they would have to convince the District Attorney to prosecute the owner for perjury, or nothing at all will happen to those who try to harass renters this way. This is what the Berkeley Rent Board was told by the legislative advocate the Board has instructed to try to stop the bill.

This bill just is not fair! Let the judge decide!

Update:

Current law allows police to arrest trespassers, and when it isn’t clear if someone’s a trespasser, the matter gets resolved in court where a tenant has the right to trial in an expedited proceeding. The bill’s author and its sponsor, the California Association of Realtors, have not explained why existing law is not sufficient to deal with trespassers. Legislators have not even asked the author or sponsors to come forward with a single case in which a new “eviction by declaration” law is needed. Yet the bill continues to advance. This contrasts sharply with how tenant protection bills are treated in the Capitol.” http://beyondchron.org/eviction-by-declaration-bill-advances-exposing-sacramento-double-standard-on-tenants/

Analysis:

Not simply a bill to address tenants living in foreclosed homes, AB 1513 could seriously jeopardize tenants who have no protection of a written lease agreement. AB 1513 could allow slumlords to evict their tenants simply by stating to the police department of their local jurisdiction that their tenant was an “unlawful occupant,” nullifying the tenant’s constitutionally protected due process.” http://sandiegofreepress.org/2014/04/california-state-assembly-bill-ab-1513-will-take-away-tenants-rights/#.U7NwCGS9Kc0

“AB 1513 is also unclear regarding a resident’s rights if a property owner improperly evicts. It appears that the property owner’s only liability is based upon perjury. Accordingly, even a resident improperly evicted by a property owner making a false statement would have no recourse if the property owner’s false statement was made due to a mistake, lack of knowledge, or even lack of understanding regarding the law. Because of this, AB 1513 places a premium on the ignorance of property owners who can evict residents at will as long as they subjectively believe they have the right to do so.” http://oaklandwiki.org/AB-1513

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Ellis Reform Defeated

IMG_5216

SB1439 was amended so only San Francisco tenants would be protected, but it failed in committee at the California State Assembly because many Democrats joined Republicans in voting against the eviction protections.

This from Tenants Together:

Despite our best efforts and a broad-based coalition of support from tenants and allies, our bill for Ellis Act reform, SB1439 (Leno), failed to pass out of the California Assembly Housing & Community Development Committee. Democratic Assembly Members Sharon Quirk-Silva (D – Fullerton) and Cheryl Brown (D- San Bernardino) teamed up with Republicans Brian Maienschein (R – San Diego) and Beth Gaines (R – Roseville) to defeat SB 1439 (Leno), a modest bill to stop speculators from misusing California’s Ellis Act to evict long-term tenants. The bill failed on a 3-4 vote, with Assembly Members Ed Chau (D – Monterey Park), Tom Ammiano (D – San Francisco) and Mariko Yamada (D –Davis) voting to support the bill. The bill would have plugged a loophole that has allowed speculators to purchase apartment buildings and immediately evict long-term San Francisco tenants who are disproportionately elderly and disabled. With no real arguments against the bill, the real estate lobby relied on a strategy of misrepresentations and campaign donations to prevail.

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News from Sacramento

billEllis Act Update

Mark Leno’s Ellis Act reform bill (SB1439) was amended so only San Francisco tenants will be protected if the law passes. Yet tenants all over California are rallying to support long-time renters who face a dire situation in San Francisco, so the bill passed the state Senate and is now in the Assembly. It goes to the Housing and Community Development Committee on Wednesday.

The Berkeley Rent Board voted in March to ask Loni Hancock and Nancy Skinner to work to amend the bill so it  protects East Bay renters. The Board will get an update from the legislative advocates on Monday June 16 on this and other state legislation.

There were no Ellis evictions filed in Berkeley from 2011 through 2013. The Rent Board gives a report once a year, but tenant advocates have told the Tenants Union that there are many renters in Berkeley threatened with Ellis evictions. When tenants leave without an official eviction, there is no statistical record.

http://www.sfgate.com/realestate/article/S-F-Ellis-Act-reform-bill-passes-in-state-Senate-5514880.php

http://www.thebolditalic.com/articles/5123-woohoo-ellis-act-reform-bill-passes-in-state-senate

Amended “Squatters Bill” Remains Threat to Renters

A bill in the state assembly intended to allow cities to evict squatters without going through a full eviction process in court could put any tenant without a written lease at risk of losing her or his access to the justice system. BTU worked to discourage our representatives in Sacramento to support the bill.

Recently, AB1513 was amended to only cover a couple places in Southern California, but if it is made law, it could set a dangerous precedent to allow the police to remove renters without the owner going to court. 

http://beyondchron.org/szetso-piece-ab-1513-update/

Berkeley Supports Renters Tax Assistance 

On June 3, Berkeley City Council approved a recommendation from the Housing Advisory Commission to support AB 2175 (Daly). The bill calls for restoration and expansion of State Tax Assistance to Renters, particularly seniors, the disabled, and low-income folks. Council voted to send letters to State Senator Hancock, Assembly member Skinner, and Governor Brown to communicate the City of Berkeley’s support for AB 2175. 

The Rent Board also voted in March to go on record supporting the bill, and will get an update on Monday June 16 from the legislative advocate.

Expanding Seismic Retrofit Requirements to Other Types of Buildings

In March, the Rent Board also voted to advise the City Council to review AB 2181, which would authorize cities to implement retrofit requirements on non-ductile concrete residential buildings by adding those structures to existing law regarding soft story buildings.

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Save the Dates

July-2014-CalendarJUNE 7 – Berkeley Neighborhoods Council Forum
Art House Gallery
2905 Shattuck Ave. 10 AM to 1 PM

For more info on the Neighborhood Preservation Forum see http://www.berkeleyneighborhoodscouncil.com/index.htm

JUNE 13 – Housing Crisis Conference The SF Public Press sponsors a gathering “to innovate solutions that address the need for affordable housing in San Francisco.” http://sfpublicpress.org/hackthehousingcrisis

JUNE 21 – Robin Hood Committee Party! – CANCELLED
The Committee for Affordable Housing and Robin Hood Initiative host a thank you party – next steps will be announced, but mostly this night will be for having fun and hanging out.

JUNE 24 – Housing at City Council
According to the Berkeley Citizens Action newsletter, the Berkeley City Council will consider several proposals from the Housing Advisory Commission on Tuesday, June 24.

JULY 13 – CALLING ALL PROGRESSIVES!
The bi-annual Convention will be held to choose a progressive slate for the November Rent Board election. The convention starts at 1:30 PM at the South Berkeley Senior Center. See http://berkeleytenantsconvention.net/ for updates.

All potential candidates who believe in rent control and will work so that affordable housing remains a priority in Berkeley are invited to seek the nomination and should contact the convention in order to participate in the screening process during June.

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