Berkeley Council Invites Mostly Developers to Discuss Affordable Housing Options:
Former Planning Director Mark Rhoades, now a developer himself, was a featured speaker at the February 16 Council forum.
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2016/02/17/berkeley-considers-ways-to-build-more-affordable-housing/

Several speakers who work for, or consult with, developers said Berkeley’s public process is to blame for rising building costs.
http://www.dailycal.org/2016/02/17/city-council-discusses-problems-solutions-affordable-housing-crisis-work-session-tuesday/

Berkeley has built only 206 below-market rentals since 2012
Berkeley has approved only 206 below-market rentals since 2012

8% Affordable Housing Will Not Address Crisis
“With those units, plus all of the projects at various stages of the use permit application process as well as those under construction, the totals since 2012 come out to 206 affordable units out of 2,787 total units, or 8 percent (see ABAG slide above).
…There was consensus among the experts that the city needs to expedite housing construction by facilitating funding and cutting red tape. But not all of them bought into the oft-cited notion that building lots of luxury housing will put a significant dent in the affordable housing shortage… Several lamented what they saw as the loss of economic and ethnic diversity in a city where skyrocketing residential rents are out of reach of most working people, many of them minorities. The rising rents represent “a major transfer of income from tenants to real estate investors,” and they vastly exceed what a landlord needs to profitably operate and maintain a building, said former Berkeley Housing Director Steve Barton, one of the presenters on Tuesday.”
http://www.dailydemocrat.com/general-news/20160217/berkeley-forum-seeks-ways-to-speed-construction-of-affordable-housing/2

Landlord Tax Could Fund Affordable Housing
http://www.dailycal.org/2016/02/24/city-council-approves-poll-to-residents-about-potential-ballot-measures/

Trying to Stop Berkeley Eviction Cases from Moving to Far-Away Court:
http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/tenant-advocates-decry-court-move/Content?oid=4679640

Students Ask University to Step Up
The ASUC Student Housing Committee published this editorial in the Daily Californian calling for the University to produce more student housing and scrap plans for a private hotel on UC land in downtown Berkeley.
Despite plans to increase enrollment by at least 1,500 new students at UC Berkeley over the next few years, the campus only has plans to create 725 net new beds over the next five years; by contrast, the campus is increasing enrollment by 750 students next year alone… Furthermore, the university plans to build this project — and future projects — as a P3, or public-private partnership. As a P3, such a residence hall would be on university land but operated by a private company, a situation known as privatization. As a result, students would simultaneously lack the protections of local laws — such as rent control and eviction protections — while also paying more for rent to a private company.”
http://www.dailycal.org/2016/02/23/university-must-build-public-residence-hall-downtown/

Students Hold Rally
http://www.dailycal.org/2016/02/28/campus-students-rally-affordable-student-housing-friday/

Equity Residential Sells 1,800 Rent Controlled Units
Equity Residential, also Berkeley’s largest landlord, sold its units in East Palo Alto to Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, a foreign investment firm. Equity is also selling all of its units in Berkeley.
http://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2016/02/16/exclusive-east-palo-altos-woodland-park-apartments.html

Oakland: Short Term Rentals Tax to Support Affordable Housing
This from the East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO):
“As the result of months of EBHO members’ advocacy and efforts, on February 2nd, Oakland City Council allocated $350,000/year of the Transient Occupancy Tax revenue from short-term rentals to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund for each of the two years in the current budget cycle.
Allocating TOT revenue, which is the occupancy tax paid by hotels and other tourist accommodations, from these short-term accommodations to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund will help mitigate the impact of the short-term rental industry as the City begins to explore policy solutions addressing this issue.  The TOT being allocated is from revenues the City receives over and above the $500,000/year allocated in the ’15-’17 budget, so it is not impacting other City priorities. As you read in EBHO’s report, The Impact of Short Term Rentals on Affordable Housing in Oakland, the City has an undisclosed contract with Airbnb to collect TOT.”

San Francisco: Fire Leads to Demolition, Evictions
San Francisco guarantees rent-controlled tenants who are displaced by a fire the right to return to their units after repair at their previous rent, though few do. But with the demolition, that protection no longer applies: New buildings are not subject to rent control because of state law and are not bound by the right of return. No-fault evictions on the basis of demolition are also allowed under city law. “
http://missionlocal.org/2016/02/sf-orders-demo-of-burned-mission-st-building-tenants-may-lose-right-to-return/

Housing For the Rest of Us – Success!
HousingRest-2
On Sunday March 6th, about 200 Berkeley voters turned up to hear solutions to the housing emergency. The Berkeley Progressive Alliance discussed their housing platform and upcoming elections for Mayor and City Council. Berkeley Tenants Union discussed the Rent Board elections and the ballot measure to fund affordable housing via a windfall profits tax on larger landlords. Outgoing Councilman Max Anderson and District 3 candidate Ben Bartlett discussed changes and challenges in South Berkeley, and Zoning Commissioner Sophie Hahn – who is also running for City Council – discussed simple steps to bring sustainable, green buildings to Berkeley.

The Berkeley Progressive Alliance is bringing folks together to support candidates for City Council who share the ideals of economic and racial justice, campaign finance reform, and a green, sustainable city. Read their Affordable Housing Platform here:
http://berkeleyprogressivealliance.org/2016/02/26/affordable-housing-platform/

BTU co-sponsored the forum and discussed the April 24th Tenant Convention:
http://berkeleytenantsconvention.net/

BTU’s John Selawsky also discussed the Safe and Affordable Homes ballot measure:
http://www.fundaffordablehousing.org/

HousingRest-1

Max Anderson at the Forum
“Increasingly, wealth and income have become a surrogate for race, providing camouflage for those who want to reshape the city and invite only those who look like them and have the kind of wealth that they have,” contended Anderson, noting the decrease in African American residents from around 25 to approximately 8 percent of the Berkeley population. “What you’re participating in today is an effort to recapture and reassert the rights and realities we face as working people and people of color in this city,” he said, arguing that if people do nothing, “We will become a gated community without gates.”
http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_29606700/berkeley-progressives-call-affordable-housing-new-leadership

BPA Platform to Fund New Affordable Units
In order to increase funding, the BPA suggested increasing the Housing Impact Fee — a sum that developers can pay as an alternative to including affordable housing units in their properties — to at least $34,000. Additionally, the plan intends to increase funds for the Housing Trust Fund through taxing short-term rentals, as well as raising the business license tax on influential landlords in Berkeley. “We want the people who have benefited from this incredible increase in property value to help pay for affordable housing,” said BPA member Kate Harrison at the meeting.”
http://www.dailycal.org/2016/03/06/berkeley-progressive-alliance-presents-affordable-housing-platform/

Although February 16th will be the Berkeley City Council’s special work session on Housing Policy, several issues are going to City Council on Tuesday February 9th as well.

The Relocation Ordinance was revised a few years ago to make sure that when renters are displaced because of substantial habitability issues, the property owner must help them afford a temporary relocation. When the law was revised, discussions centered on seismic retrofits, so the law contemplates mostly planned relocations for substantial rehabilitation of apartments.

However, there have been many large apartment buildings which have had fires in the last several years, and renters found accessing their rights to relocation funding to be challenging.

Now, the City Manager has brought revisions to the law to the City Council. That’s good news – 2/3rds of the amendments are common-sense clean-up issues.

However, there is one pesky change: Instead of requiring landlords to carry insurance which would fund the relocation payments Berkeley requires, the new law will require displaced tenants, many of whom have lost everything in a fire, to use their insurance money for relocation before they get funding from the owner.

BTU’s Letter to Council on Relocation: Relocation Ordinance Letter

Changes to the Demolition Ordinance are also on the agenda for the 9th, but BTU thinks our burdened City leaders will probably not have time to discuss this important issue at this meeting. We expect the issue to be held over. But just in case, we sent this to the Council regarding changes which would allow developers to tear down rent controlled units:

demolition-letter

City Council Relocation Ordinance Item #3: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Clerk/City_Council/2016/02_Feb/Documents/2016-02-09_Item_03_Amending_the_Relocation.aspx

City Council Demolition Ordinance Item #28: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Clerk/City_Council/2016/02_Feb/Documents/2016-02-09_Item_28_Zoning_Amendments.aspx

There are also several Affordable Housing Items from Kriss Worthington which have been held over at meeting after meeting since October of last year that may actually be discussed on Tuesday.
see: https://www.berkeleytenants.org/?p=1434

Berkeley rents are up at least 50% in five years!

The Berkeley Rent Board gets quarterly reports on market rents for new tenancies in rent controlled apartments. Since rents are rising so quickly, they recently voted to send their latest reports to the City Council. Keep in mind, these are not controlled rents, nor are they inclusive of the whole market. Because of the 1996 state law Costa-Hawkins, owners can set a new rent at anything they want when a new tenant moves in. Those new rents are the numbers recorded in this report. Berkeley’s Housing Element report shows these rents tend to be lower than the total market rent in Berkeley because rent controlled buildings are older and don’t have fancy amenities like gyms or even WiFi.

report-2016
From the Rent Board Market Median Report January 2016

The whole report is here: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/uploadedFiles/Rent_Stabilization_Board/Level_3_-_General/6a6_16%20Jan%2019_Transmittal%20to%20Council_MedianRents_Q2%20to%20Q3_2015.pdf

Berkeley Tenants Union has three important items at the City Council on Tuesday.
For more info, see the posts below this one. 

About the Demolition (Item 21):
If the City Council allows this demolition to go forward, the law prohibiting unmitigated demolition of rent controlled housing means nothing anymore, and all of Berkeley is at risk of being bulldozed to make way for luxury housing.

About changes to the Rental Housing Safety Program (Item 23):
One reason developers give to tear down affordable older units is that they are in really bad shape. Never mind that they continue to rent them out while simultaneously making a claim that they are unsafe. In order to preserve our housing, we must make cyclical inspections a reality in Berkeley as they are in most other major cities.

November 17 will also see the Council discuss a Windfall Profits Tax on High Rents. There will be a special workshop at 5:30 PM in order for the Council to consider a ballot measure to increase the business license tax on larger landlords and use the money to building and rehab affordable housing, including the student co-ops.

What you can do:

1) Take a picture of unsafe housing conditions and email it to City Council marked November 17, Item 23.  clerk@cityofberkeley.info  They have to get the email by noon on Tuesday.

2) Come to the Demolition Appeal at old City Hall on November 17 around 8 PM and hold a sign to support BTU and the ASUC during the appeal. We demand that the law which says

“Notwithstanding the above, the Board shall approve a Use Permit to eliminate a controlled rental unit only when it finds that…The replacement dwelling unit shall be available for occupancy to Households for Lower Income or Very Low Income Households” must mean that rent controlled housing can only be torn down if replaced unit-for-unit with permanently affordable housing! Look for us in blue BTU T Shirts to get a sign showing support. 

3) Come early to support the Windfall Profits Tax at 5:30 PM

If you can’t make the meetings, please send an email NOW
to Council marked Item 21 c/o  clerk@cityofberkeley.info

Rent Controlled housing should be torn down only if it is replaced one-for-one with permanently affordable housing. Developers should not be rewarded for allowing their buildings to fall apart.

For more information about the proposed demolition at 2631 Durant:

Letter From Student Tenants:
DurantTenantsLetter

Berkeley Tenants Union Op-Eds:
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/11/16/op-ed-stop-developers-from-demolishing-rent-controlled-buildings-without-replacing-them/

http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2015-11-06/article/43881?headline=Demolition-of-Rent-Controlled-Units-Sets-Bad-Precedent–Berkeley-Tenants-Union

News Articles:
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/06/25/berkeley-zoning-board-to-consider-demolition-on-durant/

http://www.dailycal.org/2014/08/24/56-unit-student-housing-complex-may-coming-durant-avenue/

City Documents:
http://cityofberkeley.info/Planning_and_Development/Zoning_Adjustment_Board/2631_Durant.aspx

Letter from Berkeley Neighborhoods Council:
2631 Durant Demolition Letter to City Council

St. John
Leaders of the Berkeley Property Owners Association – including owners of Premium Properties, Shaw Properties, Everest, real estate agent Jon Vicars, legal advocate Michael St. John, and the notorious Lakireddy family – have formed a new political coalition. Is their primary purpose to run candidates for the Rent Board? No. Is it to bring lawsuits like the 2012 libel cases, to scare tenants away from running for election? No. We fully expect them to do those things as well, but the Berkeley Rental Housing Coalition is landlords pooling their money mostly to sue the Rent Board over a $19 increase in the registration fee. It was the first increase of the fee, which funds the Rent Board agency, in six years.

“…She was more concerned that lawsuits funded with PAC money could divert the board from its mission. ‘I think (the landlord’s) interest may be more in the board spending time and money to defend it, thus taking away from our core services.’ ”
http://www.insidebayarea.com/breaking-news/ci_28332932/berkeley-landlords-plan-coalition-challenge-rent-board

CA Supreme Court Upholds San Jose Requirements for Developers – But Inclusionary Housing Ordinance Will Not Apply To Rentals!

The state Supreme Court upheld the right of a city to impose affordable housing requirements on developers of for-sale housing, but let stand the 2009 Palmer decision, which said cities cannot limit the rent a developer can charge for newly built rental units because of the state Costa-Hawkins law. The decision also made it clear that a nexus study is not required because cities do not have to prove that the demand for affordable housing was created by the development of new buildings.

The ruling will impact over 170 local governments with similar inclusionary housing requirements and allow Berkeley to move forward with inclusionary laws. It’s good news for anyone who might scrape it together to buy some “affordable” housing, but bad news for folks who are pretty sure they will be renters for the rest of their lives. The decision again shows the need for tenants to come together statewide to change the Costa-Hawkins law.

“The Court noted that many land use regulations result in a reduction in the market value that a property may command in the absence of regulations and this does not constitute a taking of the diminished value of the property. In this regard, the Court reasoned that the affordable housing requirement was no different than limitations on density, unit size, number of bedrooms, required set-backs, or building heights.”
http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/california-supreme-court-upholds-88596/

California Building Industry Association v. San Jose Decision
CA Building Trades Vs San Jose final

Berkeley Student Paper Discusses Inclusionary Case
www.dailycal.org/2015/06/16/california-supreme-court-ruling-sets-precedent-for-inclusionary-housing-in-state/

For More Info on Costa-Hawkins:
“The Costa-Hawkins Act is not only contributing to soaring rent prices, but it’s also creating barriers to new housing construction.”
http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/its-time-to-overturn-the-state-ban-on-rent-control/Content?oid=4229744

Another Tenant Screwed By Costa-Hawkins
http://crowandrose.com/2013/12/another-tenant-screwed-by-costa-hawkins/

Berkeley Tenants send huge hugs to the families of all the young people lost or hurt at Library Gardens.

Faulty Construction Likely Cause of Balcony Collapse
“The horrible structural failure of a 5th floor balcony that killed six and injured seven…has brought to the forefront the issue of safety in the frantic construction of apartment buildings mushrooming the city.”
http://dissidentvoice.org/2015/06/berkeley-structural-tragedy/

Deadly Balcony Collapse Tied to Rotted Wooden Beams
http://www.foxnews.com/us/2015/06/17/collapsed-berkeley-balcony-reportedly-not-intended-for-large-group/

A History Of Housing Safety Complaints
“The apartment complex’s housing code violations included holes in walls, trip hazards from damaged floors, loose metal strips in doorways, inoperable ceiling fans in laundry rooms and missing or inoperable exit signs throughout the building. The majority of violations were found during a random September 2013 city inspection of several low-income and affordable housing units in the complex.”
http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-berkeley-code-violations-20150619-story.html

Berkeleyside Report On Builder Track Record
“As it turns out, however, there was also a $3.5 million settlement in 2013 in Millbrae related to waterproofing and wood rot. And, that same year, Trestle Glen Associates, in Colma, filed a breach of contract lawsuit, still underway, against Segue related to ‘water intrusion causing tangible property damage.’ ”
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/06/17/firm-that-built-berkeley-complex-has-been-fined-sued/

Builder Under Scrutiny BEFORE Balcony Collapse
“The building has been the subject of numerous complaints, both through the city and online. The most recent official complaint, submitted in February to the Berkeley Rent Board, listed missing or broken stairwell lights, missing handrails on stairwells, holes in the walls of public spaces, expired fire extinguishers, and peeling floor material that posed a tripping hazard.”
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/06/17/berkeley-building-under-scrutiny-before-balcony-collapse/

Protest Calls For Investigation, Halt for New Construction
A group of concerned citizens has called for a moratorium on new building construction in Berkeley until the tragedy at Library Gardens can be analyzed. The Berkeley Daily Planet posted an editorial with a similar suggestion.

Protesters’ Letter to Council Linked Here
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/06/19/protesters-demand-a-halt-on-new-construction-in-berkeley/

Daily Planet Suggests Pause for Building Approvals
http://berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2015-06-12/article/43421?headline=Ask-Council-to-Analyse-Problems-Before-Scheduling-New-Construction–

IMG_0926-1Landlords Form PAC
The Berkeley Property Owners Association announced this week that they are forming a political action committee. “While the Rent Board uses our money to undermine our rights, the BRHC will use its funds to fight for our rights, bringing balance to matters that have been far out of balance for far too long.” The founding landlords pledge to spend at least $500,000 a year to fight against renters rights in Berkeley.
http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2015-06-12/article/43384?headline=Berkeley-Landlords-Form-Political-Action-Committee-to-Raise-Half-Million-per-Year–

Short-Term Rentals (AirBnB) Discussion Continues June 23
http://www.mercurynews.com/my-town/ci_28289073/berkeley-discussion-short-term-rental-regulations-stalls-city

http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/06/11/berkeley-council-meeting-ends-abruptly-during-testimony/

Students Call for Tight Limits on Vacation Rentals
“Research has shown that short-term and vacation rentals increase the costs of housing by reducing the supply of affordable housing available on the market…. If City Council decides to legalize short-term and vacation rentals, such as those found on Airbnb, then it must adequately regulate them in order to protect the city’s supply of affordable housing. The proposal put forward by Mayor Tom Bates and Councilmember Lori Droste, while a good start, would fail to adequately regulate short-term and vacation rentals so that they do not reduce the supply of affordable housing in Berkeley.”
http://www.dailycal.org/2015/06/08/protect-housing-costs-increase-regulation-of-short-term-rentals/

Pro-Development, Pro-AirBnb “Renters” Group Gets YELP Donation.
“I believe Sonja represents a massive segment of the population that’s been largely ignored in the discussion on Bay Area housing – renters,” said Stoppelman.”
http://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/blog/real-estate/2015/03/pro-density-sfbarf-yelp-jeremy-stoppelman.html

Upcoming Dates:

Wednesday July 8 – BTU Member’s Meeting and Summer Potluck

CITY COUNCIL
Tuesday June 23, 7 PM – Short Term Rentals continues
Thursday June 25 5 PM – Community Benefits from Downtown High-rise Buildings
Tuesday June 30
Tuesday July 14
Tuesday September 15

ZONING BOARD
Thursday 6/11 at 7:00 PM
Thursday 6/25 at 7:00 PM – Demolition of 18-Unit Rent Controlled Building
Thursday 7/09 at 7:00 PM
Thursday 7/23 at 7:00 PM
Thursday 8/27 at 7:00 PM

PLANNING COMMISSION
Wednesday June 17
Wednesday July 1
Wednesday July 15 – possibly Short Term Rentals
Wednesday September 2

Short-term rentals are more lucrative than permanent housing. Image courtesy of http://www.beyondchron.org
Short-term rentals are more lucrative than permanent housing. Image courtesy of http://www.beyondchron.org

Berkeley City Council Continues Discussion of Short Term Rentals Tuesday June 9th
7 PM @ Longfellow Middle School Auditorium, 1500 Derby

  • Please join BTU in supporting Councilmember Arreguin’s amendments to the Mayor’s proposal.
  • Ask that Council does not lift the ban on renting whole, empty units on Airbnb and other vacation platforms.
  • Say that we need rent controlled units and other empty apartments to be offered for Berkeley residents.
  • Ask the law be written so that it can be easily enforced!
  • Ask them to include the Rent Board in the referral so that the new law is in harmony with existing state and local laws on rental units.

Revised Council Item 32: 2015-06-09 Item 32 Short-Term Rental

Berkeleyside: Short Term Rentals
“The conversion of apartments into a short-term rentals, where guests come and go, is part of a trend that is sweeping Berkeley. While renting out apartments to anyone for less than 14 days is prohibited under Berkeley law, hundreds of homeowners are renting out rooms, suites, whole houses, cottages — even a tent and a yurt — according to listings posted on Airbnb, VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner), Home Away and other short-term rental websites… Property owners who rent out for short terms often stand to make a substantial amount of money, certainly more than if they rented month to month.”
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/05/26/short-term-rentals-are-squeezing-out-berkeley-renters/

Berkeley Tenants Union Public Comment
http://berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2015-06-05/article/43372?headline=The-Problem-with-Short-Term-Rentals-Perspective-of-Berkeley-Tenants-Union

State Won’t Force Airbnb to Share Information for Enforcement
Legislation aimed at forcing Airbnb Inc. and other short-term rental sites to ensure collection of local taxes stalled in the state Senate on Thursday.
SB 593 would have required short-term housing platforms to report quarterly to cities and counties the addresses that were rented out on their sites as well as the number of nights those properties were rented and for what prices. Local governments could have used the information to ensure transient occupancy taxes were paid and to ferret out vacation rentals operating in cities that bar them. The bill had the backing of various cities, hotel lobbies and organized labor. But Airbnb fought back against the proposed regulations, hiring its first contract lobbyist in Sacramento and rallying its users with emails and phone calls. The company, along with its allied tech lobbies and the Santa Monica group Consumer Watchdog, framed the debate as a battle over its customers’ privacy.”
http://www.therecorder.com/id=1202728452451/Airbnb-Bill-Halted-By-Lobby-Blitz?slreturn=20150505224830

Should New Backyard Cottages Be Allowed as Short Term Rentals?
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/03/25/officials-to-relax-rules-for-berkeley-granny-flats/

“Airbnb Will Probably Get You Evicted and Priced Out of the City”
“If you look at the economics of it, Airbnb is ruining your life. Or, at least, your chances at a lasting life in the city. In an attempt to make an extra buck, you may be slowly screwing yourself out of the market…Every unit that’s being used for illegal hotel activity is a unit that’s not on the residential housing market.”
https://news.vice.com/article/airbnb-will-probably-get-you-evicted-and-priced-out-of-the-city

In Other News

Fun Protest! Saturday June 6 @ 10 AM
“…To fly large red, black and white balloons, three feet in diameter, to a height of 194 feet, near the planned site of The Residences at Berkeley Plaza, also known by its street address 2211 Harold Way. The building would be 180 feet high — or 194 feet, with the addition of an elevator housing and other infrastructure on top.”
http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_28244224/berkeley-activists-plan-visual-protest-downtown-proposal

Berkeley Rents Too Damn High
“The last time rents rose so crazily was 15 years ago during the last technology boom, and history seems to be repeating itself.” In 2000, the dotcom boom market, rents skyrocketed and now we are dealing with some of the same issues,” said Nick Traylor, a manager at the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board. Some landlords are even increasing rents by $400 to $1,000 a month if they have a tenant vacate a unit, said Traylor. He stressed these substantial increases are on top of the already high market rates being charged to the previous tenant. Elaine Perkins, who runs the Cal Rentals office at UC Berkeley, said students are living in cramped conditions to afford decent accommodation.”
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/05/28/berkeley-rental-rates-skyrocket-causing-problems-for-students-and-those-on-middle-incomes/

German Rent Freeze; Berlin Rent Ceilings
“Berlin is limiting rent increases to 10 percent of average rents in neighborhoods suffering housing shortages. Landlords often jack up rents by as much as 40 percent to take advantage of well-heeled newcomers who are flocking to the city from the around the world, said Reiner Wild, managing director of the Berlin Tenants Association.
“The rent ceiling is very important for Berlin because the difference between the rent paid in existing contracts and new contracts is so high,” Wild told The Guardian.”
https://news.vice.com/article/berlin-imposes-rent-caps-as-worlds-most-desirable-cities-become-gated-communities
Law allowing rent controls on Berlin’s inner-city property prevents landlords charging new tenants more than 10 per cent above the local average
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/property/news/11645625/berlin-rent-control-law-housing-crisis.html
“Berlin is pioneering the rent cap after the national parliament approved the law, aimed at areas with housing shortages, in March… “We don’t want a situation like in London or Paris,” said Wild. “The reality in Paris or London is that people with low income have to live in the further-out districts of the city.”
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/01/rent-cap-legislation-in-force-berlin-germany

City Council continues discussion on #1 (Airbnb) on June 9.

 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: https://www.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

See the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project for more Berkeley Areas!
See the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project for more Berkeley Areas!

In December, BTU wrote about a suggestion by the Housing Advisory Commission, spearheaded by new Councilperson Lori Droste, to lay the foundation to tax tenants on their rent control (“means testing”). The other City Council folks wisely either voted no or abstained on the item, so it is dead for the moment.

But here we have a study about this very issue by SF’s Anti-Eviction Mapping Project – it is fighting conjecture with fact – and we hope the Council and Housing Commission will review!

If you go to the Source data map, you can see data for Berkeley too!

“There are probably landlords in San Francisco who make less money than their tenants. But they are very much the exception and not the rule. That’s the conclusion of a new study by the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, which compares the median income of renters and property owners by census tract in San Francisco.

Let’s take a few examples. In Census Tract 176.01, South of Market, people who owned property had a median income of $111,330 in 2013. Renters had a median income of $17,396. Let’s move to the Mission, where there are increasingly wealthy renters. Median income for tenants? About $80,000. For landlords? About $154,000.”
http://48hillsonline.org/2014/12/29/debunking-myth-poor-landlord/

Owner vs. Renter, by Class – Map Includes Berkeley Data
http://www.antievictionmappingproject.net/ownerrenter.html