Nov 02, 2019
Increased Housing Security Benefits Renters and Marin County
Nov 02, 2019
By David Levin
Marin renters have long struggled to cope with a regional housing crisis that has displaced seniors, families, and local workers, but new California legislation will strengthen communities by protecting renters’ access to local jobs and educational opportunities. Numerous studies have documented the harmful effects of housing insecurity, especially for children and people with serious medical needs. California’s new renter protections will help reduce the threat of displacement for renters, which often falls harshly on the most vulnerable households, including disabled and immigrant renters.
Although the best long-term strategy will be to significantly increase Marin’s rental housing supply, it would be unfair to continue penalizing renters during the many years or even decades this will require. Communities in Marin have already suffered from the loss of residents who work in local jobs and contribute to volunteer activities, and by increasing housing security we help renters to invest in themselves, their families, and our whole county.
While not going so far as to pass local rent control ordinances, several Marin County jurisdictions looking to address the rental housing crisis enacted mandatory mediation requirements for rent increases above five percent, along with just cause eviction protection, including the City of San Rafael, the Town of Fairfax, and unincorporated Marin County. Recent examples where property owners imposed rent increases above 25% received local media attention because of the problems faced by families trying to cope with such an obvious threat to their housing security.
Other consequences from the intense pressure on local renters are visible everywhere one looks. Studies show over 50,000 workers must commute in and out of Marin County daily because they cannot afford to live in our county, and more renters are displaced every week by steeply rising costs. Even with very little population growth across the county, current projections estimate our planned housing production for the next ten years will only meet the needs for about five percent of Marin’s limited growth.
The failure to produce adequate housing in Marin and across our region has produced a severely unbalanced rental market. Estimates of vacancy rates for Marin rental properties are around 1.5%, while healthy rental markets have vacancy rates above 5%. This intense demand for rentals meant that owners could issue eviction notices with little regard for business concerns or the legal prohibition against retaliation and discrimination, while renters had only a limited ability to contest unlawful evictions in those summary proceedings.
Recently Governor Newsom signed AB 1482–the “Tenant Protection Act of 2019.” This new law will cap annual increases for many rental properties at five percent plus the local rate of inflation, and it also requires most owners to state a “just cause” for any eviction. Until now, California law required only a 60-day notice when owners increased the rent by any amount above ten percent. The rent cap in AB 1482 is very reasonable—with a local inflation rate around 2% it amounts to a limit of about 7%—roughly twice the average rate of rental increases in Marin last year.
Owners who stay within the normal range of rental increases and only evict tenants for good reason should face little or no impact from the new law. The rent cap in AB 1482 will provide an important measure of fairness for renters along with requiring just cause to evict. This new law will improve housing security for renters until the ultimate solution of reaching a balance in Marin’s rental market is achieved.
David Levin worked as a legal aid housing attorney on Contra Costa and Marin County cases for 15 years. He now represents renters in housing rights cases and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.