Steady rise in Bay Area rents fuels debate over November measure

Bay Area rents have yet to hit a ceiling, fueling the debate over a November ballot measure to allow price controls on more California properties.

Rents increased in June across the region, led by a 2.5 percent median increase in Oakland from the same time last year, a 1.7 percent increase in San Jose and 1 percent growth in San Francisco, according to a study by Apartment List released this week.

Rents across the state are up 2.1 percent from last year, continuing a trend that makes California home to some of the most expensive communities for renters.

Housing affordability is “absolutely a major issue in the Bay Area,” said Chris Salviati, housing economist for Apartment List. He noted that new construction has not met the growing demand for housing in the region. “Overall, we need to increase the supply of all housing.”

Voters will consider lifting restrictions on rent control by local cities — a  law known as Costa Hawkins. The law generally bans cities from imposing controls on single family homes, condominiums and new construction, depending on when a city enacted rent control. Cities are barred from capping rents on properties built after 1995, and cannot limit rent hikes on empty units.

The ballot proposal would allow cities to apply rent control to new apartment buildings.

Renter rights advocates say the measure would help stabilize the runaway housing market, and prevent families and middle class workers from being forced out of their homes.

“The most critical thing that rent control can do is drastically slow down displacement,” said Stephen Barton, former director of the City of Berkeley’s housing department and adviser on the campaign to repeal Costa Hawkins.

Barton believes cities will be able to balance the needs of property owners and renters with changes to Costa Hawkins.

Property owners are fighting the repeal of Costa Hawkins, saying it will hurt their businesses, discourage new construction and make affordable housing even more scarce.

The California Apartment Association has been lining up allies to defeat the measure. The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California last week announced it opposed the proposition, joining the state NAACP, Chamber of Commerce and several veterans organizations.

Rents have risen steadily since 2011 across the country, although the trend is more pronounced in the Bay Area.

The median rent in June for a two-bedroom apartment was $2,610 in San Jose, $2,200 in Oakland, and $3,070 in San Francisco, according to Apartment List. San Francisco and San Jose were the two priciest major cities in the country for renters, followed by New York and Oakland.

Several Silicon Valley cities remain red-hot. The median price for a two bedroom in Sunnyvale was $2,910, an increase of 4.4 percent. The price for a similar apartment in Santa Clara went up 4.8 percent to $2,760, according to Apartment List.

In the East Bay, the median price in June for a two bedroom in Fremont was $3,750, a 5.7 percent jump from the previous year, while a two bedroom in Richmond went for $2,690, a 3.7 percent increase.

Monthly prices have gone up year-over-year in San Jose for the last 15 months, Salviati said. He added that growing wages have blunted some of the impact of the higher prices.

Article source: https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/07/03/steady-rise-in-rents-fuels-debate-over-november-referendum/

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