A landlord group's ballot measure that would curtail Mountain View's existing rent control law could lose the support of its biggest backer, but only if voters pass a separate, city-sponsored measure to alter rent control this March.
An initiative making sweeping changes to Mountain View's Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act (CSFRA) and sponsored by the California Apartment Association, the nation's largest landlord group, is due to appear on the November presidential ballot. It would impose income eligibility requirements for tenants, cap fees on landlords and, most significantly, suspend nearly all of Mountain View's existing renter protections unless the city's vacancy rate drops below 3% -- a rare and unlikely scenario.
The CAA-backed measure is seen by tenant advocates as an existential threat to the city's existing rent control law, who have dubbed it "the sneaky repeal." But there's a chance it won't go before voters in November after all. That's because the California Apartment Association announced this week that it will drop support for its own measure and cease campaigning on the condition that Measure D, put forth by the Mountain View City Council, wins voter approval in March.
The city-sponsored Measure D would also make a series of changes to CSFRA, taking a softer approach than the apartment association and leaving out language that would turn low vacancy into a kill switch. It would cap annual rent increases at 4% and would streamline the process through which property owners can pass the costs of certain capital improvements onto tenants.
Council members who back Measure D argued in November that the city's measure would serve as a more reasonable alternative, and expressed optimism that the apartment association would be willing to rescind its own ballot initiative. While no such arrangement existed at the time, Joshua Howard of the California Apartment Association told the Voice that the group is now prepared to settle for Measure D.
"It is in the community's best interest that costly, divisive ballot fights be avoided if possible," Howard said in a statement. "As such, should the voters adopt Measure D in March 2020, the coalition will withdraw support for the Taxpayer Initiative."
The apartment association's measure, dubbed the Mountain View Homeowner, Renter, and Taxpayer Protection Act, was first drafted in early 2018, kicking off an expensive signature-gathering campaign funded largely by apartment owners in Mountain View. The initiative received the required 5,150 signatures to qualify, but missed a key deadline to submit signatures in time for the November 2018 ballot.
The rental housing landscape has changed significantly since then. Not only is the city proposing its own, softer changes to CSFRA, but the state of California passed its own package of renter protections. The most comprehensive in the raft of state legislation approved last year is AB 1482, which imposes an annual rent cap of 5% plus the rate of inflation and just-cause eviction requirements for removing tenants who have been living in the same apartment for 12 months or longer.
Measure D has a lot of important similarities to the apartment association's measure, Howard said, arguing that both make it easier to improve aging apartments and keep the older units "affordable, safe and available." He concedes that Measure D is not perfect, but will still encourage investment in the existing housing supply.
"With Measure D's passage, the community, housing providers and elected leaders can focus on real solutions to the region's housing crisis -- the addition of affordable homes for the working families of Mountain View," Howard said.