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Oakland Council caps rent increases for many tenants

on June 7, 2022

Oakland tenants of rent-controlled buildings will no longer see their rent raised above 3% annually.

City Council passed an ordinance Tuesday, ensuring that annual rent increases will be capped at either 60% of the Regional Consumer Price Index or 3%, whichever is lower. The landmark measure, which was introduced last week, won on a 6-1 vote, with Noel Gallo voting no and Loren Taylor abstaining. 

“Thousands of Oakland residents will rest a little easier knowing their housing is secure,” Councilmember Carroll Fife, who initiated the measure, said in a news release. 

The policy represents a significant change in the history of rent-control in Oakland. The Rent Adjustment City Ordinance was adopted in 1980 and allowed landlords to increase rents based on that year’s CPI . The CPI increase that was set to go into effect July 1 was 6.7%, the highest percentage in decades.

The new cap could have a significant impact on Oakland’s most vulnerable tenants, many of whom are Black and Latino, Fife noted in a memo to council. 

“Displacement and gentrification are results of policy decisions and we have to do better for our community,” she said. 

While the vote is a win for tenants, some landlords say it’s unfair to them. An emergency moratorium went into effect in March 2020, prohibiting late fees and evictions based on nonpayment of rent as a result of financial hardships associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Many landlords attended Tuesday’s meeting, telling council that the rent cap will compound financial hardships brought on by the moratorium. 

“I understand the intent to protect low-income families from CPI increases and potential homelessness or eviction,” said My Hyunh, a small business owner in Oakland. “I ask that the council also consider another group of people who need to be encouraged and protected to continue to exist. That is the small business owners of multi-unit properties. The 3% limit would greatly hinder small business owners like myself and many who have called in.”

Hyunh implored the council to consider the diverse backgrounds and situations of many small business owners, saying that protecting both tenants and landlords did not have to be mutually exclusive. 

“Those issues are real,”Councilmember Treva Reid said, acknowledging the landlords’ concerns. “They are impactful, as is this item to ensure that we keep our tenants preserved and protected.” 

Several council members said the council needs to have further conversations about how to help small business and property owners. 

The policy also has changed the timing of rent increases, which now will go into effect on Aug. 1.

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Oakland North is an online news service produced by students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and covering Oakland, California. Our goals are to improve local coverage, innovate with digital media, and listen to you–about the issues that concern you and the reporting you’d like to see in your community. Please send news tips to: oaklandnorthstaff@gmail.com.

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