By Steven Taveres.

Hayward Councilmember Hayward Aisha Wahab often says fixing the city housing crisis is her top priority. She said it during her campaign for council last year and she’s saying it with a loud voice in recent days as the City Council renews a much-anticipated discussion on rent stabilization. Last week, a city staff report stated Hayward landlords may be using the housing crisis as a pretext for sharply raising rents.

Although Hayward has long had a rent stabilization legislation on the books, the number of units covered by the ordinance has seriously dwindled over the years to an estimated 1,600 in a city of 140,000 residents. The council in May 2018 passed a moratorium on vacancy-decontrol while the issue is studied.

Nearly half of all Hayward tenants spend 35% or more of their monthly income on rent.

But the slow pace of the process has frustrating some. A consultant tasked with analyzing Hayward’s vacancy-decontrol process was only hired last month. A full report is due in May, one year since the council’s moratorium was put in place.

In the meantime, a small focus group made of Hayward renters found tenants feel cornered by the fact landlords hold considerable leverage over them when choosing to raise rents in a city with limited options for affordable housing.

A staff report last week made a stark conclusion about the general attitude of landlords during this current housing crisis, “While there are many landlords that provide quality housing regardless of demand, there are examples indicating that there is a significant amount of housing instability in Hayward and that some landlords may be taking advantage of the housing crisis.”

Tuesday night’s discussion is labeled as an update on the city staff’s efforts to study the impacts on Hayward renters and possible solutions to the problem. But renters in the city led by Wahab have been vocal over the past year, often jamming the normally sedate council chambers with energy and criticism for city officials.

This week’s council meeting appears likely to offer the same. Perhaps, spurred on by Wahab, who has taken to social media in the past week to urge residents and housing advocates to attend the meeting.

Wahab rent control

In subsequent posts, Wahab has suggested some staff recommendations appear skewed toward landlord interests. In others, she highlighted how little Hayward has allocated toward its rent stabilization program–charging $2.77 per unit while comparable Bay Area cities spend $234 per unit.

The city also found that 47 percent of all Hayward renters spend more than 35 percent of their monthly budget on housing. The number jumps 57 percent when including those who say they pay more than 30 percent of their income on rent.

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Originally posted at East Bay Citizen.