Political Climate with Mark Simon: Controversial districting process will change status quo

Redwood City renters rally against steep rent increases

in Community/Featured/Headline

Redwood City Mayor Ian Bain said Monday city staff will look into complaints by a group of residents and affordable housing advocates who say renter’s protections passed by City Council last year are insufficient.

Renters of Duane Street Apartments and their supporters rallied outside City Hall Monday before speaking out during public comment at the council meeting. They say the property’s new owners are seeking rent increases from 66 to 230 percent because renter’s protection laws have failed to protect them.

Amid an ongoing crisis in the supply of affordable housing on the Peninsula, City Council passed two ordinances last year aiming to protect renters. One of the ordinances, which took effect Jan. 1, requires landlords to provide tenants with at least a 1-year lease and prohibits rents from being increased until after the 1-year lease period ends. The ordinance offers leeway for renters and tenants who agree in writing to briefer lease terms. The second law provides relocation funds in the case of certain evictions.

On Jan. 1, tenants at the Duane Street Apartments said they were offered one year lease terms under the new ordinance, but with massive rent increases. One tenant says her rent will increase by 120 percent, from $1,040 to $2,300, if she accepts a one-year lease; or by 140 percent, from $1,040 to $2,500, if she stays month to month.

In a rally notice on the Faith In Action website, tenants complained the rent increase notices followed months of construction on vacant units at the 26-unit property.

“The laws are unfortunately so riddled with loopholes that they do not merit the name protection,” said Daniel Saver, senior housing attorney at Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto.   

In a statement, the property’s management company Homewood Ventures cited high property taxes and needed upgrades and repairs as reasons for the rent increase. Owners “held off as long as possible to increase rents while staying in compliance with [Redwood City’s] new ordinance,” the statement said.

Ten units with pre-existing tenants have been offered one year leases, according to Homewood Ventures. Some of those tenants haven’t received rent increases since 2014, while others have yet to see an increase during their tenancy, the company said.

“We are already in discussions with several tenants that are interested in the one year lease, and others that are inquiring about the terms and discounted pricing we are offering them for the renovated units,” the statement says. “We have also given the tenants a tiered rental increase option with 90 days instead of the required 60 days notice, should the tenant choose to stay on a month to month basis.”

Homewood Ventures says it has met with city officials regarding the buildings and plans and “will continue to work with them, as well as the tenants.”

After public comment at council Monday, Mayor Bain told renters and advocates, “we heard you.”

“We’re going to talk with our staff, take a look at our ordinances, make sure they are applied correctly, and if there are changes that need to be made we’ll take a look at those as well,” the mayor said.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include statements made by Homewood Ventures, property management company for Duane Street Apartments.