This week the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will vote on whether to require owners of vacant storefronts unoccupied for more than 30 days to register their properties and pay an annual fee. This is one of the proposals they are considering to get a better idea of and start to remedy the glut of unused storefront space around the city.
Less than four months after an initiative to allow cities to expand rent control failed overwhelmingly at the ballot box, and less than four months after then-incoming Gov. Gavin Newsom talked about brokering a compromise between tenant and landlord groups, no new legislation from lawmakers or specific proposals from the Newsom administration have been introduced to cap how much rents can rise.Legislators who have backed rent control expansions in the past say they’re working on proposals to help tenants stay in their homes. Newsom, in his State of the State address earlier this month, called on the Legislature to send him tenant protections he could sign into law, although he didn’t offer any specifics.
“Everything is on the table,” said Assemblyman David Chiu, Democrat from San Francisco, who co-authored a failed rent control bill last year. “From topics like just cause eviction to Costa Hawkins and other protections, everything is being considered.”
One possible compromise: A bill to ban “rent gouging,” similar to one poised to take effect in Oregon.
That measure, expected to be signed by Gov. Kate Brown in the next few weeks, would make Oregon the nation’s first state to enact anti-gouging provisions covering the vast majority of rental properties within its borders. While often characterized as statewide “rent control,” in reality it focuses on the most flagrant rent hikes—typically 10 percent or more.
“It was surprising to see (Oregon) with that type of success. It was heartening,” said Chiu. “As California policymakers we like to think we’re leading, but in this instance, hats off to our Oregon counterparts.”
Chiu stresses that any rent-gouging bill would need to be part of more comprehensive tenant protections, and that other more stringent rent control measures are still a possibility.
A UC Berkeley housing think tank released an anti-gouging proposal last year after consulting with both landlord and tenant groups. A Bay Area regional housing plan popular with state legislators from the area offers a similar solution.
So what exactly would an anti-gouging law in California actually look like? And how many people would it actually help?
No one can say yet.