By Steven Tavares.
A plan to fund Alameda’s new rent stabilization ordinance through a so-called Renter Program Regulatory Fee fell flat Tuesday night with a majority of the City Council calling for more time to monitor how much the estimated $1.95 million bureaucracy will really cost.
Upon approving the city’s rent stabilization ordinance last March, the City Council allocated $300,000 to seed the program though June 30. In April, an additional $493,000 in general fund monies was approved for operations through Dec. 31.
Tuesday night’s presentation was intended to secure funding the program through the end of the next fiscal year in June 2017. The council, however, had second thoughts, with some expressing doubts over the true cost of the program.
“More time buys us more accuracy,” Councilmember Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft said of the proposed fee.
Vice Mayor Frank Matarrese, added, “I would like to see six months of data to how much it really costs.” Another councilmember worried about the city further expanding its bureaucracy.
The size of the nearly $2 million program made Councilmember Tony Daysog a bit uncomfortable. He too added uncertainty on its real costs, but suggested the existing city administration could absorb some of the program’s fees.
The plan detailed by Community Development Director Debbie Potter would enact a $131 per unit fee to help fund the program. Landlords would be allowed to pass on 50 percent of the costs to tenants over 12 months, said Potter, which averages out to $5.46 per month in additional rental costs to tenants. The fee would not be included as part of any rent increase, she said.
A main feature of the rent stabilization ordinance is reforms requiring landlords to petition the city’s Rent Review Advisory Committee for rent increases over 5 percent and a spotlight on mediation between tenants and landlords. The mediation process would be costly under the current proposal, around $4,705, according to Potter.
During the first year, renters seeking mediation services would be allowed to pay 5 percent of the costs, roughly $235; while landlords would put up another 10 percent, rough $471. The remainder would be paid the next year when city staff believes it will have a better handle on its costs.
After Tuesday’s council direction, city staff will return sometime in December to again discuss the renters’ fee for the next round of funding for the program, said City Manager Jill Keimach.
However, the atmosphere surrounding the issue could be vastly different at the end of the year since two possible ballot measures are destined to be place before voters in November–one charter amendment proposal to enact rent control and another banning it altogether.