Concord City Council rejects 45-day rent increase cap

The Concord City Council rejected a proposal to cap rent increases in the city for 45 days at its meeting Tuesday night, but approved two other renter protection proposals that housing activists decried as toothless.

The Council voted 3-2 to reject drafting an urgency ordinance that would have limited rent increases to 3 percent or lower for a 45-day period, which the city refers to as a rent increase moratorium.

Councilman Edi Birsan said today that he’s been trying to bring renter protections to the Council for months and was frustrated by Tuesday’s vote.

“We still have a large number of people who are still on month-to-month (rental agreements) and can be evicted for any reason,” Birsan said.

He added that landlords can hike up rents in the city with virtually no restrictions almost whenever they want.

“The Council said we’re not going to give you any additional protections,” Birsan said.

The supporters of the 45-day rent increase moratorium hoped it would have given the City Council, city staff and the community time to develop a long-term solution to the crisis of rising housing prices in recent years.

Rents in the city, where renters make up 41 percent of households, have increased an average of nearly 35 percent since 2012, according to a city report presented to the Council.

Vice Mayor Ron Leone said he doesn’t believe rent control is an effective solution and that since the moratorium was a “shortened version of a rent control measure,” he couldn’t support the idea.

The Council did approve the development of a renter hotline, which people living in buildings with 12 or more units can use to report large rent increases to the city.

The Council also approved the creation of a non-binding mediation process for renters and landlords who are at odds over rent increases.

Beth Trimarco, spokeswoman for the Raise the Roof Coalition, which advocates for housing affordability policies and renter protections, said Tuesday that both the hotline and mediation process will do little to address the housing crisis.

“Neither proposal offers protection to renters, because there are no enforcement mechanisms,” the coalition said in a statement.

The mediation review board proposal was sent to the Council’s Housing and Economic Development Committee so the details can be fleshed out.

It will eventually come back before the City Council for a final vote.