Mountain View's Rental Housing Committee voted 5-0 this month to set the annual cap on rent increases to 2.9%, the lowest maximum increase allowed since the city's rent control law took effect in 2016.
The cap, which is adopted in May but takes effect in September each year, limits the annual rent increases permitted among the roughly 15,000 rent-controlled apartments in Mountain View. The cap reflects the rate of inflation, and must be based solely on the consumer price index (CPI) for the area.
Though the cap is lower than usual -- it previously hovered between 3.4% and 3.6% -- it does not account for the massive economic damage caused by the new coronavirus, which has prompted travel restrictions, closures of businesses and a requirement that most Bay Area residents stay indoors. That's because the maximum rental adjustment is based off of economic activity and cost increases spanning from February 2019 to February 2020, weeks before public health officials imposed the most severe restrictions.
Under the Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act (CSFRA), the annual rent cap adjusts based on the rate of inflation, but cannot go below 2% or above 5% in order to offset more volatile years.
The cap may mean less this year than in the past, however. Though there are reports from Mountain View tenants that some landlords are raising the rent during the pandemic, rental housing costs are largely expected to dip in the coming months. City staff reported at a meeting on Tuesday that rents are down about 5% compared to before the coronavirus outbreak.
At the May 4 meeting, committee members also signed off on a formal framework in which landlords and tenants can voluntarily agree to temporarily reduce rents during the pandemic, aimed at providing relief to families out of work due to the virus or the shelter order. These agreements would allow property owners to bounce rent back up to normal levels without running afoul of CSFRA's restrictions on annual rent increases.