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Milpitas Council Rejects Rent Control, Just Cause Eviction

Wednesday, May 8, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Lee McEachern
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https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/05/08/milpitas-council-rejects-rent-control-just-cause-eviction/

 

The Milpitas City Council has rejected pursuing protections for tenants, including rent control and an emergency just cause eviction ordinance.

Mayor Rich Tran and Vice Mayor Karina Dominguez voted in favor of the protections, while Councilmen Anthony Phan and Bob Nuñez, as well as Councilwoman Carmen Montano voted against them.

The rent control ordinance proposal would have tied allowable rent increases each year to the Consumer Price Index for the Bay Area, capping them at 7 percent maximum annually.

The just cause eviction protections would have prevented a landlord from evicting a tenant except for specific reasons, including not paying rent, nuisance activity, or not allowing a landlord access to inspect the property, among other reasons.

Montano said instead of enforcing rent control, the city should focus on building more housing, particularly affordable housing. Nuñez said he thinks the city needs a living wage ordinance to ensure people working there can afford to rent or buy a home, and he and Montano both said they’d prefer to see more study on the housing issue in Milpitas.

Phan said he thinks rent control will hinder housing supply in the city, and make landlords take their units off the market.

The decision came after a roughly two and a half hour and at times tense discussion, with Tran urging members of the audience to quiet down and even threatening to remove someone who was speaking out of turn.

The issue also exposed divisions on the council, with Dominguez — who co-authored the rent control and just cause ordinances — exchanging words with Montano, challenging her stance on the issue, and claiming she was taking her talking points from “special interests.”

Montano at one point said she didn’t even read the ordinances she was about to vote on, flabbergasting and visually upsetting Dominguez.

 

Ultimately, Nuñez proposed to instead form a housing subcommittee, comprised of Montano and Nuñez, to explore other ways to protect tenants in the city — like forming a non-binding review and mediation process — which the council majority supported.

The council heard from dozens of people who packed the chambers Tuesday to speak on both sides of the issue.

Joseph Weinstein, of Milpitas, said it would be unfair for the council to limit landlords’ ability to set rents.

“Buildings grow old, sewer pipes break, roofs leak. Repair costs are not covered under your ordinance,” Weinstein said. “You limit us to 7 percent, you put us out of business, and you put the tenants out of their homes.”

Michael Dittmer, a Milpitas resident, said he hoped the council would support the protections and needs to “consider the immediacy of the problem” facing “people who are getting displaced, people who are homeless and going into debt trying to pay their rent.”

Other landlords and residents opposed to the protections for renters said the solution to the housing affordability crisis is building more homes.

“I live in Milpitas but I work in Palo Alto. The reason I live in Milpitas and work in Palo Alto is because I cannot afford to live in Palo Alto,” a man who didn’t give his name said to the council.

“So, if someone cannot afford to live in Milpitas…they should move to Gilroy, or some other place.”

Milt Krantz, 82, of San Jose, said he supported both the proposed ordinances, and said landlords would be fine despite them.

“Landlords aren’t going to run away just because there’s a just cause situation here,” he said.

After hearing comments from the public, Montano said, “I really feel that the solution to all this is to build more housing… And especially affordable housing.”

Tran said he disagreed, doubting that enough affordable housing would get built fast enough to impact the housing crisis.

Montano also said taxes collected from Airbnb rentals in the city should be used to help fund emergency relocation assistance for renters who are displaced, and a housing commission should be formed to study the issue.

“I ran for office to represent the most vulnerable in this community, and to have the political courage that I was not seeing,” Dominguez said in response.

Phan said he thinks rent control hinders supply, and that if rent control was enacted, landlords in the city will demolish their properties subject to rent control and build condos or other units to avoid it. He also said rent control doesn’t solve the affordability problem for enough people.

“There aren’t enough rent controlled units to go around,” Phan said. “So for the poor people trying to find a rent controlled unit, good luck, because so is everyone else.”.

 


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