Fairfax moving toward enhanced rent control plan

Fairfax tenants could soon get stronger tenant protections under a proposed program that would include a tougher cap on rent increases.

City officials are drafting an ordinance that would establish a one-year rent stabilization pilot program to be presented to city council in September, City Manager Heather Abrams said.

Council voted unanimously to back the scheme after a three-hour hearing earlier this month with testimony from tenants and landlords for and against the proposal.

“This is about providing stability for a third of our population,” Mayor Stephanie Hellman said at the May 4 meeting.

“I really think it’s about being compassionate and understanding that it’s extremely expensive to live here, and providing stability for our workforce, our underserved, marginalized populations, etc.”, Hellman said.

The decision follows a presentation in March in which residents said rent control would help preserve economic diversity, equity and inclusion in Fairfax.

Abrams offered three paths to rent stabilization, recommending “Option A,” which would allow authorities to issue a simple rent control ordinance that residents could use in court to enforce violations. The ordinance could use something like the consumer price index inflation rate as a cap on rent increases, Abrams said. It would be the quickest and easiest option, she said.

The council preferred an ordinance with more teeth and backed a rental license fee for landlords described in ‘Option B’. Revenues would be used to pay for case management and to challenge arbitration. This would involve establishing the council as a rent control commission to deal with petitions and support from agencies such as Marin Legal Aid.

The council said the scheme could run for a one-year trial period with the option of strengthening the scheme, potentially with new staff and other support outlined in ‘Option C’.

Marin Democratic Socialists of America volunteers collected more than 1,500 signatures countywide and more than 500 in Fairfax from residents in support of rent control. Curt Ries, a San Anselmo tenant, is a leader in the effort.

Ries said “Option A is an impractical and unacceptable option” because it “would force tenants to fend for themselves in court.”

“So we’re just asking to create an ordinance that would actually have the mechanisms, the tools, the structure to be able to accommodate Fairfax and really protect tenants,” Ries said.

The council heard testimony from supportive people, including some who grew up in Fairfax and said they could no longer afford to live there, and those who said rent increases exceeded wages.

Landlords and associations representing landlords also weighed in, expressing their opposition to any rent controls.

Some have argued that there is already rent control in Fairfax, under Assembly Bill 1482, which caps annual rent increases at 5% plus local inflation, and says they don’t can never exceed 10%.

Morgan Hall said he owned four apartments on Bolinas Road. He said he’s local, retired and relies on his pension, Social Security and rental income to get by.

“I believe that if there is going to be rent control, then the focus should be on the big, corporate real estate people, but not the parents, not the retirees – they are part of of the community,” he said. mentioned.

The council is also expected to update its ordinance on justifiable evictions in July.

The San Anselmo City Council is set to consider rent control proposals in June, using the Fairfax staff report as an example.

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