San Jose renters ask for city protection

Dozens of community members gathered in San Jose Wednesday afternoon to call for more protections for renters in response to rising housing costs that are pushing people out of their homes.

A large group of protestors, holding signs with messages such as “A Home is a Human Right,” gathered outside City Hall this afternoon prior to a 2 p.m. joint meeting of the City Council’s Rules and Open Government Committee and Committee of the Whole. The group chanted slogans such as “Renters Rights Now!” Ben Field, executive officer of the South Bay Labor Council, told the crowd that while rents in the city increased by 11 percent last year, the minimum wage went up by only a few cents.

Field said:

“We have the most profitable companies in human history and yet we have more unsheltered homeless people living in their shadows than in any other place in the United States.”

He added:

“We have people losing their homes everyday and it is time to treat it like a humanitarian crisis.”

Aurora Solis, a leader with People Acting in Community Together, said many people are forced to move from their homes in San Jose each month because they can’t afford the high rent.

Members of the group spoke before Mayor Sam Liccardo and council members in support of a proposal from City Councilman Raul Peralez to expand the city’s rent control laws.

The law currently regulates rent increases at units built before Sept. 7, 1979, when the law went into effect.

Peralez’s plan calls for an amendment to the law to include units built between 1979 and 1995. The state’s Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act exempts units built after 1995 from rent control.

He is also asking for the city to lower its cap on annual rent increases from 8 percent to 4 percent.

Peralez is also calling for the end of income-based discrimination toward tenants, many who are turned away because they don’t have a Section 8 voucher, which provides a subsidy for low-income families to live in privately owned rental units.

His proposal calls for the City Manager to present a plan in the next six months to the council’s Neighborhood Services and Education Committee and have it implemented by Jan. 1, 2017 if it is adopted by the City Council.

Liccardo and Council members Magdalena Carrasco, Charles “Chappie” Jones and Margie Matthews have expressed support for Peralez’s plan. They are also looking at other options such as requiring landlords to offer more 12- to 24-month leases and give notice to tenants of rent increases sooner than the current mandatory 30-day period.

Not all speakers at today’s meeting supported the expansion of rent control. One speaker said lowering the limit on annual rent rates could make it difficult for landlords to pay for insurance and maintenance of the properties.

Another said that making tougher rent control laws could hurt the people the city intends to help.

The groups at today’s rally and meeting included representatives from Working Partnerships USA, Silicon Valley Rising, Affordable Housing Network, Sacred Heart Housing Action Committee, South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council, Law Foundation of Silicon Valley and Silicon Valley De-Bug.