Housing

Richmond Housing Action Team Presents to City Council

Did you miss it? The RPA Housing Action Team did a superb job in their presentation to the Richmond City Council at an affordable housing study session.

For over a year, the HAT has been researching best practices in other Bay Area cities and counties to promote affordable housing. The HAT’s presentation this month was the culmination of that research, and featured three affordable housing developers.

One of the most notable aspects of HAT’s presentation was the ambition of its vision for affordable housing. Noting that the Association of Bay Area Governments has set a goal of constructing 700,000 new units by 2040 (50% affordable), the HAT pointed out that there aren’t many cities in the Bay Area able to or willing to contribute 5% of the total. However, in Richmond, where we have more vacant land and abandoned or underutilized properties with low market values, we could probably fit 30-40,000 units of housing.

The HAT also urged the City to stop worrying so much about attracting high end developers, who are very cautious about Richmond because upper middle class projects here can’t command the selling prices needed to make expected returns. (Meaning: no “trickle down” model of attracting market rate housing to generate in lieu fees to subsidize affordable housing). Rather, the HAT called on Richmond to work hard to facilitate the construction of 1,500 units per year, including 15,000 housing units at Hilltop and the South Shore, and 15,000 housing units in the Macdonald corridor, 23rd St and on San Pablo Ave

Finally, the Team also pointed out Richmond needs to staff up to ensure that we are well poised to take advantage of affordable housing development opportunities. It noted that we have 3.8 people in our Housing Department, while Oakland has 41.5 people.

One observer called the presentation “a model of what community involvement in the city can be” (not withstanding Mayor Butt’s hostility and arguments with guest panelists). If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, watch the video of the study session - it's around 1hr 14 min mark.

Thinking Big about Richmond’s Housing Goals

On April 24th, the RPA Housing Action team will present a City Council Study Session on "Thinking Big about Richmond’s Housing Goals."  Download the Report

Richmond Affordable Housing at a Crossroads

Forces are coalescing at the state, county and city levels supporting the building of affordable housing. We are at a crossroads in terms of affordable housing; now is the time to build a community based on inclusiveness and diversity. 

On the state level, the legislature passed several bills that would support affordable housing, including one last year that would impose a $75 fee on certain real estate transactions documents (such as deeds and notices, up to a cap of $225 per transaction). These fees are projected to generate between $200 to $300 million annually for support affordable housing. In addition, this November, there will be a statewide affordable housing bond on the ballot aimed to generate $4 billion for affordable housing programs, infill infrastructure projects and the veterans’ homeownership. On the county level, CCC Supervisor John Goia has been working on getting a countywide affordable housing bond on the ballot in 2020, similar to the ones that Alameda ($580 million) and Santa Clara ($950 million) counties passed last year. 

With more affordable housing revenue on the horizon, it is imperative that Richmond be prepared and well-positioned to get its fair share. For example, revenue raised by any County affordable housing bond are slated to go to cities that demonstrate that they are ready and willing to build the housing. Unfortunately, the City currently does not have much staff expertise and capacity to attract or promote new affordable housing development -- and this is where we need all of you to make your voice heard. We need you to help us urge the City to think big, in tens of thousands of units, not just a few hundred. 

Tentatively, the Housing Action Team will be presenting a study session before the City Council on Tuesday, April 24.  Please mark your calendars and watch this space for more details!

Finally, the HAT is working on a number of other projects, including an effort to transform abandoned housing into affordable housing; pressuring the West Contra Costa Unified School District to stop dragging their feet on a teacher housing project; and studying ways to encourage homeowners to take advantage of new laws designed to make it easier for people to build Accessory Dwelling Units (in-law units, one of the cheapest ways to provide affordable housing). If you are interested in joining this Action Team, the HAT meets every third Saturday 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM at the Bobby Bowens Progressive Center (2450 MacDonald Way)

Getting More Residents into Good Jobs

Improving conditions in Richmond means getting more residents into steady good-paying jobs with a future. It is great that warehouses are locating here with thousands of new jobs.  But we have to remember that the wages paid for unskilled jobs are not enough to support a family in Richmond.  We need more programs like Richmond Build which will help people to advance from seemingly dead-end jobs into skilled work.  In this and coming articles we will highlight some of the programs available to Richmond residents as well as discuss some new programs that can make a difference. 

Take advantage of programs that already exist like the one below. And spread the word to people you know.

Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 342 to open apprenticeship sign-ups

This is a great career that pays well. Apprentices start out at about $23.00/hour with raises every 6 months. After a probationary period, family benefits kick-in. After graduating, the pay is better than $60.00/hr.  It is a five year apprenticeship so the commitment has to be serious.

Requirements for applying are minimal: High school or GED, and ability to be on time every day, and pass a physical and drug test. Previous incarceration and spotty work record are not a barrier.

Applicants will then have to pass an initial test covering basic math and spatial relations. It’s worth applying even if you don’t pass this test the first time. You will have a better idea about what the tests are like and can take advantage of some of the special courses and books that help prepare people in these areas.

Applicants will have to apply in person at the training center in Concord February 5- 9. Email Don Gosney dongosney@comcast.net for an information packet including sample questions.

For more information: http://www.ua342.org/Training.html

Repealing the Costa-Hawkins Act

On Monday, a group of organizations, including Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, filed paperwork to get the ball rolling on a 2018 statewide ballot initiative to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Act, a 1995 law that limits California’s cities and counties from implementing rent control on newer properties.

In the words of Richmond City Councilmember and Assembly Candidate Jovanka Beckles, “This leaves millions of California tenants at the mercy of real estate speculators. By repealing Costa Hawkins, we can make sure low income families, students, educators and seniors with fixed incomes have the renter protections they deserve."

The next step is for the Attorney General to give the proposed initiative a title, summary and financial analysis. From there, organizers will have to collect enough valid signatures to place it on the November 2018 ballot.

There have also been attempts to introduce legislation repealing Costa-Hawkins, including a bill introduced this past February by Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), but he pulled it in the face of strong opposition from the real estate industry, and landlord/apartment lobby.

Come to the Rent Board Meetings

Thanks to the efforts of the RPA and our allies we now have rent control and ‘just cause’ eviction in Richmond. The new 5-member Rent Board began work in April setting up what is, in essence, a housing court system. We approved a budget and hired a super-qualified Executive Director, Nicolas Traylor, who is a Richmond resident.

The Rent Board approved, and the City Council approved, a maximum rent increase limit, for rent-controlled units, of 3.4% for 2016 and 2017.


And we assessed a very reasonable fee of $97 per unit per year for those landlords subject to ‘just cause,’ saving many landlords money in the long run as they won’t need an attorney to evict a bad tenant.


But more hard work is ahead in the coming months. As the only tenant on the Rent Board, I need your voice. The Rent Board will be voting on these important issues that will decide the balance of power between landlords and tenants:


Banking
in August: ‘Banking’ is defined as the ability of rental property owner to raise the rent up to the “Maximum Allowable Rent” level after deferring past cost-of-living increases. In other words, if the landlords do not take the cost-of-living rent increase that they would have otherwise had a right to take, can they “bank” the increase and add it on to the rent in later years? Should it be allowed? Should there be limits?


Pass-Through
in September: Can landlords pass along some of the $97 annual fee to tenants? Many of the rent control programs in California allow half of the fee to be passed along to tenants. Who can better afford the fee? Who will make most use of the Rent Board?


Capital Improvements
in October:  Under what conditions can landlords raise rents to pay for capital improvements to the property? Where is the balance between keeping up the housing stock and losing affordable housing? This is an extremely complex regulatory question that will likely require a special session of the Rent Board.

If you care about one or more of these issues, please attend Rent Board meetings and speak during the public comment period. The Rent Board meets in the City Council Chambers on the 3rd Wednesday of each month at 4 P.M. (except the August, 2017 meeting has been moved to the 4th Wednesday, August 23rd). Here are the current meeting dates:

Wednesday, August 23rd
Wednesday, September 20th
Wednesday, October 18th


For more information about on the meeting agenda and any schedule changes check out the City of Richmond Rent Board web page.

State Legislature to Vote on Affordable Housing

Earlier this month, the Governor and Leadership came together to announce their commitment to a package that included urgently needed affordable housing funding.


The Building Homes and Jobs Act (SB 2) was introduced by Senator Atkins (D-San Diego) to establish a permanent source of funding for affordable housing by imposing a $75 fee on real estate transaction documents, excluding residential and commercial property sales. It will build safe and affordable apartments and single-family homes for Californians in need, and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in state investment and leverage significant additional funding in federal, local, and private investment.


The Affordable Housing Bond Act (SB 3) was introduced by Senator Beall (D-South Bay/Silicon Valley) and gives voters the opportunity to authorize an affordable housing bond at the November 2018 ballot to create more affordable housing across the state. The programs in this bond specifically fund construction, rehabilitation, and preservation of housing for those at risk of or currently experiencing homelessness and low-income earners, as well as create more homeownership opportunities for low and moderate-income earners. Polling shows that voters support increasing SB 3’s investment in our communities, with a $6 – $9 billion bond.


While Californians across the state have demonstrated strong support for action and many lawmakers agree that our state must tackle our housing crisis, these bills require a 2/3 majority vote -- a challenging threshold, no matter the issue.

Now is the time to make sure your voice has been heard. The Nonprofit Housing Association has made this easy online form, so that you can email, tweet, or send a Facebook message directly to your Assemblymember.

Rent Board Making Progress

There are a lot of details and much work required to get a new program going.  I am pleased to say that the Board and the City staff have been working well together and we are making progress.

  • Interviewing candidates for Executive Director of the Board.
  • Approving the expense side of our budget (completed last meeting).
  • Working on the revenue side—proposing the fee that landlords will pay to support the program (to be voted on by the City Council).
  • Establishing the 2017 maximum Annual Adjustment for Rents for tenancies prior to September 2016.

The Rent Control Ordinance can be found here.

Landlords Drop Lawsuit Against Richmond Rent Control

On May 5, the California Apartment Association announced that it was suspending its lawsuit against Richmond for the city’s rent control and just cause for eviction ordinance, Measure L.

This is the (hopefully) marks the end of the CAA’s years-long effort to quash rent control in Richmond.

After the Richmond City Council passed rent control in 2015, the California Apartment Association launched a signature gathering effort in which they misled voters into thinking they were supporting rent control by signing the CAA petition. Fair and Affordable Richmond mounted a robust counter-effort, and last fall won a major victory when Measure L passed with a whopping 64.4% of the vote.

Congratulations, Tenants Together, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Richmond Progressive Alliance, SEIU Local 1021, Mountain View Tenants Coalition, Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, Stanford Community Law Clinic, Leah Simon-Weisberg, Dan Harper, Aimee Inglis, Eduardo Torres, Gayle McLaughlin, Marilyn Langlois, Mike Parker, Daniel DeBolt, Daniel Saver, Gabriel Haaland, Zak Wear, Melissa Morris, Juliet Brodie, Melvin Willis, Jovanka Beckles, Eduardo Martinez, and so many more amazing folks that led the fight for the first new rent control ordinances in 3 decades, which are now in effect, reducing rents, protecting against evictions, stabilizing communities, and inspiring other cities to take bold action.

Thanks to Dean Preston for contributing.

Rent Control Resources

Fair and Affordable Richmond is a coalition of Richmond individuals and organizations who worked together to pass Measure L, for rent control and just-cause evictions, in 2016.

The Richmond Rent Program has information for landlords and renters about rent control.