Help end turmoil

 

Editor:
Turmoil: noun, a state of great disturbance, confusion or uncertainty.

It is the rare occasion when I find myself in a state of turmoil, but articles, opinion pieces and blog posts I have read over the past month have created this condition. The reason? 

These communications demonstrate the community’s lack of awareness of the city’s tenant-protection laws. The fact that March 31 marked the two-year anniversary of the City Council’s implementation of the Rent Stabilization and Limitations on Evictions Ordinance and that it was affirmed by 55 percent of Alameda voters in the Nov. 8, 2016, election only exacerbates my state of mind.

It is disturbing to read that the Rent Review Advisory Committee (RRAC) has no power to protect residents against unfair and excessive rent increases. In most cases, the committee can render a binding and enforceable decision that restricts the ability of a housing provider to unreasonably raise rents to an amount that would result in displacing the most vulnerable members of our community. RRAC can even assist residents who rent housing that is exempt from rent control by providing a mediation process where the resident and housing provider can develop a mutually beneficial agreement.

I am confused that there are residents who rent units and homes and are not aware of these renter protections. The ordinance requires every rent-increase notice to contain language informing the resident of their rights, including the ability to challenge a rent increase of any amount in front of RRAC. The ordinance requires every housing provider to file a form with the city if they wish to raise the rent more than 5 percent and when they terminate a tenancy for any reason.

My confusion is compounded when I look back on all the outreach the Alameda Housing Authority has done over the past two years and the number of classes it continues to offer on a monthly basis. Residents and housing providers can take the rent-increase workshop, a termination-of-tenancy workshop and get training in fair housing. The monthly schedule is available on the Housing Authority’s website at www.alamedarentprogram.org/workshops.

I am uncertain of what to do about the lack of community awareness, the public misperception, erroneous reporting and outright misrepresentations made by some residents and community leaders regarding these protections.

Perhaps it is time for a broad- based, outreach refresher course covering the provisions of the ordinance that can prevent excessive rent increases and provide compensation to residents when a property owner needs to terminate a tenancy. Adding monthly reporting on the decisions of the RRAC in the print media and blog posts would reinforce the notion that residents do have recourse. 

Both residents and housing providers could benefit from this shared knowledge, and I would be in less turmoil. Any suggestions are invited and welcomed at jeffcambra@earthlink.net.

 

Jeff Cambra, Local mediator and attorney

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