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Richmond’s rent control measure—Measure L—has passed with over 63 percent of the vote. Photo by Catherine Schuknecht.

Here’s what a vote for Measure P would do

on October 21, 2022

Richmond voters are being asked on the November ballot to boost rent control measures so that tenants in controlled units would experience no more than a 3% rent hike. 

If Measure P is approved, it would keep those tenants from potentially receiving a much higher rent increase that is based on the consumer price index. In Richmond, landlords can raise the rent to 100% of inflation, which is the percentage increase in the consumer price index — currently, 5.2%. Measure P would decrease that to either 60% of inflation, or a flat 3% increase in monthly rent, whichever is lower. 

In a city where nearly half of the households are renters, the measure stands a good chance of passing on Nov. 8. 

Councilwoman Gayle McLauglin, who pushed to put it on the ballot, noted that residents have gone from a recession to a pandemic to inflation. And housing in the area is expensive — the median rent in Richmond, she said, was about $2,000 per month.

According to the 2020 census, the median rent was $1,574 per month, which was about the same as the state average, and the median income was $72,463 a year, about $6,000 lower than the state average. The city’s poverty rate was 14%, which was slightly higher than the state’s rate.

Measure P points out that because of the high inflation rate, unless tenants are offered more protection, they could see “an unprecedented rent increase” at a time when the costs of goods and services also are rising. 

City Council voted to put the measure on the ballot in July, with those aligned with the Richmond Progressive Alliance supporting it, along with Demnlus Johnson III, and Nat Bates and Mayor Tom Butt dissenting.  

Opponents of the measure — including the Association of United Richmond Housing Providers, the California Apartment Association and the East Bay Rental Housing Association — argue that the cap should be temporary and include a sunset clause. 

“Measure P is prompted off of the inflation we are experiencing right now,” said Mike Vasilas, co-founder of United Richmond Housing Providers. “It is an anomaly. It is the highest it has been in four years.”

Vasilas said the cap would make it harder for a landlord to afford upkeep of a property, which would push some small property owners out of the city. 

But proponents point to the high cost of living in the Bay Area and the growing number of homeless people as reasons for the city to clamp down on rent increases. 

“An increase in rent adds to an increase in homelessness,” said Edith Pastrano, at the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, which supports Measure P. “Not finding affordable places to live is going to [create] high pressure.”

Richmond established rent control in 2017, two years before the state passed the Tenant Protection Act. Under state law, rents can’t go up more than 10% ,or no more than 5% plus the inflation rate, whichever is lower.

Measure P would supersede the state’s rent-control law and would replace the city’s current rent cap, which is 6% of monthly rent or 100% of inflation, whichever is lower. 

This story was updated to correct information about the state law.

3 Comments

  1. Gavin R. Putland on October 21, 2022 at 8:50 pm

    What’s better than rent control? A tax on vacant lots and unoccupied buildings. While rent control makes it less attractive to supply accommodation, a vacant-property tax makes it less attractive NOT to! Such a tax, although sometimes called a “vacancy tax”, is not limited to what real-estate agents call “vacancies” — that is, properties available for rent. It also applies to vacant lots and empty properties that are not on the rental market, and prompts the owners to put them onto the market and get them occupied in order to avoid the tax.

    By the way, the desired *avoidance* of the vacant-property tax would initiate economic activity, expanding the bases of other taxes and allowing their rates to be reduced, so that everyone else—including tenants, home owners, and landlords with tenants—would pay LESS tax!

    • Laura on October 24, 2022 at 10:04 am

      This sounds like a loophole for landlords unless there is stipulations on how long a property can be on market or still looking for renters.

    • ritchie cook on November 11, 2022 at 9:22 am

      Wonderful comment. Straight out of Henry George’s Progress and Poverty. Thank you. In other words if the value of a property were primarily the land value this would give an incentive to owners to improve their properties and to develop vacant land and not hold it for speculation.

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