As a City Council subcommittee prepares a package of changes to the city's rent control law to go before voters, its members are still avoiding the big question: How much will rents be allowed to go up?
At a Monday, Oct. 14 meeting, the three-member subcommittee could not reach a decision on how to adjust the annual cap on apartment rents. Under the current system that voters approved in 2016, apartment rent increases cannot be more than the rate of inflation, as set by the Consumer Price Index.
Multiple council members say they believe that limit is inadequate for landlords to retain and upgrade their properties, especially apartments that were built decades ago. Over the last year, several older rent-controlled apartment buildings have been slated for demolition and redevelopment into for-sale townhouses.
At the Monday meeting, Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga suggested higher rents would staunch the loss of older apartments.
"I firmly believe that (rent control) has caused the issue of displacement as properties are sold off and redeveloped," said Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga. "This (measure) is an effort to balance it out better so we don't see more apartment complexes sold off or redeveloped."
In past meetings, Abe-Koga favored a 5% cap on rent increases, but she signaled a willingness to budge. Councilman Chris Clark suggested sticking with inflation, but allowing a 1 percentage point surcharge on top. The committee's third member, Lucas Ramirez, preferred staying with inflation or going no higher than 4% rent increases per year.
"Even CPI plus 1% is hard for me to defend," he said.
Much like prior meetings, the most vexing issue of rent control came down to an impasse. Subcommittee members agreed to draft a variety of options on rent increases that would eventually be brought before the full council on Nov. 18. The City Council would need to finalize any ballot measure by early December, according to city staff.