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Richmond Mayor & two council members block emergency eviction and rent increase moratorium
by Lynda Carson (tenantsrule [at] yahoo.com)
Wednesday Sep 14th, 2016 10:17 PM
Richmond Mayor Tom Butt is a landlord who also makes a living being an architect. His vote against the proposed 45 day moratorium means that he is ignoring the plight of the poor, elderly and working class individuals and families of Richmond facing displacement from their communities due to unreasonable massive rent increase, and evictions by unscrupulous landlords!
Richmond Mayor & two council members block emergency eviction and rent increase moratorium

By Lynda Carson - September 14, 2016

Richmond - Ignoring the plight and pleas of help from renters facing eviction and massive rent increases before the voters can vote on Measure L (renter protections) in November, on Tuesday September 13, Mayor Tom Butt, and two council members blocked a proposed 45 day moratorium on evictions and rent increases from being passed by the full City Council. There were 42 speakers, mostly in support of the moratorium at the council meeting.

The median price for a rental unit in Richmond has skyrocketed to $2,388 per month according to Zillow. Evictions and rent increases have been on the rise in Richmond because landlords have been put into a state of panic by rental housing associations, realtors, and apartment associations opposed to reasonable renter protections (Measure L), that will be voted on in November. Renter protections that will help to stabilize Richmond’s families, communities, schools, and jobs.

Richmond Mayor Tom Butt is a landlord who also makes a living being an architect. His vote against the proposed 45 day moratorium means that he is ignoring the plight of the poor, elderly and working class individuals and families of Richmond facing displacement from their communities due to unreasonable massive rent increase, and evictions by unscrupulous landlords. Meanwhile, Mayor Butt feels safe and secure in a nice home in Richmond, without fear of being evicted by a landlord.

At the September 13 City Council meeting, Councilwoman Gayle McLaughlin stated that she and many others were concerned about renters being displaced from their communities because the landlords were making moves to raise the rent and evicting renters, before the voters can vote on Measure L, in November.

Councilwoman McLaughlin said, “We are concerned about kids who have to move away from their schools, and that the impact of instability in our neighborhoods is big, which is why I brought this proposal forward. Wether you agree with, or disagree with rent control and eviction protections, we need the moratorium until the voters can have their voice heard on November 8, which is why I am asking you to vote on the moratorium.”

She also mentioned that the mayor’s reply to community members concerned about the mass evictions taking place at Creekview Condominiums, is that the mayor claims the moratorium would not help the tenants from being displaced, because they have to be vacated because of repairs.

In reply to the mayor, Councilwoman McLaughlin said I disagree with that and this is why, “The moratorium would stop the current wave of evictions because it would give more time to tenants. Right now they are given 60 days, and sometimes they are only given 30 days notice to move. This would give them more time because landlords can not go through with an eviction until they go through a court ruling. And by the time we pass this emergency moratorium, the judge would know that Richmond has this new moratorium law. It would also require the landlords to offer the place back to the tenant, after repairs under most circumstances. It also requires the landlord to offer vacant units to tenants while repairs are being made to their apartments, and it prevents the landlord from having an exorbitant rent increase. It allows a 3 percent rent increase during this moratorium.”

When Councilman Nat Bates asked if a similar proposed renter protection moratorium was challenged in Oakland or Alameda recently, he was told no. And Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles said that it was unlikely that it would be challenged in Richmond.

Mayor Bates stated that he does not see any kind of enforcement mechanism for the urgency moratorium if it took effect, and asked how would the city staff get involved if any violations took place. He was told that a tenant facing eviction could go to court and tell the judge about the moratorium, as a defense against the eviction. The City Attorney also mentioned that if someone had their rent increased during the moratorium and a tenant complained to the city, that staff would contact the landlord on behalf of the tenant. If passed, Richmond would also notify the courts about the moratorium protecting the renters.

Melvin Willis was a speaker who asked the council to support the moratorium, and said, “I am asking the council to support the moratorium because we have seen the news of what is happening at Creekview Condominiums and more and more buildings are coming up where the tenants are claiming the evictions are hitting them, and they do not know where to go. Its expensive, and people want to stay in Richmond. I am begging the council to pass this moratorium to protect the tenants they will be hearing from this evening.”

Debbie Bear also spoke in favor of the moratorium, as did many others. On behalf of the landlords Jill Broadhurst of the East Bay Rental Housing Association spoke out against the 45 day moratorium that would protect the renters from displacement from housing, and their communities.

Despite the passionate pleas of the renters asking for help and the council to pass the 45 day moratorium, it failed to pass by three votes out of the six votes needed. The council meeting became heated when Councilman Bates called the moratorium a “charade,” and many renters yelled out “shame,” when the vote failed to pass the 45 day moratorium.

A day after the 45 day moratorium failed to pass, Councilwoman Gayle McLaughlin said, “I am troubled by the lack of humanity by some on our City Council.  Even those who don't support rent control should have had the decency to support the moratorium to stop these mass evictions in the interim period before the voters weigh-in on Measure L.  I find this extremely disturbing and an affront to our democracy.”

People across the City of Richmond had high hopes that the council would help them stay in their housing and communities, and were let down by the three councilmembers who voted against the moratorium during their time of need.

Long-time Richmond renter Jim Lynch, said, “Well what do you know. The proposed 45-day moratorium on rent increases and evictions in Richmond was blocked by Mayor Tom Butt and councilmembers Nathaniel Bates and Vinay Pimplé last night. Mayor Butt is a true friend to landlords by saying Trump-like things like ‘rent control is a lot like putting water on a grease fire.’ It’s going to take a lot more than our progressives on the council representing the interests of renters getting evicted and priced out of the poorest city in the Bay Area. We need more people like renter activists like Lynda Carson of IndyBay and Mike Parker of Beyond Chron to get the voice of the people heard on this issue.”

Renter protections will be on the ballot in 6 cities during November in the Bay Area. No matter how hard the landlords and the California Apartment Association are trying to stop the renters movement, tenant advocates across the Bay Area are urging renters to vote on strong renter protections during the upcoming November elections in the cities of Richmond, Oakland, Alameda, Burlingame, San Mateo, and Mountain View. The activists are urging people to vote “no” against any weak proposals placed on the ballot by the City Council in Alameda, and Mountain View.

Lynda Carson may be reached at tenantsrule [at] yahoo.com

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Statement from RPA Steering Committee on Moratorium VoteZak WearFriday Sep 16th, 2016 4:30 PM
Democrats oppose TenantsRegister Peace & Freedom or GreenThursday Sep 15th, 2016 7:41 PM